The construction industry is always regarded to be a tough, strong, and no-nonsense work environment. However, according to an article from the American Psychiatric Association, based on a 20-question survey they conducted to 1,175 respondents in March 2021, 93% answered that they recognize addressing mental health concerns is a sound business practice and that 77% found that this is prioritized at work. But only 26% indicated that they believe that workers will seek assistance, whereas 43% did not know at all and 31l% would be unlikely to seek guidance.
In this blog, we will aim to give some guidance on how we can try to handle or avoid mental health concerns in the construction workplace.
The pressures at work and at home have increased even more during the pandemic. The rise of the Great Resignation has also posed some problems in the industry as companies struggled to keep their job sites operational and mitigate labor shortages.
Here are 6 ways on how construction leaders can provide a better, more positive work environment to their teams and keep their mental health in check… including leadership!
1. Start the conversation
As leaders, you have the power to start the conversation. For industries that have less exposure to conversations like this, it is leadership who can bring the issue right on the table. The top reason why some employees do not open up about their mental health concerns is the shame and stigma that is associated with it. A leader’s role is to create a safe space where employees can open up and not be judged. Destigmatizing the situation by openly speaking about mental health conveys to employees that there will be no negative consequences to their position at work due to the mental health concerns that they have. Read this article from American Psychiatric Association to learn more from their study on mental health.
2. Put your words into action
Leaders should also model good behaviors so that they will feel that they are able to set boundaries and prioritize self-care. Take care of yourself too by doing things that make you happy. Long walks, vacations, new hobbies, etc. Share these with your team and make them feel that it is acceptable to think of themselves too.
3. Don’t lose the connection
Our work environment has developed in diverse ways. The increased use of technology in our work environment and virtual workspaces have become the norm. Being primarily digital can make it a challenge to stay connected with team members. A Harvard Business Review article mentioned that some employees shared that managers no longer ask frequent questions like “how are you” to check in on their well-being. Make sure to check in and build a genuine connection with your team.
4. Create mentally-safe spaces at work
In a Forbes article in September 2021, it discussed empathy as the most important leadership skill. Lead with empathy, encourage a culture of feedback and continuous development, and build an environment that is inclusive where the employees will feel that they belong. Welcome ideas, questions, concerns, and casual conversations where team members will feel that they can freely air out their thoughts even in front of their managers. Maintain this space with respect and they will return that respect too.
5. Introduce the idea of mental health within your team
Take that first step and educate your team about mental health. Different resources are now available that will help you craft the kind of information you wish to share. If you feel that you are not yet equipped with the right knowledge, tap external resources that can help you deliver the right messages. As discussion on this subject have become more prevalent, several resources in the form of articles, videos, and podcasts are now available. In March 2021, the Associated General Contractors of America sponsored an online seminar on Mental Health & Suicide Prevention in Construction, and you can watch it here.
6. Share the resources
Share the available resources on mental health with your team. This will give them the chance to digest the information on their own at their own pace. Sometimes, employees feel bothered because of pent-up frustrations and they do not know where to go. Make sure that you have these resources in a library that is accessible by your team anytime and in confidence.
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