We are in this Together
We cannot succeed without each other, succeeding whether you’re talking about contractors, software providers, and the construction industry as a whole. By talking about mental health in construction, we can provide people hope, help, and recovery. Ultimately, with design thinking, leadership, and empathy, you are helping your employees by protecting the well-being of your number one asset.
Cal Beyer is the VP and Practice Leader for CSDZ, a construction risk management company. He has over 30 years of experience in construction safety, health, and risk management. From 2014-2020, he has worked for a signatory contractor in Washington and Oregon. He serves with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention since 2010 and is on the Executive committee since 2016. Also, he launched the Suicide Prevention Movement for the construction industry. Overall, he helps employers, associations, and labor organizations across the United States to address this topic with his service on the Expert Advisory Group of the Center for Workplace Mental Health.
Nathan Wood is the Chief Enabling Officer for Spectrum AEC and provides thought leadership, applied research, and strategic consulting. His experiences with Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), lean process improvement, and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) have made him realize that even technology solutions can lead to failed results when the needs of people and processes are neglected. He is also the Executive Director of the Construction Progress Coalition. This non-profit organization is advancing the adoption of open integration standards through a Common Data Exchange (CDX) framework.
Does construction really have a mental health issue?
There are some people that will challenge this question. The simple answer is yes, not just construction, but society itself has a mental health issue, addiction issue, substance use issue, and suicide prevention issue. However, construction, in some ways, has a worse problem than society. Every male-dominated industry has difficulties with these issues because of stigma and the barriers to talking about it.
Protecting the Well-Being of Your Number One Asset
In May 2016, Forbes wrote an article about how construction workers can teach other industries about mental health awareness. The author wrote about the signs of mental health in construction. Ultimately, leadership is not just one person; it can be anyone. Leadership is every person making a stand to make a difference in their place and time.
How is the Pandemic Affecting Mental Health and Suicide Prevention?
The current pandemic with the coronavirus is worsening and deteriorating mental health at the personal level as well as the organizational level. Think about all of the stressors that exist due to the ripple effects through the economy due to COVID-19. People with underlying mental health conditions are having to adapt to all stressors and new risk factors that are thrown their way. Because of the “new normal” there is a hidden pandemic of mental health that will cascade for extensive periods of time after COVID-19.
Design thinking starts with empathy. Empathy is at the personal level. Empathy is the complete opposite of groupthink, straying away from the idea that we know it all and thinking that our way is going to work. However, in these times, it might be better to alter your ideas and learn from other ideas or do things in different ways. The longer that leaders don’t realize the “wake up call,” the longer, the younger generations continue to feel burnouts, disconnection, and ultimately leave the industry.
How can design thinking prepare a company to become more resilient?
Software development and design thinking have the ability to be agile, the ability to pivot. All societies are pivoting as they are coping with this new normal. Right now, change is the only constant; those that fall into a fixed mindset are going to struggle more than those that naturally have a growth mindset. Leadership starts with conversations. Second, is people work before paperwork. Third, because people are our number one assets, walk the talk; you must be respectful to your team because they trust you and will listen to you.
Leaders are given permission to express their feelings and vulnerability. Business owners and company leaders embark on the journey of behavioral health, mental well-being, and suicide prevention to connect with their employees on a personal level. The Construction Industry Alliance has resources available to engage leaders to take these risks. Because of COVID-19, there are resources free of charge. First, there are free anonymous screening tools from Mind Wise, and it is recommended that you share them with family members, co-workers, and friends. With anonymous screening, you have an opportunity to find help.
How to create a safe place for employees
The overall well-being of your number one asset means creating a safe environment for employees and a strong sense of leadership. There has to be someone in the project team that can bring everyone together. For construction, suicide prevention is mainstream for safety. The next step in this transition is to implement design strategies to change the built-in environment to promote physical and mental well-being. Innovation starts with people changing their process and then choosing the best technology. You don’t solve problems when you don’t change processes, or having the right people standing to make the initial change.
In this pandemic, technology allows the construction industry to pivot so well because of its operations under virtual remote workforces. You don’t know what’s “behind the mask” of all employees’ lives. As leaders, you need to see what’s behind the mask and give them an opportunity to open up. If you can’t meet every employee where they are, you can empower other individuals to make a stand.
Human capital risk management is a huge investment opportunity for companies because it is the concept that people are your number one asset. Employees in the construction industry are still struggling with disruptions in their lives where they’re at risk of quality and safety hazards and they need proper safety protection. It is proven that human capital risk management yields many benefits: increased productivity, employee engagement, better customer service, higher retention, helps tackle workforce development crisis and increases sustainability and profitability.
With new systems in design thinking, it will help businesses think about new ways to approach their workforce. Implementing new design thinking, strong leadership, and empathy, you are protecting the well-being of your number one asset, your employees.