Building for Better Performance and Mental Health in the Construction Industry
With more and more attention focussed on the importance of mental health in the workplace, a growing number of companies are seeking out space that not only allows for productivity but also, for the well-being of the people doing the work. While we’ve seen significant advances in this area during the last decade, it (as in so many other instances) took the pandemic to highlight the true value of what we’re calling “building for better” – both in buildings – and in good construction practices. That means building and buildings that equally value the principles of performance and mental wellness. The construction industry ranks second highest amongst major industries for suicide, an alarming statistic that demands immediate action. Thankfully we’re seeing some forward motion on the subject.
- It’s estimated that as many as 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental health condition that may be undiagnosed. Men die by suicide at a higher rate than women.
- The construction industry remains a male-dominated field – perhaps one where talking about mental health is considered a sign of weakness.
- Chronic pain caused by repetitive work and/or work injuries leads to depression, time off work and/or financial strain. Addictions are a very real risk given that any injury might lead to a prescription for managing pain which in turn leads to possible opioid addiction (and/or drugs and alcohol addictions.)
- Cyclical work and seasonal variances can cause financial hardship.
- Construction is stressful work that is very deadline driven.
- Often construction work takes the worker away from traditional support systems like family and friends.
- Access to tools and resources and/or familiarity with their use (i.e.: online tools) are barriers to finding help.
A Silent Epidemic
Dubbed the “Silent Epidemic” by some construction industry insiders, companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of bringing the discussion around mental health and well-being out into the open. Some U.S. and Canadian companies are leading the way with Lunch and Learn opportunities for employees or putting processes in place for employees to be eligible to receive benefits or sick pay during time off to address a mental health issue. Many companies are using third party services such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) to support their employees and advertising their availability using onsite promotional tools like posters, company newsletters, or making brochures available in places where employees congregate.
Some of the ways the industry can address both the physical and mental health of its employees are similar to what construction industry experts must now also consider when designing healthier buildings too. There are strong synergies between improving workplace health and safety for construction workers and building smarter, healthier workplaces – buildings that are better for their employees. A Construction Well-Being Model, developed in the US, points to a variety of factors as critical to improving the workplace including: Innovation and technology, education and training and preventative measures that are both physical and mental. It also speaks to the outcomes of considering wellness in design; resulting in increased competitiveness, resiliency and better organization wide communication. In much the same way, building better buildings that take these same factors into consideration will result in healthier workplaces for those who will eventually take up residency in them as well as those who actually built them. According to the Construction Financial Management Association, “in the post-coronavirus business world, demonstrating a caring culture for employees will be both an expectation and an imperative.” It’s time for serious change and Plexxis can help.
Plexxis Head Office, Langford, B.C.
Plexxis Software offers solutions for the construction industry that integrates cloud, mobile and on-premise software to improve and enhance team performance. It follows that employees and teams who are able to better manage and streamline the processes related to construction work, will in turn, have a better workplace experience. Our tools are enabling builders to build better buildings for a future workplace that’s efficient, effective and also one that places a premium on mental health. Break rooms with dimmable lights, more (and larger) windows including some that open to let in light and fresh air and creating outdoor eating areas for office workers to get outside during the work day are all important elements of utilizing evidence based design principles to make for a better and healthier workplace. Whether it’s for the people constructing the building or the people using it, considering both employee performance and their mental health are, as the CFMA so clearly stated, “both an expectation and an imperative.”
*Brought to you by Plexxis Software: Offering software solutions for the construction industry that integrates cloud, mobile and on-premise software to improve and enhance team performance.