Why we need to promote leadership, ethics and wellbeing
Strong leadership and a focus on professionalism are key to nurturing good mental health and wellbeing among construction workers, argues professor Charles Egbu.
Leadership is critical for success in any industry. It is arguably more important in the construction industry than in any other as there are literally lives at stake.
Leadership is about setting out a vision and providing objectives and direction – and getting people to follow willingly in meeting those objectives. Great leadership is also about leading from the front and setting good examples and high levels of professionalism and ethical behaviours.
The industry needs to promote and show off good examples, and make these pervasive, especially when it comes to how we address the mental health and overall wellbeing of our personnel.
Leaders in construction, those on construction sites and in the head offices, must take proactive, positive stances on mental health and wellbeing policies. Implement these, promote them widely and showcase good examples and practices. Most of us take on leadership roles at different levels and in the different tasks that we perform.
“Leaders in construction, those on construction sites and in the head offices, must take proactive, positive stances on mental health and wellbeing policies. Implement these, promote them widely and showcase good examples and practices.”
Professor Charles Egbu
We all have a responsibility to engender a positive and supportive environment, where mental health and wellbeing of construction professionals are of greatest concern and consideration.
Good leadership should also promote professionalism and high ethical behaviours. In our procurement practices, human resources planning, work allocations and communication plans, we need to be minded of the wellbeing of our construction personnel.
The very high level of mental and welfare issues in our industry means that we need to do things differently. We also need to be ready to reach out to others (individuals, organisations, sectors) where support and additional resources can be obtained.
The current poor mental health and wellbeing status of the industry calls for boldness and a new way of doing things. We need to be ready to challenge the “bad side” of the so-called “macho industry”, where construction personnel find it difficult to communicate how they feel, and at times their mental wellbeing position is ignored altogether. We also need to challenge the extremes of poor site conditions and facilities.
We need to improve the quality of communication with our personnel, especially around mental health and wellbeing. This is part of what professionalism is.
In addition, we need to take more seriously the signs of mental ill health, which include: extreme mood changes (of high and low), reduced ability to concentrate, confused thinking, excessive worries and fears, absenteeism, withdrawals from colleagues and work activities, tiredness and low energy.
We all have a responsibility and an active role in helping to positively address the issue of mental health and wellbeing in our industry. As colleagues, we need to look out for one another, and take the mental wellbeing of each other more seriously than is currently the case. Leadership has a role to play, and professionalism and good ethical behaviour should support the cause.
Improving the culture, and the development of a conducive environment to address mental health and wellbeing issues, can only take place if each one of us takes a more positive stance and really want this to happen. We can achieve this.
Professor Egbu is president-elect of the CIOB and pro vice-chancellor (education and experience) at the University of East London. He will be giving his inauguration speech at the CIOB’s President’s Dinner in Edinburgh on 27 June. Further details can be found online: https://membersforum.ciob.org/presidents-dinner