What's stressing Australia's construction managers?
Construction project managers in Australia are under a tremendous amount of work-related stress, which is affecting their mental health as well as the ability to perform their jobs. With the increase in accidents, accident-prone events and the looming threats of lawsuits, it is a very stressful environment trying to maintain all the standards set. According to a new study conducted by Bond University, respondents from the construction industry blamed work-related pressures for their stress levels while workers from other business segments attributed their stress to non-work issues.
Calling for a systemic and management change from top to bottom within the Australian construction industry, report author professor Alan Patching observed that failure to act on the issue could result in consequences including suicide.
Patching, who was project director for construction of the Sydney Olympic Stadium, blames the stress epidemic on the current contracting system, which takes a cut-throat approach to tender reports and delivers wafer-thin profit margins.
“The current most commonly used contracting system effectively often requires tenderers to bid with low or no margin prices and/or to offer reduced construction time in order to win work. That, in turn, requires appointing more experienced and usually already over-committed construction project managers to manage the project in a way that drives some level of profit from it.”
Project managers who participated in Patching’s study revealed how these pressures impacted their health and family life, with some even considering suicide.
While some construction companies were very sensitive to give an insight into how they are dealing with these matters related to employee stress, they often tended to deal with it via employee assistance programs after the fact, rather than take steps to avoid and manage stress before it escalated.
“It would be far better to avoid a lot of stress by ensuring that workloads are appropriate and prices and schedule times for projects are reasonable.”
The construction industry culture also comes under the scanner in Patching’s study. A 2009 research revealed that absenteeism due to stress-related illness increased dramatically in every area of business except construction, despite the significant suicide rate among construction workers.
“It was not that construction people were not experiencing stress-related illness; they simply did not report it for fear of appearing weak in an industry reputed for its tough image,” Patching said.
This culture continues to exist in the industry.
The Federal Government’s recent announcement of $3.8 billion of infrastructure spending was an opportunity to fast-track mental health initiatives in the industry, says Patching.
Mental health welfare is imperative for any business regardless of size, as this helps enable a stable working environment. A stable working environment results in productivity, without a happy workforce, productivity will decrease resulting in terrible products and performances. Hopefully, in 2020 and the following years to come, the industry can make great strides in producing better help for those that need stress management, load management and advice on how to handle work-related psychological and physical issues.