Mental Health in Home Building
Mental health in home building. It sounds pretty uncorrelated at first, but so many people don't realize that this topic makes a huge splash for so many different groups. This business can be as straining on both the client as it is on the builder and even trade partners. So, since this topic hits home and has been heavy on our hearts, we wanted to touch on this and explain the mental health effects of the industry on homebuilders such as ourselves, as well as ways we try to connect with our team to encourage conversations on this topic. To top it off, at Younger Homes, we are building a custom home, and that means it hasn't been done before! Therefore, somewhere along the line, it's almost a guarantee something will go wrong, but we hold on to the idea that our clients chose us to make it right for them. Problem-solving is our superhero power, but keep in mind we are imperfect people dealing with imperfect materials, in a very turbulent environment.
While it may come as a surprise to most, the construction industry has the highest suicide rate of any other profession. In fact, more than 80% of construction workers have experienced stress at work, and since this is a male-dominated and isolated industry, most victims do not seek help. In a survey done by Westfield Health, nearly 60% of construction workers reported struggling with mental health, so you can imagine how Covid-19 is an emotional wrecking ball on top of an industry that is already at burn-out levels. To be completely transparent, we didn't understand this devastating statistic until recently, and now we want to do all we can to shine a constant light on this issue by combatting the effects of stressors in the industry and aiding our employees and Trade Partners in multiple ways. This, in turn, benefits an amplitude of people groups, clients included.
Since we have been a 100% remote company since 2017, we were ahead of the Covid remote working curve, and have in turn gained much more flexibility in our employee's lives. Reducing the stress of needing a babysitter for the day, or allowing time to go drop the kids off at school, or any of the many other remote working benefits. In fact, one of our employees moved across the US in the last year, without skipping a beat in her day job! Something else that was a cornerstone in our benefits package for employees is unlimited Younger Homes personal days, no counted days off, or squishing a whole vacation into one weekend for fear of missing work. Within reason, we work as a family to cover another employee should they need a day off for things like doctor's appointments, kid activities, self-care, counseling, or just catching up on errands. Supporting each other in this way helps us all feel loved and cared for by our work community, as well as reduces stress in the workplace.
"From day one, I have never felt so comfortable, productive, or appreciated than I have by the Younger Homes team." Sophia Kidd, Sustainable Design Intern
In addition, we incorporate team events every month and connect face to face weekly. Events like this can be a day or a weekend in which we invite employees and their partners to come hang out. We spend time getting to know each other outside of the workplace and sometimes do team-building activities, whether it be a dance party, skeet shooting, or learning how to surf! We also value the little moments, times where we slow our pace and connect personally, to show we care about each other and each other's families. These moments can be small but powerful, like keeping a baseball and glove in the truck to play catch for 15 minutes or hopping on a virtual happy hour with our team out of state! We have found this both reduces stress and also gives insight into our coworker's lives, what their families are like, and what they like to do for fun. Feeling truly cared about in a place where one has a set role and expectations can help improve the mental health of an individual immensely.
Furthermore, with the current unprecedented and consistent rise in material costs affecting profit margins for all parties involved, additional stressors are being placed on construction workers, home builders, and clients alike. With what seems like never-ending lead times on products, and a labor market sparse as a result of COVID-19, the mental health conditions in the industry are worse than ever. Shana, our rockstar General Manager mentioned that "As a whole, stress levels in the homebuilding industry are higher than I have ever seen in my 20 years of homebuilding". We know that these are unprecedented times, and we want to relieve as much stress as possible on all parties involved. As a result, Younger Homes purposefully strives to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with our trade partners. Whether it be sincerely devoting the first part of every conversation to asking how they are doing, or keeping fresh deer sausage readily available for gifts on the job site, we care about not just our mental health, but our Trade Partner's mental health as well. We want them to know, that even though we are all struggling with events outside of our control, we care about them first and foremost.
"Communicating constantly and [establishing] long-lasting partnerships helps to ease the stress of our Trade Partners, which flows to our team, allowing clients to see progress on their projects." Shana Reid, General Manager
By opening communication between all parties involved, it pushes us to work collaboratively to land on resolutions to the market's problems such as price increases, material availability, and labor shortages. Having trade partners that help us, prioritize our projects, and work as hard as we do helps our team in more ways than one. Creating such a fun, productive environment in the field as well as the office motivates us to serve our clients to the best of our abilities.
We hope this inspires you to consider mental health when interacting with folks in the construction industry. Maybe you're not in the construction industry, but chances are, you will interact with someone in the industry during National Suicide Prevention Month or beyond. Here are some easy ideas to help emotionally and mentally support them, no matter what role you play in their life.
- Be respectful of working hours vs. family hours, if you don't know someone's boundaries, just ask.
- Talk about how they are feeling today, and truly mean it, normalizing the conversation of mental health.
- Consider their communication style when speaking directly, sending an email or text message.
- Implement acts of kindness like sending a thank you note, or picking up their favorite drink before a meeting.
- Think before you speak, and be respectful when communicating as words have a long-lasting impact.
- Show grace, and do not expect perfection.
- Be mindful of bullying & belittling - requesting impossible tasks, spreading rumors or insulting workers can have a huge negative impact on mental health.
- If you see something that worries you, say something to a peer or employer.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the Online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential, and you will be connected to a counselor in your area.
Talented Photographer: Brittany Dawson