MENTAL HEALTH IN CONSTRUCTION. Can Recruiters Help?

MENTAL HEALTH IN CONSTRUCTION. Can Recruiters Help?

Posted 14/11/2018 by Emma Blair

 

The cyclical nature of the construction industry ensures that restructures and redundancies are an accepted risk - both for companies and individuals.

 

Whether you are a surveyor, engineer or site manager, you place yourself at the whim of the economic climate. When the sun is shining, business will boom. When the freeze sets in, activity will stall and confidence will plummet.

 

Many professions are hit hard in difficult economic times, but few industries suffer more than construction. The cumulative impact on the mental health of construction professionals is worryingly significant. This is not just my opinion. Here are some sad facts:

 

According to a 2018 survey in Construction News,

24% of construction professionals had considered taking their own life, with 68% of junior employees reporting that they had experienced mental health issues. They don’t speak up because it is heavily stigmatised and people don’t talk about it enough. Well, here I am, saying what needs to be said.

 

It is a genuine problem, but we can all be part of the solution.

 

The Skanska UK CEO Gregor Craig wrote recently about how he was tackling the issue in the wake of announcing 3,000 redundancies this year. When your friends and colleagues are losing their jobs in a “restructure” you can’t help but wonder whether you will be next. Craig is putting 75% of his managers through mental health awareness training by 2020, ensuring that it is part of the workplace conversation.

 

Opening up to others is often that first crucial step.

 

Now, this is where recruiters come in.

 

People leave jobs because they are not happy for various reasons, but they know that many of their stressors will likely also be present in their next employer, so they brush them under the table. Contractor margins are razor thin, public sector budgets are tight and payment problems are commonplace.

 

Recruiters can’t do anything about this as it is the nature of the industry, but alongside the job-related discussions, we can (and should) play our part in gently coaxing certain individuals to take action on their wider worries. It is obvious when someone has been worn down by years of “keeping going” despite the various headwinds, and while it is not our job to play the psychologist, dropping a few helpful suggestions into the conversation about how other people handle the stresses can plant a seed of a thought that can lead to action.

 

If 24% of construction professionals are contemplating suicide, surely everyone has an obligation to do what they can?

 

The CITB (construction training body) has committed to fund 2,500 mental health “first aiders” in the industry by 2020, and in my view it is a responsibility of everyone involved to take an interest in how we can help each other to cope when times get tough.

 

To finish with, I have to mention that recruiters themselves are not exempt from these worries. There have been times in the past when business has slowed and when we aren’t filling jobs, we aren’t being paid. Keeping on top of our mental health is critical because we need to be there for our candidates and clients.

 

Let’s maybe try to look after each other that little bit more?

 

Mental health matters.

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