You may be surprised to learn that you work in the “gig economy” if you work on a construction site, are self-employed, or have a zero-hours contract. This is an economy defined by temporary work, irregular hours, pay, and working conditions.
With Mental Health Awareness Week approaching, now is an excellent time to consider what this way of working is doing to your mental health. And, perhaps more importantly, what can you do about it?
We are all aware that construction sites can be hazardous; in 2015/16, the construction industry lost 43 workers due to avoidable accidents. But there is an even more lethal killer out there: suicide. Every year, it kills over 6,000 people in the United Kingdom (nearly 11 in every 100,000). In the United Kingdom, there are approximately 2.6 million construction workers. That means that 280 people commit suicide each year on average.
The majority of them (three out of every four) will be men. Those aged 30 to 59 are particularly vulnerable (more than 20 in every 100,000 become victims). Every working day, someone’s son, husband, brother, boyfriend, or father does not return home.
Is the gig economy too difficult for too many people?
Some people enjoy the independence that comes with being their own boss. Others find insecurity upsetting and depressing. Unfortunately, the stress of low pay and irregular hours can lead to substance abuse. It can even lead to family disintegration – and worse.
“A great many people are affected by stress, anxiety, and depression at some point in their lives,” says Louise Ward, policy and communications director at the British Safety Council, “and a significant number of working days are lost each year due to mental ill health.” Employers stand to benefit greatly from recognising this issue and taking action to raise awareness of mental wellbeing, as well as ensuring the physical safety of their employees through regular training, support, advice, and information.”
According to the Good Day at Work Report (2015), one in every four UK adults experiences mental health problems each year. One in every five people calls in sick due to stress. Despite this, 90% of them believe they are unable to tell their boss the true reason for their absence.
You know how bad it can be if you’ve ever felt like that. You should also be aware that you are not alone. If you talk to your friends, you may discover that many of them share your sentiments.
Are you in charge of your own business?
Subcontractors and casual labour have always been used in construction. It’s hardly surprising given that more than 70% of businesses in the UK are micro-businesses or sole proprietorships. According to new ONS data, there are now 4.77 million self-employed people (15 per cent of the workforce).
Self-employment is the “preferred choice” of approximately 30% of gig economy workers. However, 14% say it is “due to necessity.” When they don’t have a full-time job, many people take on part-time work to make ends meet.
In a new report, the TUC highlights these pressures. This demonstrates that self-employed and other gig economy workers earn 30-40% less than the average. It also estimates that 3.2 million adults (one in ten) are now in “precarious employment.”
Many gig economy workers lack basic job protections. There is frequently no protection against wrongful termination and no right to redundancy pay. While nearly half a million people do not have the right to sick pay.
Life can appear bleak for these workers, especially if they have few savings. According to the Samaritans, disadvantaged men are ten times more likely than better-off men to commit suicide. According to the Samaritans, “irregular, insecure, or temporary work, as well as self-employment,” are also contributing factors.
What happens next?
Step 1: Become aware of and comprehend these pressures in order to protect yourself, your family, and your friends.
Step 2: Begin talking. Many people find it difficult to express their emotions. This is especially true for men who believe they must be tough. Being macho may look good in movies, but it does not help you in real life. To survive, we must learn to communicate with our peers.
That is why, in January 2017, the Health in Construction Leadership Group (HCLG) established the Mates In Mind charity. MIND, Mental Health First Aid England, the British Safety Council, and the Samaritans are among those who have pledged their support. Mates In Mind is developing a comprehensive mental health and wellbeing plan for construction workers in the United Kingdom.
The scheme is backed by Land Securities. Contractors bidding on projects lasting more than six weeks must now use the Mates in Mind plan. Balfour Beatty, Careys, and Willmott Dixon are among the other well-known supporters. Mates in Mind hopes to reach 100,000 construction workers in 2017 with the assistance of 300 businesses.
What can you do to safeguard your well-being?
You may take your mental health for granted. Don’t. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Poor mental health can have an impact on your timekeeping, concentration, and decision-making abilities. This could lead to more mishaps.
The Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) has also launched its own Mind Matters campaign to make construction work safer for everyone. This is intended to make it easier for builders to talk about stress, anxiety, and depression.
Know who to turn to for assistance.
Poor mental health is a complicated illness that is influenced by a variety of factors. We can’t say there’s a direct connection to the gig economy. However, we do know that there is a link between job security, working conditions, and mental health.
We all have to deal with stress and worry on a daily basis. The issues arise when we are unable to cope. That’s when even seemingly insignificant things overwhelm us. We all require extra assistance from time to time to get us through difficult times.
As a result, every builder should be familiar with the Construction Industry Helpline number. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can help you with anything from health and wellness to financial issues. Any construction worker, whether in regular or gig-economy work, unemployed or retired, can call the number – dial 0845 605 1956 now.