By Neal Mahtani
The Construction industry faces a variety of challenges to overcome. Areas such as employee wellbeing, diversity, and the social value delivered by assets are merely a few examples of topics that are being consistently overlooked, and COVID-19’s impact has only made things more difficult. The breadth of these issues and subsequent need for change becomes clearer when we take a closer look at each of them.
A considerable amount of work has gone into minimizing physical hazards and risks to keep construction workers safe. The problems they face from a mental health and wellbeing perspective, on the other hand, have been brushed aside far too often.
The construction industry loses more staff to suicide than any other profession, and thousands of productive working hours are wasted due to work-related problems, including anxiety, depression and stress. This is thought to stem from various parts of the job, including the long hours, extended periods of being away from home and precarious nature of certain projects.
Since the start of the pandemic, plenty of projects within the industry have been paused, delayed, or cancelled, and many employees have either been made redundant or asked to ‘work from home’, without necessarily receiving sufficient training and support to do so. These unfortunate circumstances, and the lack of solutions around them, have worsened this collective strain on the industry’s wellbeing even further.
Legacy of assets and the delivery of Social Value:
Over the past few years, there has been an increasing focus on the positive legacy generated through the design, development and regeneration of assets. Rather than only looking at profitability and commercial benefits, businesses are now starting to think about how their projects can influence the wider economy, environment and society.
While updates in government legislation have played a huge part in ensuring that organisations consider such factors, the ambiguity around them means a lot of companies can be left with more questions than answers on what these terms mean, let alone how to embed it into their own operations. As such, it is important to have a structured approach with quantifiable goals that allow us to measure what ‘strong social value’ and a ‘lasting legacy’ means, as well as how each of them can be achieved.
Diversity within the industry:
The construction industry’s association with labour-intensive and physically demanding manual work can often lead people to assume that it is exclusively for big, strong men.
In addition to the previously mentioned effects on the wellbeing and insecurities of those who work in the sector, this ‘macho’ perception of the industry’s workforce tends to deter various demographics from considering it as a career. Women and disabled people, for example, are very under-represented, thereby creating a vicious cycle that perpetuates these unfavourable views. It is, therefore, crucial to discuss how we can tackle this in order to remove the unconscious biases and make the industry more open and inclusive.
Given how pertinent these problems have always been, as well as how the pandemic has exacerbated them, generating a discussion and proposing new solutions is now more important than ever before. As such, we have partnered up with Built Environment Networking for their upcoming conference ‘Wellbeing & Diversity in Construction & Property’, on Thursday 7 January.
Watch the opening keynote session hosted by our Chief Executive, Guy Battle, here.