Tackling construction’s biggest crisis: a wellbeing partnership for the future

There is no secret that as an industry we need to do more to look after our employees. The sector does go the distance when caring for physical health as this is associated with safety, but as our wider understanding of mental wellbeing grows, we cannot ignore it. At Pagabo, we are pushing forward with key wellbeing initiatives, including our ongoing partnership with leading health tech brand Moodbeam.

In September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data for 2020, which shows that for every 100,000 construction workers, 30 took their own lives. The figures are considerably higher when comparing the rates in the industry are compared to other kinds of jobs. Glasgow Caledonian University professor Billy Hare has also carried out analysis of rates of suicide in different sectors, which found that construction workers are 3.4 times more likely to take their own life.



Charley Wainwright, future of construction lead, says: “The latest ONS stats and the analysis carried out by Professor Billy Hare is striking – especially when we look at the past five years and across other industries. While the rate has remained fairly steady between 2015 and 2020 for other professions, the construction figure has gone up by five percentage points, from 25 in 100,000 in 2015, to 30 in 100,000 in 2020.

“This ongoing issue clearly isn’t going away and instead is becoming even more prevalent, which is why as an industry we need to find new ways to manage this collective issue. We have been working in partnership with health tech brand Moodbeam to test its unique solution across the industry and have concluded a trial across 13 construction businesses.

“Mental wellbeing is a complicated issue. Much like a hard hat will not stop you from cutting your hand, there needs to be a network of safety nets and personal protective equipment (PPE) to help protect workers – and Moodbeam can be seen as PPE for mental wellbeing.”



Testing Moodbeam

The trials saw more than 380 volunteers* from 13 businesses – including Kajima Partnerships, Pick Everard, and Faithful+Gould – across the industry using Moodbeam’s wearable wellbeing solution. The wristband featured two buttons – a yellow one for the user to press when feeling good, and a blue one for when they were feeling not so good.

Organisations were able to visualise this data and see how their teams and individuals were feeling, with a view to being able to identify where changes could be made, or additional support provided to improve more positive wellbeing at work. Feedback from volunteers following the three-month trial has shown that more than half of the participants believe Moodbeam’s initiative should be introduced across the industry.

The trials have concluded at a time that Moodbeam has adapted its service offering post-pandemic, launching a more accessible and discrete option of a direct-entry mobile app. The new app features yellow and blue buttons to mirror the original wristband hardware used in the trials, with the revamped dashboard giving organisations even more insight into how their people are feeling across teams, departments and locations.

One of the companies that took part in the trials was built environment developer Kajima Partnerships, which had 20 volunteers take part. Talking about their experience in the trials, project director Richard Coe said: “Looking after our staff is something at the heart of our business. However, as the pandemic started to take hold, we were really concerned about staff mental health and wellbeing as they had to start working from home and to juggle personal and professional lives and stresses against the backdrop of Covid-19.

“The concept and simplicity of Moodbeam really appealed to us, along with the ability to stay in touch with how staff were feeling – and we found the trials really illuminating. We had volunteers sitting across several departments, so it was interesting to see how different departments were under different pressures at different times.

“Not being in the office, we didn’t have the usual visual clues on how our people were feeling. Moodbeam really helped to alleviate this, and if anyone was consistently pushing blue then we were able to check in, find out why and mobilise solutions. We’re really pleased to see Moodbeam is adapting, how it does things further, and look forward to continuing the use of its new app.”



Pagabo and Moodbeam will continue to work in partnership to drive change in the way the construction industry handles employee mental wellbeing. Speaking about the new app and continued partnership with Pagabo, Moodbeam’s co-founder Christina Colmer Mchugh said: “The pandemic changed everything when it came to how, where and why we work, and we have adapted our offering in line with that and feedback from users to ensure Moodbeam provides businesses with the best tool possible to add to their approach to staff wellbeing.

“Moodbeam is all about gaining a true understanding of situations, taking successes and failures forward as learnings in a manner that brings teams together to create the changes when and where they are needed the most. With the worsening statistics around mental wellbeing in the construction industry, we’re really pleased to hear the feedback from the initial trials and to continue our working relationship with Pagabo to make a difference to those working in the sector.”



Simon Toplass, group chief commercial officer at The 55 Group, which is Pagabo’s parent organisation, added: “As the materials shortage and skills gaps continue to worsen, the pressure put onto contractors, developers and consultants will continue to grow as timescales and budgets tighten. The race to the bottom is still unfortunately very much on, and with this comes uncertainty and stress – and this is all against the backdrop of anything someone may be dealing with in their personal life, and uncertainty around what the winter months will bring.

“Moodbeam is an effective tool for understanding the pressures on our people – and how they vary across businesses, teams and individual people. Earlier intervention is the key to tackling these wellbeing issues at or because of work, and we look forward to continuing our work to drive this attitude shift across the sector. The new, more discreet option of Moodbeam’s direct-entry app is something that we hope will drive further uptake within the industry, leading to more a happier and healthier workforce.

“We must remember that the industry has always had a reputation as a ‘tough man’s’ environment, which is now making it unattractive to younger generations – in turn widening that skills gap. Younger people expect that mental wellbeing to be taken just as seriously as physical wellbeing, but this is more than providing fruit baskets and social opportunities. It’s about taking mental wellbeing seriously and finding effective ways to engage with how our people feel – and most importantly what we can do to make anything better.”


*81% of volunteers were working at home due to the pandemic, but under more normal circumstances 59% of people would be working in an office setting, with the remaining out on site.

The importance of mental health awareness week within the construction industry

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year falls as a critical time as we are emerging from the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions are continuing to ease.

It is well known that the construction industry has higher levels of both mental health-related problems, and greater stigma around them – something that at Pagabo we are actively seeking to tackle and change. A recent study by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) found that 23 per cent of construction workers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months due to poor mental health, so it’s more important than ever that we are taking the wellbeing of our construction workforce seriously.

73 per cent of all construction workers feel that their employers did not understand or recognise the early signs of poor mental health, nor did they feel they offered any support.

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the nation’s mental health, with government statistics showing that all demographic groups examined have experienced increases in distress after the onset of the pandemic. And, according to research carried out by Mind, more than half of adults (60 per cent) have said that their mental health got worse during lockdown.


Pagabo Foundation

These figures demonstrate why we were driven to set up the Pagabo Foundation in 2019 – for us it was a necessity, and it is even more important post-pandemic. There is still such a way to go in improving awareness and access to help, and as an organisation with a large presence within the sector we have brought together a board of trustees from across the industry to work together on tackling these issues head on.


Pagabo Foundation trustee, Christine-Alice Hartigan of Space & Place Architects, said: “Within the construction industry there are many people from all walks of life doing very different jobs, each with their own stresses. There is a necessity to break down barriers and to supply tools to help people have a greater understanding of mental health, within themselves and their employees and colleagues.

“We can embed a positive approach to mental health if we stop and take consideration for others, by acknowledging that everyone has a unique mindset and their own worlds with events taking place, and just allow for humans to be humans. There are so many different skillsets and talents in the industry, so we need to inspire each other. Plus, remembering to look after yourself and your mind is key to managing stress and preventing a lack of wellbeing.

“The Pagabo Foundation is working to help break down these barriers and reduce the stigma attached to mental health within construction through organising events and conducting research to find out what we can do to help.”

As well as the work of the Pagabo Foundation, we are focusing on occupational health and wellbeing under out ‘The Future of Construction’ initiative, under which we are currently running trials to explore the effectiveness of Moodbeam’s innovated wearable wellbeing tool in the workplace. With Moodbeam, we aim to put the power of self-reflection and emotional awareness into everyone’s hands to make mood visible, conversations easier and the world a happier place. The trials are taking place over three months, where participants log how they feel and answer questionnaires about it – and our staff are taking part in this too.

In recent years employers have increasingly woken up to the very real impact of stress and anxiety in the workplace. We want to drive our industry to take huge leaps forward in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and educating as many people as possible as to how and where they can seek the help they might need. Making support and advice as readily available as possible is key to making sure the right support is in place for the people who need it.


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Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control: Stress Awareness Month 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Whilst many of us have enjoyed new opportunities for spending increased time at home under a slower, more sedentary approach to life, others amongst us have been facing challenges that are stressful, overwhelming and have stirred up strong emotions.

We’ve understood the need for social distancing, yet it’s left us feeling isolated, lonely and unable to properly unwind from the ongoing demands of working life.

To mark the start of Stress Awareness Month 2021, Pick Everard‘s Elizabeth Hardwick-Smith discusses the impact that stress can have on someone and the role an employer can play in supporting their staff during periods of stress.



The figures speak for themselves.  The Mental Health Foundation found in their latest research that 74% of UK adults in the past year have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of stress.  This is supported by recent research undertaken by The Stress Management Society who reported 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the Covid-19 restrictions began in March 2020.  They found the three causes of concern to be feelings of disconnection, uncertainty and a worrying loss of control.  This in turn has helped shape the theme of 2021’s stress awareness month – ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’ and the Society’s 30 day challenge Stress Awareness Month 2021 – The Stress Management Society

The construction industry needs this proactive ‘call to action’ no less than any other.  In 2019 the CITB reported that the industry was already one of the most stressful sectors to work in, with more than 4 in 5 construction workers saying they felt stressed at least some of the time during a typical week.  The industry remains under intense stress with the added pressures of Covid-19. The demands of caring for family, job uncertainty, fluctuating workloads and the additional physical challenges of staying safe at work, have heightened what was already a growing mental health crisis within the industry.


Understanding stress

Stress is the body’s natural response to pressure, producing physical and emotional responses.  Many of us often do not realise we are under stress until it has started to become too much and consumes us.  Often, we may have a feeling of being under pressure but ‘coping’ and we can sustain this for some time since it is not adversely affecting us.  Indeed, pressure or mild stress may actually bring positive results through increased focus, performance and productively.  But there is a fine line between being able to cope at this level, to then hitting a tipping point of severe stress or burn out.

Stress can negatively affect our mental, physical and emotional health, our quality of life and create interpersonal and performance issues. Even positive life changes such as a new work opportunity or new house, can produce stress. At its worst, stress can be debilitating, and since it is a normal part of human existence — nobody is immune to it.


The role of employer support

Employers have a crucial role in being an anchor and support for staff during periods of stress.  At Pick Everard, we recognised early into the Covid-19 period, the importance of arming ourselves with knowledge so that we could more readily recognise when stress was rearing its head in ourselves and others.  In turn, we moved quickly to equip our staff and line managers with the tools they needed to address it – providing guidance and training in how to spot changes in our colleagues, to enable access to personal resilience toolkits, and to take quick action to talk to and sign-post colleagues before mild stress issues became severe ones.

We all experience stress differently in different situations so one of the challenges we faced as an organisation was being able to spot signs of stress in others during a uniquely demanding period, but also whilst we have all been remote from each other.  We were much more reliant than usual on staff being able to notice changes in themselves. Pick Everard worked hard to ensure multiple routes were provided for staff to speak up about the challenges they were facing – be that through line manager ones to ones, surveys, increased access to Mental Health First Aiders or our EAP.

We’ve also ran regular broadcasts to stay connected to staff, enhanced the information available on our intranet, implemented a ‘Call a Colleague’ initiative and taken part in Pagabo’s industry-wide study with Moodbeam one.


Breaking down the stigma

Covid-19 has turbo-charged important work in breaking down the stigma of mental health. My own commitment to this movement has extended beyond my role at Pick Everard to my work as a Trustee of the Pagabo Foundation.

Established to combat issues surrounding mental health in the construction industry, The Pagabo Foundation has continued to support the drive for an important change across the industry throughout Covid-19.  It’s chief aims are to normalise conversations about mental wellbeing, to raise the profile of the unique struggles in the industry and to sign post those in need to expert advice.

Partnering with Mates in Mind, The Foundation acted quickly by releasing guidance during lockdown 1.0 on how to spot the signs that our mental health may be suffering.  Spotting the signs your mental health might be suffering (pagabo.co.uk).  This was further supported by two videos created in Partnership with Mates in Mind, aimed at providing practical advice for those who may be struggling with loneliness or need help managing their mental health in uncertain times. Pagabo and Sypro come together to support Mates in Mind

To mark world mental health day (2020), a Pagabo Building Blocks podcast special was released.  The reasons behind the foundation and it’s vital role were discussed, as well as our experiences of mental health challenges across the industry and how the pressures can affect anyone, at any level.  In response, as Trustees we’ve met regularly, working with commitment and compassion to build some fantastic plans for 2021 and beyond.


Hope and new horizons

We’re now starting to see the green shoots of hope appearing for the control of Covid-19 and the curiosity surrounding the ‘future of work’. We recognise, however, that it will be sometime before we fully understand the devastating impact this period has had on our collective mental health.  Our proactive efforts as individuals, employers and as a charity will need to continue long beyond Covid-19.  Stress Awareness Month presents the perfect opportunity to re-energise and re-focus on the need to look after ourselves more, to keep talking about stress and its effects and to share our coping mechanisms.  It is only through these ongoing efforts that we can drive real change and support greater resilience for our collective future across the industry.