While it is an unwelcome statistic that so many people from the construction industry have drink and drug addictions (14 July), it is not wholly surprising and points to a more fundamental issue.
A lifetime of work in the industry can be tough, with erratic employment conditions, long hours and tight deadlines – all of which lead to a highly pressurised working environment where there is a continuing need to “let off steam”. This is, of course, on top of a general national culture where alcohol and socialising go hand-in-hand and working hours are among the longest in Europe.
Job safety and productivity are two obvious aspects that can be jeopardised as a result of this working environment. However, there is also the impact on employees’ general morale and day-to-day job satisfaction.
As an industry, we sometimes forget that our strength lies in our people and do not always look after them as well as we should. It is interesting to note that when we look at how the industry conveys prior expertise and success, there is almost an exclusive focus on the hard facts surrounding projects, rather than on the qualities of the people behind them.
Although there is a growing realisation of the importance of the so-called “soft issues” around the wellbeing, health and happiness of employees, we still have a way to go.
Research, unsurprisingly, shows there are clear correlations between a fit, healthy and motivated workforce and improved levels of productivity and employee retention. Looking after your workforce, aside from the moral justification, makes good business sense.
Getting back to the original issue, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the odd drink. It’s a question of moderation and balance.
For example, rather than treating employees to the all-too-familiar “boozy” company day out, what about offering free gym membership as a reward for hard work?
We have a duty of care to our employees that should extend beyond legislative requirements. In my experience, the ability to deliver exceptional buildings comes from the hard work and dedication of exceptional people. It is in every employer’s interest to take the very best care of its employees.
David Rayne, safety manager, Ocon Construction