After years of going under the radar, the men's mental health crisis is finally getting discussed in mainstream media. While dealing with mental health conditions is hard for everyone, many men feel under pressure to keep their feelings to themselves, which ultimately leads to them struggling for longer. The crisis is so severe that suicide is currently the leading cause of death for men under 35 in the UK (safeline).
But male mental health statistics are even worse for men in the construction industry. Recent research has found that 58% of tradespeople have experienced poor mental health, and 91% experienced work-related stress at least once a month (Ironmongery Direct). These shocking statistics show just how vital it is to safeguard men in this industry. For men's health week, industrial tool supplier Zoro will share actionable tips for employers to protect the wellbeing of their staff.
Provide mental health training
Mental health is a complex topic that often feels uncomfortable to talk about. That's why so many men sweep it under the rug and ignore it until they reach breaking point. The truth is that many of us don't truly understand mental health issues. This makes it even harder for people to talk about their own experiences, as they may not know how to express their feelings.
To help workers understand their own mental health, and spot when someone else may be struggling, provide staff with mental health awareness training. Not only will this help break the stigma surrounding the topic, but it will help the team look out for each other. This is important for all workers, but especially for team leaders who are there to support their colleagues. Mental health training courses are beneficial for the whole team, and they take up very little time. Many courses take just half a day, and some can even be done virtually.
Give staff enough time off
Whilst some businesses were forced to shut completely over lockdown, many construction companies reported being busier than ever in 2020. Although this sounds like good news for the industry, it's anything but if it's damaging employee's mental health. Recent research has found that construction workers are more at risk of suffering from burnout than people in any other sector (pbctoday).
It is vital that all companies obey the laws on maximum working hours. Employers cannot make employees work more than 48 hours per week, and workers must have either one full day off a week, or two per fortnight (acas). Although these conditions seem more than reasonable, unfortunately many construction companies have been found to break these laws (Construction News).
Employees should also be encouraged to use their paid time off. One study found that on average, UK workers use just 62% of their holidays (Glassdoor). Managers should take the lead by using all of their annual leave, to show workers that it's okay to do the same. Employers should also remind staff they have a right to take sick days for both mental and physical health. And if it seems like work is getting on top of employees, managers should aim to lower their targets to ensure that staff don't spend hours doing overtime to catch up.
Provide wellbeing services
Having a supportive workplace is vital for employee mental health. Giving team leaders mental health training and encouraging workers to communicate with their manager about mental health issues is a great way to protect the mental wellbeing of the staff. But some people find discussing mental health issues with people that they know far too uncomfortable. So, help these employees get things off their chest by providing a workplace wellbeing service.
There are many companies out there dedicated to workplace wellbeing that can be accessed for a reasonable price. They offer a range of services, including counselling, life coaching, and wellbeing resources such as podcasts and articles. As well as implementing wellbeing programmes, managers should also encourage workers to protect their mental health outside of the workplace by visiting their GP. Be flexible when it comes to GP appointments, as this will help employees prioritise their mental health.
Create a positive safety culture
Protecting mental health in construction isn't just about giving workers a shoulder to cry on — managers should aim to reduce employee stress by protecting their physical health at work. Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the UK, with workers being four times more likely to die in a workplace accident than any other industry (Health and Safety Executive). With this statistic, it is no wonder that male construction workers mental health is at an all-time low.
To keep employees safe in the workplace, getting the right equipment is vital. Buy high-quality tools from a trusted supplier, and make sure that workers are fully trained before using the equipment. Ensure that employees are wearing the appropriate protective equipment at all times, and display clear signs around the site to keep them aware of their surroundings.
"The recent statistics on the mental health of men in the construction industry are devastating. Managers should respond to these stats speedily and effectively, by prioritising safeguarding in the workplace. Providing mental health training is a great way to start. This will help employees spot when something doesn't seem quite right with their colleagues, and it will help them understand their own mental health too.
"Looking after employee safety is absolutely crucial for protecting mental wellbeing, especially in the construction industry. Workers should always be provided with reliable tools from a trusted manufacturer. And make sure to supply them with high-quality protective clothing and equipment, such as safety goggles, ear defenders, and work boots," said Kelly Friel, Digital Product Manager at Zoro