We Need to Keep Talking About Onsite Mental Health In 2021

Welfare Unit Canteen Facilities

2020 was the toughest year most of us have lived through; one of the few silver linings was an increase in mental health awareness, with more people opening up about their struggles and more support being offered to vulnerable individuals.

Mental health is a particular concern for the construction industry, often referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ amongst workers. According to the Office for National Statistics, suicide is three times more common for men in construction than the population average, and 90% of construction bosses report experiencing mental health issues because of work. 

Ultimately, businesses lose at least £33 billion each year to mental health-related issues, according to a 2018 report. 

LAURA BURKE – Wokplace Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Putting 2020 behind us can only be a good thing, but we must not allow moving on to mean forgetting what the year has taught us. There are still huge challenges to overcome for the construction industry, and more must be done to ensure the onsite environment is as positive and conducive to worker welfare as possible. 

In this article, we’re going to look at a few central aspects of onsite welfare, and how we can develop more positive ways of working. 

1.   Open discussions will break the stigma 

Perhaps the most fundamental challenge we face is the stigma that surrounds mental health. There are a number of negative associations and assumptions which have caused many vulnerable individuals to feel unable to discuss their experiences and emotions. 

The traditional culture of construction sites tends to exacerbate this. Rather than sincerely discussing the challenges workers face, many in the industry take a stoic attitude towards emotional struggles, assuming that talking openly about their feelings will be taken as a sign of weakness. 

This stigma contributes to the sense of hopelessness and isolation many feel at work, and if we want things to improve, we need to find ways to weaken that stigma and encourage more honest conversations in and around the workplace. 

Persistence is the key to change. It may be difficult to change onsite culture, but it’s important that we don’t allow setbacks to get in the way. Ultimately, improving welfare and mental health awareness is not a short-term task, and we shouldn’t expect a single conversation to break the stigma completely. 

2.   Education is essential to make conversations happen 

The best way to start more open conversations is through education: both employers and employees need to be given information to help them understand and process the challenges mental health presents. 

Some have suggested larger sites should employ mental health professionals and counsellors, making education and support available whenever workers need it; others have championed specialised initiatives, educational courses and campaigns to get the message across. 

There are tons of great resources available, from Mental Health At Work’s Toolkits to the Home Builders Federation’s construction specific content. The task for employers is simply providing the time and space for employees to make use of these resources. 

3.   Sites need to facilitate conversations 

With long hours and extremely tiring physical labour, construction sites often exacerbate feelings of burnout in workers. While this leads us to a broad question about workplace culture and the kinds of conversations that occur onsite, it is also a practical challenge: how can managers make their site a more positive environment for workers? 

64% of construction workers say they want their employers to provide more mental health support, and this can be achieved in a number of ways. Education is great, as are policies to reduce late payments and improve access to professional support. 

Another factor is the space and comfort of a site’s facilities: traditional facilities are often poorly maintained or lacking the space and comfort to allow workers to take a proper breather onsite, contributing to the lack of security many feel at work. 

Mobile welfare units and welfare vans, on the other hand, are a great way of improving the overall atmosphere and mood on site. Being up to 20% larger inside, with a roomier and more comfortable design, the modern ECO units provide a space where workers can have the conversations they need to have and ensure that workers know their employers truly value wellbeing. 

Welfare Hire Nationwide, part of the Kelling Group: 

Welfare Hire is the UK’s leading provider of eco-friendly Mobile Welfare Units. Here is some feedback from a Mobile Welfare Hire client relating to staff wellbeing on-site. 

“The quality of the Welfare Hire units we have enables our teams to work smarter and deliver a much higher standard of work in a modern, comfortable environment. The fast and easy service means we can focus on the job at hand” 

Five Ways Eco-Friendly Mobile Welfare Units Will Improve Your Construction Site

Portable Cabins - Eco10 Mobile Welfare Unit For 10 People

Welfare units are a vital element of any construction site, but not all welfare units are created equal. 

Sourcing the right welfare vans and mobile welfare units can actually have a dramatic impact across a number of areas, and in this article we’re going to look at five key ways switching to eco-friendly welfare units will improve your site in 2021.

1.  Reduced emissions 

Sustainability is a defining challenge for the construction industry, and mobile welfare units and welfare vans are a key piece of the puzzle. 

With the UK’s hugely ambitious new target of reducing emissions by nearly 70% in the coming decade, leaders are feeling a new pressure to implement innovative, eco-friendly strategies and find ways to improve the energy efficiency of their sites. 

Mobile welfare units are an ‘easy win’ in this context: they offer clear ecological benefits from the moment they are introduced to the site. Products like our ECO10 Smart Welfare Unit run on hybrid power, have a unique water WC system and are transported by ULEZ towing vehicles, all of which radically reduces both the transport and running fuel emissions.   

By comparing the performance of our eco-friendly welfare units with the industry standards, we’ve been able to put some exact numbers on the ecological impact of switching away from traditional units onsite. 

The EC010 uses over 90% less fuel on a daily basis than a standard static unit. If we assume a large contractor uses 100 units, switching to eco-friendly welfare units could reduce their annual onsite CO2 emissions by 47 tonnes – the equivalent of planting over 2.2 million trees. 

2.  Employee experience 

Employee wellbeing is paramount on construction sites, with mental health and employee burnout an important consideration. 

Larger, better designed welfare units create a more positive, more inclusive and safer environment for workers on site. Our ECO10 welfare units, for example, fit up to 10 workers at a time, as well as providing vastly improved hygiene and break facilities. 

These may seem like relatively small factors, but the combined improvements to employee experience can be massive. And this in turn creates ripple effects, leading to improvements in productivity, employee retention and overall staff morale accruing over time. 

3.  Lower service costs 

Maintaining your equipment on site is vital but often costly, both in terms of the price of regular servicing and the emissions produced transporting service vehicles to and from the site. 

Eco-friendly mobile welfare units reduce these costs considerably: our ECO units feature non-chemical, extra-large smart water systems, for example, which run so efficiently that they negate the traditional requirement for weekly servicing; instead, their average service interval is a full 18 days without compromising on facilities.

The net result is reduced transport risk, fewer man hours required to manage services, and lower service vehicle emissions from this unique, extra-large smart water system. And this is all achieved whilst reducing the Health and Safety vehicle risk onsite by up to 60%. 

4.  Easier access 

Moving vehicles and equipment to and around your site can be a big challenge. But our mobile welfare units allow lower cost, easier access and delivery. 

All of our ECO mobile welfare units are towable, with hydraulic setdown in just six seconds, as well as being more economical and easier to transport and locate onsite, requiring no access or lifting plans. Plus, with our own skilled drivers and fleet of modern ULEZ pick-ups, we produce far lower emissions than standard HGVs, helping to reduce substantially the welfare net carbon footprint for projects. 

Ultimately, this unparalleled flexibility allows for more dynamic project management with far fewer logistical headaches and a much greener footprint. 

5.  Bottom line performance 

Sustainability is essential. But too often, the movement towards eco-friendly technology is seen as a challenge, when it ought to be seen as an opportunity. 

Eco-friendly facilities are often not only environmentally efficient but financially too: by reducing operational and service costs, facilities which are generally marketed towards environmentally conscious users can also radically improve a business’s bottom line. 

Because the Smart water WC system requires far fewer services, our ECO Welfare Units can produce a 60% reduction in operational and labour costs. Add to that the savings on fuel mentioned above, and the right mobile welfare units could see a huge saving in overall costs that amounts to a significant increase in bottom line profitability.

Kelling Group is the UK market leader in mobile welfare hire. Browse and compare our range of eco-friendly mobile welfare units and welfare vans on our website to establish which product best suits your needs.