The construction industry ranks second highest in suicide rates among major industries, according to forconstructionpros.com. An American Psychiatric Association study regarding mental health and well-being in the construction industry reports this can be attributed to factors such as long hours; high physical demands and risks; tight deadlines; and a male-dominated industry where toughness and strength are valued and seeking help can be seen as a weakness.
As the pandemic and labor shortages have put more pressure on the industry and its workers, it is crucial to support employees and their mental health.
Following are ways you can help your employees and teams feel connected, supported and safe.
- Leaders should start the conversation. The American Psychiatric Association survey showed the main reasons employees do not seek help is because of shame and stigma (78%) and fear of judgment by peers (77%). Leaders have the power to destigmatize the conversation by speaking openly and frequently about mental health. Make sure employees know their jobs are safe even if they ask for help.
- Set an example. It is important for leaders to model healthy behaviors so team members believe they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries. You can prioritize your mental health by taking a vacation or going for an afternoon walk; share this with your team so they know they can do the same.
- Connect with your teams. Create a culture where employees feel connected to you and their team. A Harvard Business Review study found nearly 40% of global employees said no one at their company had asked them whether they were doing OK. Check in with each of your direct reports and team members regularly and learn how you can best support them on an individual level.
- Create psychologically safe work environments. Although having open conversations and encouraging vulnerability are important, you also must lead with empathy, encourage a culture of feedback and continual improvement, and create a sense of belonging and inclusivity.
- Educate employees about mental health and offer free resources. Provide resources to your employees—especially managers and leaders—regarding how to recognize the signs and symptoms of someone who needs support. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention offers resources regarding training, building awareness and where to turn for help. Leaders also can consider offering mental health days or creating peer support groups.