Construction was one of the first industries to return to work (or to not stop working at all) following the UK’s lock-down measures. This brought about increased anxiety coupled with reduced resources for construction workers battling with their mental health struggles during the pandemic. Despite working as key workers through the largest pandemic of our generation, employment across the construction sector is expected to fall by 10% as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, according to The Construction Leadership Council.
Building better mental health is already a huge challenge for the construction industry. This is exacerbated by the male-dominated nature of workplaces, making them particularly vulnerable to the mental health barriers experienced by men:
· The Mental Health Foundation reports that men are more likely to suffer ill mental health in silence.
· Men are three times as likely to die from suicide than women, according to the Samaritans.
· Building and construction workers are 1.6 more likely to take their own lives than the national average.
The CIOB Mental Health Survey 2019 reported that despite these worrying figures, fewer than three in 10 construction workers had received any mental health training in the past three years. It’s important to remember that the Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees, as well as their physical wellbeing.
Whilst the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the government talk about social distancing, risk assessments and PPE, they do not give guidance for promoting positive mental health within workforces during these exceptional times. It’s important to protect the wellbeing of your workforce, ahead of the pending global mental health crisis predicted by the World Health Organisation.
So, how can employers ensure they’re looking after their employee’s wellbeing?
As an employer, there is only so much that you can do to help employees who are suffering from mental health issues. Our HR and health and safety experts at Alcumus PSM recommend taking the following actions to promote wellbeing in the workplace:
1. Create a culture of openness surrounding mental health- build a culture whereby employees feel comfortable to openly talk about their issues. This is especially important in a male-dominated industry.
2. Initiate a conversation with employees showing signs of mental health issues - it’s crucial that employers take the lead if any mental health issues are suspected.
3. Consider reasonable adjustments - workplace adjustments can enable employees with mental health issues to stay in work without being too costly, disruptive or impractical for the employer to provide. You could try amending a job description to eliminate tasks which cause difficulty or stress for example.
4. Carry out return to work meetings following sickness - it’s essential that employers conduct return to work meetings to monitor the wellbeing of employees and learn of any underlying reasons for absence.
If you need support in ensuring you’re looking after the wellbeing of your employees, the Alcumus PSM HR team are on hand to help. Contact us on 01484 439930 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.