Many industries are known to be more stressful and demanding, leading to higher rates of stress, burnout, and mental health issues. But some of the worst jobs where these issues are concerned are trade and construction industry jobs, and that includes plumbers.
Mental health is such a concern that Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to address mental health throughout the construction industry.
It’s well understood that plumbing is a demanding job, but there are numerous factors that often combine to create an even higher-pressure environment than is healthy for workers to manage regularly. As such, it is necessary for employers and workers in the plumbing and construction industries to develop strategies to better address mental health and well-being.
The Impact of Stress
As more companies today work to understand the importance of employee satisfaction, it has become clear that there is a significant connection between the wellness of workers and productivity levels. This is a fact across all industries. If your employees are happier and healthier, they will be more productive, and their output will be of higher quality.
However, certain industries are inherently more stressful than others. As such, it is even more crucial for employers in those industries to be mindful of how stressors and other factors are impacting their workers. And the trade industry, which includes construction workers, electricians, and plumbers, is one of them.
In general, increased stress in the workplace can:
● Lead to more accidents and injuries
● Distract workers
● Impact decision-making
● Lead to poor communication
● Result in increased absenteeism
Worst of all, however, is how workplace stress and burnout can affect the mental health of workers, which can further contribute to the issues listed above.
A study recently showed the connection between workplace stressors and mental health outcomes among plumbers and electricians. And the final conclusion was that workers in these industries are at higher risk of negative mental health outcomes due to various factors associated with their line of work.
The specific reasons listed for why plumbers are at higher risk of poor mental health include:
● Long working hours
● Fewer holidays and breaks
● Isolation in the work environment
● Frequent, high-pressure, and physically demanding projects
The study also showed that, compared to other industries, plumbers have higher levels of burnout, early retirement, and work-life conflict, all things that can negatively affect the company they work for as well.
When study participants were asked what would help and increase the likelihood of them staying in their position, they responded with better workplace safety, better income and benefits, more full-time work opportunities, more career advancement opportunities, better workload allocation, financial support for further training, and more time to devote to family and personal commitments.
Strategies for reducing stress and burnout among plumbers in the trade and construction industries can include:
Identifying the Causes of Stress
One of the first steps an employer should take to address stress in the workplace is to identify what is causing the stress in the first place. The study mentioned above mentions some of the most common causes of stress in the plumbing industry, but there could be other factors contributing to the stress of workers not on that list. If you want to help your workers, you must first know the specific things that are affecting them before you can know what measures to take.
Providing More Training
One of the factors that plumbing workers complain about is a lack of advancement opportunities, such as those that allow them to potentially work in management themselves or become master plumbers. So, one way to help workers feel more content in their careers is to offer more training and education.
Yes, plumbers should seek out training themselves before they start working in the industry. However, once they get a job, it is often difficult for them to move up or advance their career because the demands of their job don’t allow them the time or money to do so. Employers need to be the ones to provide these opportunities.
Supportive Work Environment
A more supportive work environment that better addresses the needs of the workers is essential. This includes providing better pay and benefits, offering more flexibility in scheduling and time off, and allowing workers to take more breaks while on the job.
As mentioned above, it’s also crucial to be mindful of the workloads and work hours required. If workers are not able to take more breaks and take the time off that they need, it is likely because the employer is demanding too much of them. This could be fixed by hiring more workers to better allocate workloads and being mindful of how many projects are reasonable to take on at a time.
Occupational Health and Safety
To directly address mental health concerns, construction, and plumbing companies should also consider offering access to occupational health and safety programs. There are many occupational therapists and physicians, for example, who can offer training and education on these subjects to promote awareness and respect for mental health issues. Offering access to these kinds of programs can significantly help reduce burnout and mitigate other negative mental health outcomes.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, for example, is a technique that is often used by occupational health professionals to help reduce employee stress in the workplace. This includes helping employers provide mindfulness interventions in the workplace to target workplace functioning, such as improving decision-making, productivity, resilience, communication, organizational relationships, and self-care.
Workers themselves can also be more proactive about protecting their mental health by practicing self-care outside of the workplace. Such practices to help workers find more peace of mind and relaxation so they can be happier and healthier in their careers can include:
● Spending more time outside in nature
● Getting enough sleep
● Eating healthier
● Pursuing hobbies that help with stress reduction
● Practicing gratitude and forgiveness
● Trying meditation
● Spending more time with loved ones
● Being more active and getting regular exercise
Getting Professional Support
Getting professional help, such as by speaking to a therapist, is also an option. There used to be a stigma surrounding seeking help that resulted in many workers ignoring their needs. Thankfully, the attitudes of younger generations are helping to break down these negative stereotypes. In part because of Gen Z’s approach to mental health in the workplace, more employers are recognizing the importance of work-life balance and why building connections with co-workers is important to mental health, among other changes.
Now, it is much more prevalent for employers and workers to talk about mental health in the workplace. And as such, no one should feel ashamed about seeking professional help if they need it. Whether you are a plumber yourself or an employer, it’s important to seek help or offer resources to find help if it's needed.
As plumbers are those at higher risk of struggling with their mental health due to the nature of their jobs, it is vital that workers and their employers take better measures to mitigate stress in the workplace. The health and well-being of every worker matters, and if their well-being is not addressed, it can also negatively affect the company and its future success.
Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.