Well-being in the construction industry: a 2017 report for the UK CIOB

RMIT University’s Adjunct Professor Peter Edwards and Visiting Professor Paul Bowen have co-authored a report exploring the well-being of construction professionals together with colleagues, Professor Keith Cattell (University of Cape Town) and Sir Cary Cooper CBE (University of Manchester).

Commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the report details the findings of a study examining factors that contribute to workplace stress and resilience of workers.

The study involved a 2016 survey of CIOB members, a group consisting of construction professionals based in the UK and abroad who are working in development, conservation and improvement of the built environment. Results of the 2016 study were compared to that of a general working population taken from surveys conducted previously.

Construction professionals were found to be similar to the general working population in many respects, including:

  • Work-related resilience. Construction professionals surveyed were generally confident, adaptable and motivated to persevere in the face of difficulties.
  • Control and job security and change. Construction professionals felt they had sufficient control of their job environment and were not unduly anxious about keeping their job or coping with change at work. However, they did not believe that their suggestions about improving work conditions were adequately considered, with employees expressing greater concern about job security than managers and more senior staff.
  • Psychological well-being, in terms of both positive emotions and sense of purpose.

 

CIOB report image
Pictured: The 2017 CIOB report indicates that construction professionals are similar to the general working population in the areas represented in green, approaching ‘high risk’ in the areas represented in amber, and ‘high risk’ in the areas represented in red. The blue headings represent elements of the two assessment scales used in the CIOB survey: (1) ‘Work-related Resilience’ and (2) ‘A Shortened Stress Evaluation Tool’ from which the ‘6 Essentials’ and ‘Psychological Well-being’ sub-scales were drawn.

 

However, construction professionals differed from the general working populations in terms of:

  • Resources and communication and job conditions. Construction professionals were approaching ‘high-risk’ compared to the general working population, mainly due to a lack of feedback on performance and interactions with difficult customers.
  • Balanced workload and work relationships. These were ‘high-risk’ areas for construction professionals—largely a result of excessive travel time, long work hours and the intrusion of work upon home life. Work relationships appeared to be adversely affected by the quality of supervisors’ human resource management skills, feelings of isolation and lack of support from colleagues.

In many cases, seniority had a significant influence on well-being, with employees generally having lower levels of well-being than managers and others in more senior positions. Female construction professionals were significantly less confident than their male counterparts and were, by implication, less resilient.

The CIOB report, titled ‘The state of well-being in the construction industry’, provides recommendations aimed at construction organisations relating to:

  • Improving the way that performance feedback is given to employees
  • Improving employee participation and levels of control
  • Establishing and improving employee support systems
  • Providing clarity to employees about likely job trajectories.

The report emphasises that workplace cultures that undermine the confidence of female construction professionals must be eliminated.

Speaking to the impact of this work, Professor Edwards stated, “The study has broadly confirmed the findings of previous research into well-being in the construction industry, with the use of two psychometrically-validated scales in this survey-based research—Work-related Resilience and A Shortened Stress Evaluation Tool (ASSET)—adding to the reliability and robustness of findings.”

“Future research using a similar research design could explore the well-being of other professional groups in the construction industry such as architects and engineers, as well as other professions more generally, such as law, medicine and education.”

 

Adjunct Professor Peter Edwards (RMIT University) and Visiting Professor Paul Bowen (University of Cape Town) are members of Construction Work Health and Safety @ RMIT.

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