The Mental Health in the Construction Industry Survey 2021

This study was conducted by Herts Tools, who specialise in plant hire in London & the home counties. If you’d like to re-publish any of the graphics used in this content, please get in touch and we’ll send you an embed code.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck and lockdowns came into effect, employees in all manner of industries have suffered from mental health issues. The construction industry is no different and, in fact, suicide rates among some construction workers are three times the national average.

At Herts Tools, we wanted to explore whether workers had been impacted by bullying in the workplace and if this had contributed to mental health problems. We asked employees at 88 companies whether they had experienced such issues, in order to find out:

  • The outcome of bullying and mental health issues raised with managers and leadership teams
  • Whether employees could be better supported by their workplace
  • Whether bullying was labelled as on-site ‘banter’

What specific mental health issues were experienced by workers: depression, anxiety and stress

Our findings showed that one in four people had been bullied in the workplace, and employees felt that management could do more to tackle mental health issues when they’re raised by workers.

mental health in the construction industry

What were the outcomes for those who reported bullying?

We felt it was vital to ask people how their individual cases worked out, exploring the emotional and mental health impacts of bullying, as well as the most common outcomes.

The survey indicates that a third of workers buried the problem, by going about their work as normal. The same proportion of people told us their productivity was affected, but they continued to go into work as usual.

A third of our respondents also reported feelings of anxiety, which was the most common problem, with nearly double the amount of sufferers when compared to stress or depression (17% each).

The findings show that not only is bullying a cause of significant mental health issues, but also that many sufferers don’t do anything to address the root cause. Management and leadership teams must therefore be more alert to signs of workplace bullying and poor mental health, including low overall morale or a lack of productivity.

What kind of support do employees want?

With many people hesitant to confront the mental health issues they face, employers have to make it easier for employees to come forward with them. With over half of those bullied calling for more confidentiality, it’s clear that processes and support must be improved. 39% of employees also felt that their HR teams should be quicker to find solutions.

But what else can employers do to help those experiencing bullying at work?

Almost half of the respondents would welcome health days for personal wellbeing. Whether employees spend a day with family, relax at home or get some air in the Great Outdoors, health days would give them a chance to recharge and escape the stresses of the job. More flexible working hours might also give people more time to do the things they enjoy, with 39% of employees keen to have greater flexibility.

Allied to this, more than quarter (28%) would feel better supported if they didn’t have to work such long hours. And the same proportion of respondents felt that people suffering with poor mental health should be allowed more time off to recover.

Who is affected most?

Nationally, one in five construction workers suffered workplace bullying over the last year. In London though, the figure was even higher at two in five (42%).

Non-UK citizens are also much more likely to experience bullying, with just under a third (31%) having been affected, versus 18% of UK citizens.

In terms of the impact of bullying, half of the women bullied said it had affected their productivity, compared to a quarter of men.
Bullying being shrugged off as ‘banter’ is clearly a problem for the construction sector at large: 3 in 10 respondents reported this. But among younger people, this number was significantly higher: 50% of 21-24 year olds and 43% of 25-34 year olds had this experience.

What can employers do?

To reduce the prevalence and impact of poor mental health in the construction industry, employers must listen to their employees and enact the measures they need. To understand what they need though, companies must first create an environment where people feel comfortable enough to be open and honest. To get to that stage, confidentiality must be guaranteed and HR departments must be seen to act quickly and decisively.

One area where companies can certainly help those with mental health issues is time off and working hours. The introduction of mental health wellbeing days can also play an important role.

Where can construction workers seek professional support?

Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity
The charity has been delivering charitable welfare and support to the construction community since 1956. The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity is funded by the industry, for the industry.

Mates in Mind
Mates in Mind is a leading UK charity raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health. We promote and lead on the development of positive mental wellbeing within the workplace. Mates in Mind works across industries, focusing on construction, as well as related sectors, including transport, logistics, manufacturing, and others.