Men in the construction industry account for the majority of suicides in the workforce. The social pressures on men to suppress their feelings encourage workers to suffer in silence. A webinar hosted by Caterpillar Inc., “Mental Health on the Jobsite,” explains that the tough-guy mentality that exists in the industry and the ideals of self-sufficiency that draw people to this type of work are the same personality traits that create a high-risk culture where people are unable or unwilling to seek treatment for mental health conditions. In addition, veterans are often drawn to the construction field, some of who may be suffering from trauma experienced during their service.
In general, the construction industry can have volatile working conditions, like long hours, which can cause physical and mental fatigue, and constant job relocation can result in poor connections to family and friends, causing feelings of isolation. Also, the physical demands and feelings of isolation on the job can lead to self-medication through alcohol, drugs or opioids, which increases the likelihood of suicide.
Furthermore, during the height of COVID-19, layoffs and seasonal work increased while the industry balanced itself between health and economic security. The added stress of unemployment creates an unprecedented amount of insecurity that can affect emotional and mental health.
Importance of Mental Health on the Jobsite
Mentally healthy workers are important for a construction jobsite because it reinforces the safety and well-being of a crew. A happy and healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Some of the key signs of mental distress are lethargy, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating or absenteeism, which hinder productivity and safety. By advocating for mental health and wellness on the jobsite, crew members are more likely to feel supported and stay in the workforce, encouraging others to look into the construction industry as a career option.
Understanding Mental Health
Mental health is an ongoing balancing act and does not always have to be related to illness. Negative mental health can be due to personal loss, financial issues, relationship problems, etc. and can affect a person’s mental well-being and ability to concentrate. Risky environments, operating dangerous heavy equipment, distractions or an inability to focus puts workers and the public at risk.
Creating environments where people feel comfortable sharing what is happening their lives can empower fellow coworkers to check in on their crewmates, therefore building a safer workspace for themselves and others.
Management as an Advocate for Change
Management has a responsibility for the overall well-being of its employees. Encouraging everyone to be aware of their surroundings and environments is a foundational step to creating a sense of belonging and community. In the construction industry, shifting the culture from one of discipline to one with consideration for employee mental health and well-being can be a key area to help push workers toward seeking help. Leaders should learn and know the warning signs of suicide and make it a part an integral part of their supervision process. By listening, showing compassion and empathy, and being prepared to offer resources, leaders and employees can support each other to prevent suicide and seek help.
List of What to Watch for on a Jobsite:
What people are saying
- Are they talking about suicide?
- Are they talking about feeling depressed or anxious?
- Do they say they feel like a burden to others?
What people are doing
- Increased absenteeism
- Unexplained productivity or performance decline
- Removing themselves from social situations like eating lunch with coworkers
- Acting more recklessly or with disregard for safety protocols
What’s going on in their lives
- Are we hearing about stressors when they talk about their life?
- Do we know that they are going through a divorce, or maybe having difficulty with a child?
- Were they recently laid off?
- Did they experience a major loss?
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT SUICIDE IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY, FOR CONSTRUCTION PROS, 9/4/20
Companies are always on the lookout for employees who will stay long-term and are committed to growing and improving. Likewise, employees want to work for companies that will provide them with opportunities to develop their skills.
Mentorships are a great way to help employees, both new and experienced, expand their knowledge and personal development. They focus on positive workplace behavior and performance, providing employees with the training needed to be successful.
Traditionally, mentoring relationships have involved senior employees guiding their younger colleagues, but hierarchy and age aren’t necessarily important in modern workforces. As long as mentors have experience that can help others learn, this is all that matters. For instance, younger employees can teach older employees about ever-changing technology in the workplace.
Successful mentoring relationships can also naturally create a rich multigeneration office culture by combining the top qualities of each participant. Senior employees traditionally have a great work ethic, loyalty and dedication. Whereas, younger employees may come to work with new ideas and passion. Together, they can make for a positive and effective team.
Research has shown that workers who have a mentor enjoy greater job satisfaction, and mentors learn from those they are guiding. But, mentoring in the workplace not only benefits the mentors and mentored, it also benefits companies with increased employee retention and knowledge sharing. On top of that, mentoring programs have shown to increase company diversity, with participation expanding minority representation in management-level positions.
Top Benefits of Mentorship in the Workplace
Something important to note is that mentoring relationships should never be forced. This can cause employees to resent the idea as an obligatory task. Instead, sharing the positive benefits with employees and offering to help connect them with a mentor, when and if they are ready, is most effective. To be prepared, companies should gather information about employee skills, communication styles and career goals. A major key to successful mentorship relationships is connecting employees who communicate well together, can connect on a personal level and are working toward attaining similar goals.
In the end, mentors need to feel that their time is valued in order to achieve a successful mentorship relationship. Those who are mentored must think of the experience as an investment in their growth, rather than a sure path to promotion.
Being grateful can make people feel more positive and reduces stress. Effectively showing gratitude at work can also make employees and coworkers feel appreciated. From improved productivity to a better work environment, better team relationships and an overall happier workforce, showing gratitude is important in the workplace.
If someone does something special for you, a thank you may not always suffice. Expressing gratitude that conveys your sincere appreciation can make a world of difference. Being authentic is extremely important. If the gesture appears insincere, the praise may seem patronizing, completely defeating the purpose.
Here are the top 8 ways to express genuine gratitude in the workplace:
- Smile and greet employees and coworkers daily. This simple action sets the tone for the workday.
- Recognize efforts even if things do not go as planned. Give words of encouragement to your team when you know they have they tried their hardest, regardless of the result.
- Be respectful of everyone’s time. Don’t call meetings when a simple email would suffice.
- Offer flexible work arrangements for employees who have proven to be responsible and effective workers.
- Surprise your team with a special treat, such as lunch or coffee, once a month or after completing a big project.
- Show your gratitude with words of appreciation and encouragement often. Switch up your vocabulary and be specific. Instead of always saying “thank you,” try “you’re the best for…” or “I couldn’t have done… without you.” Consider listing their characteristics that you admire the most.
- If you do not feel comfortable expressing your gratitude verbally, write notes to those you want to thank.
- Share the spotlight and make your gratitude public. Regularly highlight those on your team who contributed to the completion of a big project by praising them in meetings and through a company-wide platform, such as an internal newsletter or bulletin board where employees can post shout-outs.
- Nothing speaks louder than compensation and promotions. These are key incentives for employees to continue working hard and striving for success.
Being grateful in the workplace is extremely beneficial, not just to employees but also to leadership and the company. By encouraging a culture that emits gratitude, a business can more easily succeed, or even exceed, in its goals.
8 Creative Ways to Express Gratitude, Grammarly Blog, 11/23/20
10 Ways To Show Gratitude, Do You, accessed 4/5/21
5 BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE IN THE WORKPLACE (AND HOW TO SHOW IT!), Benefit Express, 11/15/19
How to Show Gratitude in the Workplace, Leadership Excellence, Ltd., 11/25/20
Apprenticeships prepare workers for highly skilled construction jobs. Employers invest time and money in hands-on training, often along with regular classes. The model provides valuable real-world experience and educational instruction for workers who would like to break into an industry that is new to them. The end goal of an apprenticeship is attaining national skills standards and becoming licensed in a particular skilled trade.
There are many benefits to apprenticeship. However, many people often overlook apprenticeships, instead opting to attend college or beginning their career with an entry-level position.
Here are the top three reasons to consider an apprenticeship:
- Learning While Earning
Going off to college or a trade school can be a great educational experience, but it can cost a lot of money that many simply do not have. On top of that, it can be challenging to hold a full-time job in order to pay for expenses while in school.
Apprentices are paid a basic living wage (the national average is $15/hour) to start while also learning and gaining experience every day. As an apprentice’s skills grow, wage increases and promotions often follow.
- Access to Ongoing Mentoring
Apprentices are usually assigned a mentor who is an experienced construction professional. The mentor’s role is to help plan and guide an apprentice’s learning along the way. They provide valuable feedback and support to improve an apprentice’s skills and are always available to answer questions.
- Increased Future Opportunities
Being involved with the day-to-day operations of a business during an apprenticeship, which usually takes two to four years to complete, allows apprentices to make connections with many important people within the industry.
Future employers will also see the hard work that was required to complete the apprenticeship and will surely value that education and work ethic when considering hiring an individual.
In addition, apprentices have the potential to earn college credit toward a degree through their apprenticeship program, should they decide to work towards gaining an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree at a later date.
The apprenticeship model prepares workers to compete in today’s economy. The hands-on training keeps apprentices current with innovations and technology. Moreover, the majority of apprentices stay on as full-time employees upon completion of an apprenticeship, allowing for a successful long-term career with a competitive salary without college debt.
The RK Apprenticeship Program helps provide skills for a much needed construction workforce. If you are interested in starting an apprenticeship in construction, click here to learn more about what our program offers.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year was anything but predictable or normal. Predictions for 2021 are cautiously optimistic with a combination of positive and some negative growth for the construction industry, arguably one of the largest sectors worldwide. Although large hotel and higher education projects have declined recently, others have increased, such as healthcare facilities and warehouse construction to meet current needs.
Because of measurements put in place to keep everyone safe, businesses have had to change how they function and communicate both internally and externally, limiting in-person interactions. This has also caused delays in some projects. The need to know what is happening on a job site has become greater than ever. As a result, even in an industry that is otherwise resistant to embracing new technology, construction has seen an increase in adoption of construction-specific technology, from BIM to 3D-printing, facilitating a more versatile way of working.
Without further ado, here are the top eight construction trends predicted for 2021.
- Keeping focused on safety with continued social distancing, protective gear and enhanced protocols for cleanliness
- Increased hiring for seamless execution of current and unexpected future projects
- Implementation of construction-specific equipment and technology to supplement a declining workforce
- Expanded distribution and manufacturing facilities to meet current e-commerce demands
- More complex urban development and infrastructure projects
- Renewed focus on sustainability and renewable energy
- Expanded use of modular construction, increasing quality while also reducing costs and project timelines
- Increased construction cost and pressure on the bottom line, as net profits remain slim
Construction companies must prepare themselves for the uncertain future. Luckily, with many recent innovations already in place, the construction industry has begun to optimize processes in all phases of construction.
Key developments in the construction industry will likely continue to grow and change as we progress through 2021, and we look forward to it.
Digital Builder, 2021 Construction Trends: 20 Insights from Experts, 12.17.20
Construction Dive, 2021 Outlook: 6 Trends that Will Influence Construction this Year, 1.04.21
Chad Fisher Construction, Commercial Construction Trends For 2021, 12.07.20
Method:CRM, Key trends in the construction industry for 2021, accessed 1.19.21
Let’s Build, 5 construction trends you want to look out for in 2021, accessed 1.19.21
Recently, companies have been more concerned about the health and safety of their buildings due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Not only are they worried about keeping current employees and customers safe and happy, they also want to attract new talent and tenants. It is important to address the virus-related concerns since many people are now thinking about the air quality of the buildings they will be spending their days in. So, what can companies do to improve the overall health of their buildings?
Expand on Current Inspections
In most buildings, facility managers have already upgraded their building to include health conscious features like indoor plants, water bottle filling stations and natural lighting fixtures, along with regular inspections of HVAC and other systems. As we continue to live through the pandemic, companies need to look beyond just operating efficiently to help people feel safe.
In addition to regular inspections for wear and tear, businesses should examine unseen systems, such as ventilation and cleaning protocols, which could be just as vital for safety as a leaking ceiling or a crack in a sidewalk.
Keep Fresh Air Flowing
Recycling air from one room to another can increase the risk of airborne viruses also transferring. With growing concern of viruses spreading among people in close quarters, improvements to existing ventilation systems are needed. Increasing the amount of outdoor fresh air, along with purifying existing air in the building through bi-polar ionization can go a long way. While opening windows can be a quick fix, most buildings don’t have that option.
Reducing Transmission through Touchpoints
Install equipment such as toilet sensors, touchless soap dispensers and faucets, foot door pulls, and sensory lighting to minimize touchpoint transmission. For surfaces that must be used communally, consider an antimicrobial coating system to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Encourage and Enforce CDC Recommendations
If there are areas of your building where restrooms aren’t nearby, consider installing hand sanitation stations to encourage regular hand washing.
Be sure all employees and guests are wearing masks or face coverings and wearing them properly, covering both their mouth and nose. Also, remind them to safely social distance when interacting with one another.
Evaluating your building’s current systems and equipment can help to identify ways to improve air quality, boost equipment performance and often leads to discovering new ways to increase energy savings.
RK Service’s expertly trained team of technicians can evaluate your facility, provide recommendations and build a custom products package to fit your needs. Call 877.576.9696 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment. For more information about our commercial HVAC/R systems evaluations and upgrades, click here.
What Makes an Office Building “Healthy”, April 29, 2020, Harvard Business Review
Retro-Commissioning: Significant Savings at Minimal Cost, March 5, 2013, Building Efficiency Initiative
How COVID-19 has Increased Interest in Air Quality Testing, September 22, 2020, JLL
Making health and safety a priority in the workplace is important, and mental health is no exception. An employee’s mental health can affect their attitude and behavior, which in turn affects how they communicate with other staff and their overall productivity.
RK is committed to ensuring our employees experience a healthy work environment when they come to work each day. If you are looking for ways that your company can provide a more mentally healthy workplace during these trying times, look no further. Below are some tips to get you started.
- Promote work/life balance by offering employees more flexibility.
- Increase senior leadership engagement, encouraging open and realistic communication.
- Offer training on stress management for high-risk jobs.
- Provide opportunities for mentoring and coaching.
- Involve individuals and teams on important decisions, when possible.
- Help employees get support during and after stressful life events.
- Offer generous sick leave and accommodations for when employees need it most.
- Perform regular well-being checks on staff.
- Have a zero tolerance policy for bullying or discrimination.
- Discuss mental health in the workplace and promote resources, trainings and programs, including company participation in community and national events.
- Encourage employees to do their part:
- Look after themselves and find ways to reduce their stress.
- Ask for support if they need it.
- Be supportive of coworkers who are going through a rough time.
Inclusive workplaces can positively influence community attitudes towards mental health. Investing in mental health not only benefits employees, but also creates a more positive and productive environment, often giving companies a better bottom line. In addition, companies that care about staff wellbeing are more likely to attract and retain top talent.
Mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers billions each year. While promoting a healthy workplace will not stop all mental health problems, it can help improve mental strength, keeping employees as healthy as possible. Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a clear win-win for both companies and employees.
Mentally Healthy Workplaces during COVID-19, accessed December 2, 2020, National Mental Health Commission – Australia
The Boss’ Guide to Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace, December 10, 2018, Psychology Today
Healthy Workplaces, accessed December 2, 2020, Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance
Recognizing warning signs of suicidal behavior is the first step in prevention. The following actions may indicate that someone is thinking about suicide.
- Talking about: feeling hopeless or trapped, death or wanting to die, ways to commit suicide, having great guilt or shame, feeling unbearable pain (physically or emotionally), or being a burden to others
- Acting anxious, enraged, agitated or withdrawn
- Giving away important possessions or making a will
- Suddenly using excessive alcohol/drugs or taking unnecessary risks like excessive speeding
- Changing eating or sleeping habits
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
If there is concern that someone may be contemplating suicide, ask them in a discreet and supportive way. Depression can prevent people from opening up. So, if you really believe something is wrong, keep asking and tell them about the changes that you have noticed in them. While it isn’t always easy, asking if an at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can save their life.
If they admit that they are suicidal, be there for them. Listen carefully about what they are thinking and feeling. Acknowledging and talking about suicide can actually reduce suicidal thoughts. Refer them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and the Crisis Text Line’s number: 741741 for further support. Getting them to a trained professional is important, as they may need to be hospitalized until the crisis has passed.
If you can, consider removing harmful objects from their home that could be used for suicide, such as knives, firearms, ropes, pills and household cleaners containing dangerous chemicals. If the person takes a prescription that could be used for an overdose, encourage them to have someone else safeguard it.
Once someone has made it through a suicide crisis, they will still need ongoing support. Meeting regularly with a therapist is highly advised to work through the issues that brought them to considering suicide. This can help them find coping strategies in case thoughts of suicide begin to emerge again. Honoring milestones, like making it through another week or month is a great way to move forward with healing.
Additionally, after you have helped someone through a suicide crisis, staying in touch with them can make a big difference. Suicide death rates go down when someone regularly follows up with the at-risk person.
Even though it can be frightening to help someone through a suicide crisis, it is important to take action. Most suicides can be prevented if the warning signs are recognized soon enough. By reaching out and getting them the support they need before it’s too late, you can help to save a life.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1.800.273.8255 (Deaf and Hard of Hearing)
Crisis Text Line:
Text “Hello” to 741741
With vacations on hold, fewer people are taking time off work than ever. Many employees feel that they are either too busy to take time off or that they might miss something important by not being there. Some feel guilty for taking the time, believing that they will not be considered dedicated to their job.
The added pressures of the pandemic aren’t helping matters. More employees are reluctant to use their vacation time because of lingering uncertainty, feeling they must prioritize work above all else. The threat of businesses closing or downsizing has many employees wanting to prove that they are dedicated and necessary to the business’s success.
On top of this, mental health has been negatively affected. More than half of adults in the U.S. have worries and stress related to the pandemic. From adjusting to working from home, where employees are working longer hours because they have a hard time distinguishing work versus home life, to concerns of family members getting sick. Moreover, with all of the frightening news and, for some, suddenly becoming a homeschool teacher, everyone is stressed far more than they probably even realize.
Saving all of your vacation time for the holidays or a potential sickness may not be the best idea. Even if travel isn’t possible, occasionally taking a couple of days off to recharge mentally is beneficial. You can use your time to clean up the house, knock out some projects that have been on your list for a while, visit a lake or river for a day of fun in the sun with the family or just order takeout and relax on the couch. Regardless of what you do, taking some time for yourself is necessary to avoid burnout.
Not using the vacation days that you have earned is like working for free. So take off an occasional day or two and detach from work during that time. Regular time off can rejuvenate employees, making them happier and more productive. It also helps to reduce stress levels and improve overall health, possibly even increasing overall lifespan.
In fact, humans can’t endure long periods of stress without experiencing burnout unless they allow for adequate recovery time. What are you waiting for? Request some scheduled days off now and start recharging your mind and body.
Rachel Pelta, Why You Should Take Time Off During the Pandemic, FlexJobs, May 15, 2020
Shannon McMahon, TRAVELING MAY NOT BE SAFE, BUT LEAVING VACATION DAYS BEHIND ISN’T HEALTHY EITHER, Washington Post, August 12, 2020
Heather Smith, Encourage Taking Time Off — Yes, Even During A Pandemic, Forbes, July 14, 2020
Vicky McKeever, Why it’s still important to take days off work, if you can, while in lockdown, CNBC, April 22, 2020
With COVID-19 continuing to spread across the U.S., safety teams remain on high alert. In addition to standard practices, construction sites have already implemented various new policies to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including:
- Daily temperature checks
- Requiring employees to stay home if not feeling well
- Wearing a mask or face-covering that covers the nose and mouth
- Maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet
- Minimizing equipment sharing and regularly wiping equipment down
- Daily sanitization of equipment, frequently touched surfaces and personal clothing
- Practicing proper hand washing throughout the day or using hand sanitizer when a sink isn’t available
- Keeping workers educated about the latest COVID-19 protocols during toolbox talks
Now that summer is in full swing, there are additional hazards and challenges to consider. These top summer safety practices can help keep construction workers safe when the heat is intense.
- Avoid long periods of work in direct mid-day sunshine. If possible, complete portions of work that must be performed out in the open early or late in the day.
- Stay hydrated. Do not wait until thirst sets in to drink fluids, drink them regularly throughout the day. Avoid caffeinated and sugary beverages as they can add to dehydration. Instead, focus on mainly drinking water.
- Eat smart. Eating a heavy meal can make the body sluggish, especially in the heat. Instead, try to choose lighter healthier options for lunch to keep you energized throughout the afternoon. In addition, salty snacks throughout the day can help to replenish sodium lost through sweat.
- Wear sunscreen and lightweight breathable clothing, in lighter colors. Not only will this protect your skin from UV rays but it will also help keep your body temperature down.
- Take regular breaks, preferably in shaded areas. While resting, use that time to drink water, eat a small snack and reapply sunscreen. When removing your face covering to cool off or eat a snack, make sure to do so a safe distance from others.
- Be aware of signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If after excessive sweating, you begin to feel dizzy, nauseous, confused or disoriented, have slurred speech, get a throbbing heading or worse, you suddenly stop sweating altogether, you need to hydrate immediately. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or anyone else, get immediate medical attention, as this can result in death or disability.
The following resources offer more advice on summer construction safety: Construction’s Top 5 Summer Safety Hazards and What To Do About Them, 17 Summer Safety Tips for Construction: Keep Your Team Safe in the Heat and 10 Hot-Weather Safety Tips for Construction.
Additionally, check out OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce or the CDC’s What Construction Workers Need to Know about COVID-19, for more advice on how to stay safe during the pandemic.
Thanks to all the hardworking construction workers who are helping to build and grow our communities. Stay safe out there!