Image credit: Mental Health Foundation.

Written by Jack Johnson, Kanda’s Mental Health Responder.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, where we collectively shine a light on improving mental health in the UK.

Mental health is especially important in the workplace – it’s where we spend most of our time, week-to-week. Employers therefore have a significant responsibility for their employees, and are making really positive strides in promoting mental health in workplaces, including those in the built environment.

What is the built environment sector doing to address mental health challenges?

It’s no secret that the built environment sector, particularly construction, has historically had poor mental health outcomes in the workplace and in 2020 construction was one of the highest risk industries in the country at 3.7 times higher than the national average. Often construction and site-based workers are away from home, leaving them isolated. The male-dominated industry can often create a macho culture which can be unsupportive of those from protected characteristics such as the LGBTQ+ community, and can fail to make arrangements for families such as providing flexible working arrangements. With high stress, exposure to health and safety risks, and susceptibility to burnout, it is no shock that 91% of construction workers in the UK have felt overwhelmed.

However in recent years, addressing mental health challenges has rightly become a priority for the sector and key players within it, with employers increasingly recognising their duty to support mental health alongside traditional expectations of physical safety. This extends beyond addressing immediate concerns, with efforts underway to embed mental health considerations into broader workplace health and safety practices.

We’ve seen this manifest through businesses across the sector providing targeted initiatives. This includes consultancies like ours, professional practices, and frontline businesses like construction companies and contractors. Initiatives utilised across the sector include:

Mental Health Support Services: these can include helplines, counselling services, and employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which offer confidential and immediate support to those in need.

Mental Health First Aid Training: these courses equip employees with the skills to recognise signs of mental distress, provide initial support in the workplace, and guide individuals towards appropriate professional help.

Flexible Work Arrangements: this can include options for remote work where available, flexible hours, or rotating shifts to help employees manage work-life balance and stress.

Training and Awareness Programs: sessions to educate staff and embed a supportive culture where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health.

Employee Wellbeing Policies: regular mental health assessments, access to wellness resources and support after mental health-related absence.

Peer Support Networks: networks provide teams with encouragement whilst facilitating open communication to create a sense of camaraderie among colleagues.

Despite significant progress being made, challenges continue to persist. Studies indicate around 1 in 4 adults in the UK experience a mental health condition annually. As well as the  individual cost to poor mental health, there is also a financial cost to poor mental health outcomes, with up to £300 billion in related lost productivity and absenteeism each year across all industries. Mental health issues are also now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, with 70 million workdays lost each year.

But with an increasing focus, dedicated funding, and targeted initiatives now becoming more commonplace across not only the built environment, but all sectors, more positive and supportive work environments will play a critical role in lifting mental health outcomes across the UK. Funding alone can go a long way, with recent research by Deloitte finding that investing in mental health interventions at work can yield a return of £5 for every £1 spent, through improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.

Already, there is further research focused on mental health within the construction industry and how workers are impacted in the sector. To find out more check the research from Mates in Mind.

What is Kanda up to this week?

We will be hosting various internal events to promote mental health awareness in the office with this year’s theme being ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’. From a walk & talk tour around Golden Lane Estate, to chats with our Mental Health Responders and Sound Bath yoga, we will be taking part in various initiatives to move more for our mental health.

Find out more about Mental Health Awareness week and Mental Health Foundation here.

Find out more about the support we offer our employees here.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news in the sector