COVID-19 Strategies for managing stress for construction workers

The impacts of COVID-19 has seen rapid changes to our way of life, and the nature of the building and construction industry means workers are at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

two construction workers smiling

As this a particular stressful time, as an employer you must do everything that is reasonably practicable to identify and reduce the psychological risks to workers and others at the workplace.

In the last year, it was recorded that approximately 12 million dollars was spent on mental stress related claims within the construction industry. This highlights the prevalence of stress in the industry and how important it is to look after your and your workers' wellbeing by putting strategies in place to help reduce their stress.

Strategies to manage stress and anxiety during COVID-19

Focus on the things you can control

Anxiety and stress are normal responses to a highly unpredictable situation such as this. Some anxiety can be helpful in motivating us to take action against the uncontrollable nature of the situation.

Learn how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

Following hygiene principles and communicating them to your workers can keep anxiety at bay. For example, give your workers a hygiene checklist that encourages them to clean their vehicles daily using disinfectants. Another hygiene measure is to set the air conditioning to external airflow rather than to recirculation or have windows open where appropriate.

See accurate information and limit or avoid unhelpful media and misinformation

Being exposed to constant, alarming, anxiety-inducing stories convinces us that there is something to panic about, and further perpetuates misinformation and uncertainty. You should inform all workers about the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and ensure they're up-to-date with any COVID-related news where it impacts their role or the business.

Maintain your day-to-day activities and a routine as much as possible

Routines and rituals helps us give us a sense of control and predictability, thereby helping us cope with anxiety and stress. For example, you could encourage workers to exercise before or after work.

Staying connected

Social connection increases wellbeing as well as lower levels of depression and anxiety. Most importantly, social connection helps us become more resilient during stressful life events.

Remember, physical distancing does not need to mean social disconnection. Technology can be used to give and receive support remotely. For example you could organise daily call, text, or video-chats among teams.

Regulating your emotions

As an employer, you may find added pressure in not only looking after you and your workers' wellbeing but also managing general business matters. So, you may find yourself using counterproductive behaviours such as:

  • Keeping your emotions to yourself
  • Controlling your stress and negative emotions by not outwardly expressing them
  • Ruminating and dwelling on your negative thoughts
  • Catastrophising your situation.

Acknowledge your emotions

Whatever you are feeling right now, know that it's okay to feel that way. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you're feeling. This could be through:

  • Journalling
  • Talking with others
  • Channelling your emotions into something creative (for example drawing, painting, music)

Keep things in perspective

In the absence of information, our anxious mind will often fill in the blanks with worst case scenarios, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed, helpless, or vulnerable. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to shift your thinking:

  • What are the things within my control?
  • Am I overestimating the likelihood of the worst-case scenario?
  • What strategies have helped me cope with challenging situations in the past that will serve me well during this time?
  • What is a small helpful or positive action that I can take now?

Find a silver lining

In light of the shutdown of nonessential activities and increased home isolation, focus on the activities you are still able to do, or those that you may have more opportunity to do if you’re at home more often.

It is important to get support from someone you trust. Speak to a health care professional or, if available, a mental health specialist if you feel you need more support.

Further health and wellbeing support

Tip sheets and online resources

Mobile apps

  • Smiling Mind- free mindfulness meditation app to help you look after your mental health and manage stress and daily challenges.
  • Headspace - free "Weathering the Storm" program available to help support the global community through this time including a curated list of calming meditations, help with sleep, and at-home workouts or movement exercises.

Crisis support

  • Lifeline- provides crisis counselling and suicide prevention services. Phone: 13 11 14 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Lifeline online chat.
  • Suicide Call Back Service - provides online and phone counselling if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal. Phone: 1300 659 467. Suicide Call Back Service online chat.

Specialist areas

  • 1800Respect – confidential counselling, information and support for people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse via phone or online chat. Phone: 1800 737 732 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 1800Respect online chat.
  • Butterfly Foundation's National Helpline (ED HOPE) – confidential service that provides information, counselling, and treatment referral for people with eating disorders, and body image and related issues. Phone: 1800 334 673 (8am - midnight).
  • DirectLine – confidential alcohol and drug counselling and referral service. Phone: 1800 888 236 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). DirectLine online counselling.