Mental Well-being in Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction: Building a Healthy Company Culture

20 Oct ‘23
3 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Judith Klenter
The construction industry is known for its tough image, often valuing the physical strength of employees before anything else. Unfortunately, this has meant that mental well-being often gets overlooked. Yet, it’s crucial to encourage conversations and bridge the gap between office workers and those on-site.


As HR, how can you create a supportive company culture in an industry where mental well-being is often neglected? Let’s explore this question and look at proactive solutions below. 



1. Tackle beliefs in the construction industry


The tough nature of the construction industry can make it difficult to give mental well-being the attention it deserves. For example, recent research shows that employees in the sector are less likely to participate in programmes and initiatives aimed at well-being, while struggling with their health more often than employees in other sectors.


In addition, research by HR Locker shows that almost 80 per cent of professionals are uncomfortable discussing mental well-being challenges with others. Consequently,  opening up and normalising the conversation is an important first step for HR; and a strong culture of mental well-being is at the heart of this initiative. 


An open culture relies on psychological safety, which means employees are encouraged to share ideas, ask questions, voice concerns, and admit mistakes without fear of judgment. It’s essential to recognise that everyone encounters mental well-being challenges at some point, and seeking help is perfectly normal. Encourage team leaders and managers to open up the conversation in their teams (also provide the necessary support, such as how to start the conversation) and set up company-wide initiatives that contribute to this. What helps is to focus on topics that generate recognition, such as stress, physical and mental strain, parenthood and irregular hours.


In addition, remember that the offer and guidance is low-threshold enough for people who do not yet have connections with mental well-being, do not yet know certain terms or have little experience with it. Only in an environment where mental well-being is acknowledged, accepted, and embraced can people freely discuss and work on it.


Read more: How do you create psychological safety at work?



2. Maintain close contact with employees


Communication is crucial — both in relationships and in the workplace. But maintaining ongoing contact with employees (particularly construction employees) is often difficult. For instance, research by Workplace from Meta shows that while 86 per cent of desk-less employees feel connected to their own team, only 14 per cent also feel this connection with the head office. As a result, employees often do not feel seen or heard.


A central communication channel and good communication from managers can prevent this. 


A reliable communication tool will enable you to gauge sentiment throughout the organisation and keep direct lines of communication with everyone. This way, desk-less employees can easily contact HR with questions or issues.


Managers can also play an integral role in bridging the gap between head office and the production floor, and convey a positive message around mental well-being. Help to instruct managers on how to engage in conversations about mental wellbeing, both individually and with the team. 


Do: make managers aware of the crucial role they play and support them in this. Those who talk openly about well-being themselves create space for others to do the same. Leading by example is a proven technique that has a positive effect on employees’ attitudes.



3. Support managers in their role 


Managers play a pivotal role in connecting HR and employees. They contribute to fostering psychological safety and set a valuable example for employees.


Understandably, managers often lack the right knowledge and skills to fulfil all these roles. After all, they are not psychologists. Therefore, support managers by providing them with relevant training, tools and resources that make their job easier. 


Do: Regularly check in with managers to see how things are going, both with themselves and with the team. Facilitate a conversation in which managers feel free to share what is going on, both with each other and with HR. 


Also ask them explicitly what they need from you to best fulfil their (role model) role. Schedule recurring moments of contact or set up a buddy system in which you pair up managers to tackle challenges together.


Read more: How to Engage Managers in Creating an Open Corporate Culture: 7 HR Tips



Mental well-being in engineering, manufacturing and construction: Maintaining an open culture


The prevailing mentality in the engineering, manufacturing, and construction sectors isn’t inherently problematic, as long as there’s a space for open discussions about challenges, emotions, and vulnerabilities.


It’s crucial to remind employees that opening up about mental well-being not only complements hard work but also helps sustain it.


The key is to normalise and encourage open conversations. Over-communicate rather than under-communicate about the significance of mental well-being. Encourage managers to lead by example and create ample opportunities to address concerns and challenges. Make sure support for mental challenges, such as psychologists or coaches, is also available outside regular working hours.


Once the groundwork is established, you’ll find that well-being programs and initiatives gain more traction. After all, you can’t construct a sturdy house on an unstable foundation.


Read more: How Work Culture and Mental Well-being Are Connected

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