Addressing Mental Health in Construction for Mental Health Awareness week – The Hygiene Motivation Theory

Employee Engagement , , , , ,

This Mental Health Awareness week, 15th – 21st May, we raise some insight into the mental health and mental wellbeing in a large industry partnership of ours- construction.

The construction industry is typically predominately a male dominated industry, and for the employees working within this industry, it is recorded that suicide rates are 3 times higher than the national average for men.

Historically, the construction industry in particular has been associated with higher mental health issues ranging from depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and these are thought to be triggered by factors such as high intensity workloads, job insecurity, fast paced environments and mental and physical demands. Construction work has a variety of pressures from tight contracts, to long hours, time away from loved ones and juggling budgets. Not to mention the added stress brought on after the pandemic, and now the rising cost of supplies. For an industry like construction that tends to be typically dominated by often perceived ‘strong and tough’ men, this can contribute to the above challenges as the effects of mental health are downplayed, and not openly spoken about. Additionally, within construction lies a “macho” culture which prevents many workers from seeking support and help when they may need it, putting further stress on their own mental health and wellbeing. 

It is so important for employers and individuals to know just how important mental health awareness is, so that genuine support can be provided to workers. 

The “silent epidemic”

Poor mental health within construction is referred to as “the silent epidemic.” This phrase refers to the high rate of deaths and injuries that occur on construction sites, some of which go unnoticed and unreported. “According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction is one of the most dangerous industries, with over 1,000 deaths and countless injuries occurring every year.

Recent years have demonstrated that meeting the basic needs for employees improves levels of happiness in the work environment. Our employee engagement survey platform data shows that ‘Happy’ has climbed up the list of most dominant positive emotions, and now sits in the top three, however despite this still only 22% of employees within construction actually feel happy at work so despite happiness being a positive shift, you can see this data actually tells us that overall people are feeling a lot more negative at work.

The hygiene-motivation theory

Herzberg’s theory

The hygiene-motivation theory proposes that employees are influenced by basic factors that affect job satisfaction (Hygiene factors) and factors that impact motivation (Motivation factors). Both of these factors must be well-considered in any employee engagement strategy:

Hygiene factors are extrinsic conditions such as the working environment, pay and benefits, and relationships with co-workers. When such factors are not a cause for dissatisfaction, employees are happy in their day-to-day work. While this can be enough to retain employees, it does not create the conditions for a fully engaged and committed team.

Motivation factors take us beyond mere satisfaction and influence how we perform at work. Opportunities to learn and develop, feeling a sense of achievement, and being creative and autonomous in our roles have the scope to satisfy our psychological needs, as opposed to just our basic needs, and therefore determine our level of involvement and commitment to the organisation.

Hygiene issues do not necessarily motivate employees but rather minimise dissatisfaction. Motivators, on the other hand, create the opportunity for job and even life satisfaction by fulfilling individuals’ needs for meaning and personal growth. While tackling hygiene issues alone is not enough to reach the end goal of a fully thriving team, these issues must be dealt with first to create an environment in which true employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement are even possible.

High Risk of Hazards

Employees who work within construction face a high risk of hazards on a day-to-day basis with risks from electrocution, falling from great heights, objects and equipment falling, and getting caught on and between machinery. Alongside a lack of safety equipment and precautionary measures, inadequate training, and a high pressure to meet extremely high deadlines, these hazards pose a lot of stress and anxiety for the employee, and certainly has a knock of affect with their wellbeing and hygiene motivational factors.  

With all these hazards around, construction workers, and often other industries with a high proportion of offline workers such as transport and rail, and manufacturing, there is often no one to speak to higher up. It is a frequent occurrence where in these industries, there is one line manager to about 50 employees which makes it very hard for construction workers to express their concern to a leader, or a member of staff with higher authority. Not only this, but many other construction workers are also self-employed so could have no one to speak to at all.

These risks and hazards within this ‘silent epidemic,’ can go further beyond the employees, and impact the workers families and loved ones. It is essential that within industries like construction, and additionally other remote working industries, they have the relevant safety measures in place so that workers know what they need to do should they witness incorrect safety protocols or hazards. Not only this, but government agencies also play a key role in making sure that safety regulations are adhered to and can ultimately hold employers accountable for an unsafe workplace.

Addressing mental health concerns

The last decade has seen a rise in the need to recognise mental health concerns amongst employees, and within the construction and manufacturing industry they have created resources and initiatives to assist with this. We recently spoke to a construction company that are working in partnership with Inpulse, and their Head of Engagement recommended that recognition, providing workshops and training, Best Practice Guides and introducing Smart working – empowering when, where and how people work – can all help boost wellbeing and motivational factors.

These resources and methods of support will really work towards educating workers, supervisors, leaders and employers about the importance of mental health -and in turn create a more supportive and encouraging workspace.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

Our data in our engagement software shows that within construction, the top three negative emotions from employees are, Irritated, Frustrated and Stressed, and each of these feelings have a knock-on effect with anxiety. This year for mental health awareness week, the official theme topic is on anxiety. Whilst anxiety is a natural response to the triggering and uncertain world around us, particularly with the current stresses and cost of living crisis in the world, it is found that more than a third of adults feel unsettled and anxious about their financial situation. It is very important however to try to recognise when your anxiety may get out of hand so that it doesn’t end up overpowering and overwhelming you.

Symptoms of anxiety can include:

– Increased heart rate

– Headaches

– Loss of appetite

– Breathlessness and/or chest pains

– Feelings of tension, restlessness or nervousness

– Feeling tearful

– Problems sleeping and concentrating

– Irritability

Within the construction industry as a whole, we know off our employee survey that 42% of employees feel that they don’t have the opportunity to share ideas to improve their business. This is fascinating when it comes to employee engagement because for the construction organisation that we partner with, their employee engagement is 18 percentage points higher than the average within this industry. You can listen to how this company improved their engagement in the five years of working for Inpulse here.

If you’re reading this and find you’re really struggling with your mental health, just remember that there is help at hand. Speak to someone close to you as talking or spending time with a loved one can help. Things like practicing breathing techniques, going for walks and seeking support whether that is in person or anonymously through work can really help too.

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle