Building a Foundation for Well-Being and Mental Health in Construction


Australia’s construction industry workers shoulder a unique set of challenges that impact their mental health. Long hours, physically demanding work and the pressure of deadlines are rife - and all contribute to a culture of stress and vulnerability.

For construction firms, it is essential to recognise and prioritise mental well-being for a safer, more productive environment for workers. To find out how, we spoke to Edward Ross, Director of TradeMutt, a social impact workwear company, and TIACS, a tactical, non-profit counselling service. In his words, “Starting conversations about mental health and helping change the culture around help-seeking behaviour are key to long-term industry success.”

Read on as we explore the importance of mental health in construction, the benefits for construction firms and how they can better support workers both on and off the job site.

The real story behind mental health in construction

There are not many people these days that can say they haven’t experienced either for themselves or know someone affected by mental illness.

Mental health in construction is a challenge, with more than 20% of workers in the construction industry known to have experienced a mental health condition. These conditions range from anxiety and depression to stress-related disorders, and often stem from the demanding nature of the work, job insecurity, and long hours spent on-site.

However, construction workers have historically faced an even more alarming statistic: a greater risk of taking their own lives. Sobering research by MATES in Construction has shown increased suicide mortality in construction workers relative to other workers in Australia.

However, on a brighter note, the study also saw a steady decline in suicide rates among construction workers since 2001. While encouraging, it still underscores the importance of meaningful change to safeguard the mental health of construction workers.

TradeMutt’s Edward Ross attributes this decline to increased awareness of mental health and well-being, as more individuals and organisations recognise its importance in the workplace.

“Thankfully, we now live in a time where people understand the importance of mental health,” Edward says.

“But it is also important to remember that acknowledgement is only the first step. Mental health in construction is an issue that requires time and investment, both financial and non-financial, to bring meaningful change.”

The impact of investments in mental health and well-being

Initiating a one on one conversation could be a bit overwhelming, but it is important to check in with your coworkers regularly if you notice something seems off.

Investment in the mental well-being of your workers is not only a moral obligation - it’s a smart business decision. In an industry that relies heavily on the performance of its workforce, prioritising mental health should be a top consideration for firms.

  • Enhance productivity and efficiency: Mentally unhealthy workplaces cost Australia up to $39 billion each year due to lost participation and productivity. Invest in mental well-being, for workers are more likely to focus better on tasks, make fewer errors and contribute to smoother project execution, cost savings and increased profitability.

  • Reduce absenteeism and employee turnover: Mental health costs Australian businesses $4.7 billion per annum in absenteeism. Invest in culture and well-being to help reduce the frequency of absenteeism and your firm’s employee turnover rate, saving on recruitment and training costs.

  • Improve safety and legal compliance: Minimise accidents and reduce the potential legal and financial liabilities associated with workplace injuries.

  • Boost reputation and work culture: Boost employee morale and build a positive workplace culture to help attract top talent, build positive client relationships and open doors to new opportunities.

Prioritise mental health in construction

If you or someone you know is struggling and needs immediate assistance, visit the TIACS website today.

When it comes to mental health in construction, Edward says firms need to invest in their people.

“Overall, construction firms need to be better at prioritising their employees,” he says.

“In the past as a society, we haven’t done a great job educating people in help-seeking behaviour or upskilling them in relationships and finance. We’re starting to see the repercussions of this now.

“From an organisational perspective, there is often a major disconnect between a person’s productivity and the reinvestment into that person to maintain said productivity.

“Organisations need to make a larger investment in people and culture to ensure staff longevity and well-being, and to maintain their bottom line. If your staff turnover is high and you’re struggling to meet project deadlines, you’re in big trouble!”

What this investment looks like will differ between firms, but Edward says it starts with a cultural change.

“At TradeMutt and TIACS, we try to set a strong cultural example,” Edward says.

“We invest back into our staff by offering a four-day work week. Every team member also gets one-on-ones with their manager - with no longer than a month between each meeting.”

That said, Edward has identified some key areas that construction firms can prioritise to support workers on and off the job site:

  • Educate and build awareness: Provide access to training, workshops, employee assistance programs and hotlines.

  • Promote work-life balance: Encourage reasonable working hours and discourage excessive overtime, where possible.

  • Host employee check-ins: Ensure managers check in on employees regularly to discuss their well-being, workload, and any issues they face.

  • Provide feedback mechanisms: Create channels for employees to provide feedback anonymously or otherwise, allowing them to voice concerns or suggest improvements.

Edward says that leading by example is one of the best ways to encourage change.

“You ultimately can’t force people to prioritise mental well-being. All you can do is set a strong example and hope others do the same.”

The information provided in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The construction industry, like any other, can present unique challenges to mental well-being, and it is essential to seek guidance from qualified mental health professionals or counsellors for personalised support and guidance. The author and publisher of this blog post are not mental health professionals, and this content is not intended to provide specific solutions or recommendations for individual circumstances. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, please consult with a licensed mental health professional or contact a crisis helpline immediately. Your mental health is important, and there is help available.

Posted By

Nat is the marketing manager for Viewpoint’s Australian office. With fifteen years of experience in the software industry and a passion for construction, she delivers the best solutions to the industry and helps builders get the tools to get the job done.