Construction work is among the most demanding around, with intense manual labour, long hours and the inherent risk of safety hazards. Consequently, it’s no surprise that construction workers are susceptible to burnout. Health publisher WebMD defines this as “a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped” that “happens when you’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s incessant demands.”
According to a study by Delamere Health, which looked at aspects like hours worked, industry mortality rates and both the CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing Index and Work-Life Balance Index, the construction industry was deemed most harmful for its employees.
With the pandemic adding even more stress into the mix for construction workers amid a shortage of staff, uncertainty over projects and an increased risk of being laid off, it’s imperative that construction companies do everything possible to reduce the pressure on them. Here are a few ways they can help prevent employee burnout going forward.
Implement a positive workplace culture
Staff can often feel compelled to work extra hours if they see their workmates doing so, as they don’t want to be the one who finishes earlier than everybody else. This is often a cultural issue that can create the belief that longer hours equals harder work or more effort, but this isn’t necessarily the case. With the construction industry ranked poorly for work-life balance in the CIPD research, it’s important that employers implement a more positive workplace culture to combat this.
The most obvious way company leaders can do this is by not overworking themselves. Of course, everybody has to do this sometimes, but by setting an example from the top, they can encourage others not to fall into the trap of blindly following the herd.
Another way employers can create a more balanced workplace culture is by explicitly encouraging a healthy work-life balance wherever possible. Whether it’s by urging them to take breaks and days off, or by setting flexible working hours, construction workers will soon see that it’s unnecessary to work themselves to the bone.
Don’t ignore safety risks
Construction workers have a constant risk of injury or death due to the nature of their jobs. And according to one study, occupational hazards have often been cited as one of the main causes of mental health issues in the construction industry, which can eventually result in burnout.
Construction companies therefore need to do everything possible to reduce these risks for the both physical and mental benefit of their employees, and there are many approaches they can take to do so. These include planning projects more closely, sticking religiously to health and safety laws, employing the right people, and using technologies like BIM.
If a member of staff does become injured on the job, having construction insurance is essential. As Tradesman Saver explains: “Construction insurance offers peace of mind to workers and clients alike that, in the event of an unexpected accident or harm to people or property, anyone affected will be entitled to the compensation they deserve.”
Prioritise employee development
An often overlooked cause of workplace burnout is disengagement. According to Worktech Academy, this is often the result of “a lack of variety in people’s daily routine”, with this type of burnout potentially causing an “inhibited ability to concentrate on a variety of tasks, issues with short-term memory and a smaller capacity for problem-solving.”
Encouraging upskilling and setting out paths for progression can go a long way to making employees feel more engaged and better about their future. Again, there are lots of ways to do this, from finding out staff’s long term goals and plotting detailed career paths together, to offering formal training opportunities and hiring the right mentors.
Open an employee forum
Company leaders can often be oblivious to staff concerns if they don’t have somewhere to share their feelings or opinions on the issues they face at work. This is why opening up an employee forum is a good idea, helping to get rid of the stigma surrounding speaking up and replacing confrontation with a constructive means of communication.
Employee forums usually come in the form of workshops held once or twice a year. Staff and leadership teams gather to share their ideas, with the aim of discussing problem areas and coming up with potential solutions — solutions that can be fleshed out subsequently. Before going into an employee forum, it’s vital that there’s a clear remit and that teams involved nominate a representative to do the bulk of the talking. These moves help to make sure the forum is as productive as possible.