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Laing O'Rourke: We must work together on mental health

It’s been one year since Construction News launched its Mind Matters survey and there were some shocking findings.

However, there was also a hugely positive outcome and that was the construction industry’s response to the report.

As an industry, we were disappointed by the results, but were we really surprised? Construction, and the construction site, is a male-dominated environment and men in particular don’t always talk about how they are feeling – certainly not in the workplace.

So were we surprised to find that a workforce we thought was okay might not be?

Keeping lines open

One of the things we can do is to keep talking about mental health.

Employers have a duty of care to their workforce, to the mental and physical health of their employees. The two are interlinked, but so often we only see the physical problems and overlook what might be happening emotionally.

In such an intense industry even employers need support, and that should be from the trade bodies, health providers and their peers, ensuring we are united as an industry.

“The Mind Matters survey revealed shocking statistics but the industry has responded and we are making real progress”

Laing O’Rourke prides itself on its prevention and intervention programmes and support services.

We have 70 volunteer mental health champions across our business. These people offer support to those who want it or may need it. It’s an amazing scheme that has helped change the lives of those receiving support, but also those offering it. As a direct employer, we’re also able to invest in preventions and support by employing specialist support services to maintain a healthy workplace.

Supply chain support

Unfortunately, many smaller contractors don’t have the capacity or funding to offer this in-depth support to their employees. However, there are shared resources available; we often collaborate with our supply chain and subcontractors, and if we work as a team we should act as one and support one another. Not only do you have a happier workforce, you have a more productive industry.

The Mind Matters survey revealed shocking statistics but the industry has responded and we are making real progress. Collaboration and early engagement will continue to help the construction sector tackle mental health and change attitudes for good.

Silvana Martin is health and wellbeing leader at Laing O’Rourke

Laing O’Rourke is partnering with Mind and the British Heart Foundation during Mental Health Awareness Week (14-18 May 2018). Projects, office teams and members of the supply chain will be taking part in a cycle challenge, collectively riding from Laing O’Rourke’s Dartford office to its Sydney office – a total of 21,000 miles. This partnership recognises the positive impact exercise has on physical and mental wellbeing and is an opportunity to raise money for two great causes. 

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