Construction has a reputation for being tough, dangerous work. But as anyone with first-hand experience knows, it is not the physical impact of the job which most struggle with – it is the emotional one.
Mental health issues affect a staggering 83% of construction workers in the UK,¹ and should rightly be deemed a major workplace health crisis. But the combination of high-stress work and low job security – as well as a toxic workplace culture which emphasises stoicism over sharing – leads many to suffer in silence.
Over two thirds of construction workers believe there’s a stigma surrounding mental health which stops them from talking about it,² and 56% of construction professionals work for organisations with no policies on mental health in the workplace.³
Ultimately, men working in the industry are roughly four times more likely than average to take their own lives – and suicide is five times more prevalent than all other fatalities combined.⁴
Welfare Hire is passionate about improving mental health in the construction industry, and in this article we explain why our mobile welfare units should be a vital component of any business’s attempts to do so.
Better mental health will transform construction
As Welfare Hire’s recent research showed, the construction industry has become sluggish in recent years, with low productivity and a growing trend of missed deadlines. But this may be more directly related to the mental health crisis than many assume.
Consider, for example, the economic effect of poor mental health support. Stress, anxiety, and depression account for one-fifth of work-related illnesses – leading to 70 million days of leave and costing an estimated annual cost of £70bn-£100bn.⁵ Improved mental health support would immediately reduce that cost, providing a much-needed boost to construction projects’ productivity and financial efficiency.
This is just one of many ways improving employee experience – by hiring better mobile welfare units – would lead to widespread improvements. Consider hiring difficulties, retention challenges, diversity problems and onsite communication – all would be vastly improved by a wholesale reevaluation of mental health support. And we believe that starts with the onsite environment.
The power of thinking small
Many businesses go wrong by trying to tackle the big picture problem head-on. But this overlooks the small wins available to them, and misunderstands the day-to-day experiences that cumulatively lead to mental health struggles.
A third of construction workers suffer from elevated levels of anxiety every day, and 44% feel their daily workload is too high.⁶ These are low-level concerns that ultimately grow into larger problems, especially when they are persistently underestimated or ignored.
Experts often suggest that construction workers need to be educated and encouraged to talk about their problems. But this overlooks the fact that most construction sites are extremely poor environments for such open communication – especially if you are not used to having such conversations.
How mobile welfare units help
Our business is explicitly designed to help businesses improve the way they treat their employees – by providing the physical comfort and space they need with a range of innovative mobile welfare units and welfare vans.
Better mobile welfare units and welfare vans can combat this in two ways:
First, they provide the right atmosphere to have important conversations, providing respite from the loud and often intense construction environment.
Second, they signal to workers that their mental health is being taken into account and supported. This encourages workers to feel safe opening up.The X-Eco10, for example, provides 20% more internal space than other mobile welfare units, enabling up to 10 people to rest at any given time. This can be a gamechanger in terms of employee wellbeing, providing a safe, private space where the complex and vital work of destigmatising mental health concerns can take place.