Inclusivity in construction: how can companies shape a nurturing workplace? 

Although the construction and manufacturing industry hasn’t always been known for its embracing of inclusivity, the importance of a nurturing work environment is becoming increasingly significant. This follows recent research from the National Federation for Builders (NFB), that found that almost 40 per cent of neurodiverse construction workers feel there’s a lack of empathy for neurodiverse experiences in the industry.

Whilst acceptance of poor mental health has traditionally been lacking within the industry, greater awareness and employee support has come into force over the past couple of years. As evidenced in NFB’s recent research, the construction industry’s mental health crisis shows there’s a need for more diversity across the board, and companies need to work harder to better support their employees.

Making room for neurodiversity

Employers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of neurodiversity within the workplace. Defining the differences between people’s cognition and how individuals interact with their surrounding environment, neurodiversity is frequently used to describe neurological or developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Usually holding specialist skills and unique ways of thinking, individuals with neurodiverse conditions are valuable members of the workplace, creating opportunities for businesses to innovate and develop in a unique way.

Results from NFB’s survey show that one in four construction workers reported having a neurodiverse condition, with a third of this demographic revealing that their condition initially drew them to the industry. As a discipline driven by practical and visual work, it’s unsurprising that construction suits those with neurodiverse conditions who excel in these skills.

With such a high quantity of neurodiverse workers in the construction industry, it’s essential that businesses work to create an inclusive environment. An important part of this is improving internal communications, which will establish a greater understanding of employee pinch points and ensure workers feel comfortable. To enhance these efforts, businesses should train managers in supporting neurodiverse employees and work to increase awareness and minimise negative perceptions. Proactively educating the workforce will be more effective with the support of visual aids and toolbox talks that can assist production commitments.

Addressing poor mental health

The rise of poor mental health within the construction industry has been enhanced by the need for employees to spend significant time away from home, recent economic pressure, as well as the lingering stigma surrounding psychological wellbeing. Unfortunately, this is having a serious impact on male construction workers in particular, as the rate of suicide among men in this industry is tragically three times the national average. According to Mates in Mind, a UK charity, more than two thirds of tradespeople suffer from work-related stress at least once a month, with those aged between 35 and 44 as the majority for those experiencing mental health problems. From this age group, one in 10 workers struggle with these problems daily.

It’s therefore essential that companies address this mental health crisis and work to build a more supportive and inclusive environment for all. It’s key to tackle the root cause of these problems, as well as spread awareness to minimise stigma and limit the ‘macho’ culture that still faults the industry.

Here at Premier Modular Group, our people are the heart of our company, and employees’ mental wellbeing and comfortability is a high priority. This is why a qualified counsellor is onsite for one day a month to support individuals as and when is required. Not only does this support workers on a personal level, but it also helps to discover wider and topical issues that could be affecting the workforce as a whole to address problem areas and establish long-term solutions.

Celebrating the power of difference

Creating an inclusive and supportive work environment can’t be accomplished through just communication and education – implementing better representation at all levels and improving recruitment processes is just as crucial to evidence companies’ commitment to supporting existing and future employees.

Getting involved with projects such as the Not Every Disability is Visible campaign – which Premier Modular is proud to support as a Disability Confident employer – sustains these efforts. By doing this, businesses will eliminate any barriers for people with both visible and non-visible disabilities, broadening the workforce with diverse talent.

Openly embracing differences is the best route to inclusivity, and encouraging the acceptance and understanding of diverse experiences is essential to a successful company as the industry moves towards a more progressive future.

For more information on how Premier Modular Group helps its people achieve their full potential, click here.