Stress in the workplace is a concept you hear about a lot but almost all of the advice on the subject is about being polite to each other and learning to relax in the office. For the stress that occurs on a construction site, this couldn’t less helpful. When a construction crew is stressed out, or even just one member of the team, you’re not just going to get typos and hurt feelings, someone could really get injured. The last thing you need when dealing with heavy materials and high places is shaky hands and emotional distraction. Ideally, everyone is at the top of their game, watching out not just for their own safety, but also looking out for the safety of all the guys on their team as well. When everyone is clear-headed and aware of each other, a project is much more likely to be smooth, efficiently profitable, and accident-free.
Unfortunately, almost no construction projects are completely relaxed. From the weather to delayed material deliveries, there’s always some kind of setback and a need to rush or reschedule. When this happens, rather than simply scrabbling and pressing everyone to make up for lost time, think strategically about how to meet your deadlines without heaping on unnecessary stress.
Schedule and Encourage Sleep
One of the biggest risks in construction, especially when things get behind schedule, is lack of sleep. Teams are often willing to take overtime if asked and may even volunteer in order to finish the project on time but that doesn’t actually mean that they’re getting a safe amount of sleep. Each person needs at least six, preferably eight solid hours of shut-eye plus time for meals and commuting. Even if you get your guys home on time, if the stress is too high, they may have trouble getting the kind of quality sleep needed to be clear-headed the next day.
Make sure that even if you’re clocking overtime, that everyone has ample time between shifts to get home and sleep. You should also encourage healthy sleeping habits and remind everyone that if they really want to catch up, not being groggy is an important first step.
Face Workplace Stress Openly
Of course, sleep deprivation isn’t the only kind of construction site stress but for the most part, teams don’t like to complain even when something is a persistent problem. By making stress an open topic that can be addressed without anyone feeling like they’re griping, you can also identify small stress triggers that are easy to deal with. If your guys feel free to mention that bolts in the walkways are hard to step on, throwing down a few rubber mats increases comfort and safety and decreases stress in an instant. Often, until an open discussion is started, your team may not even realize what’s been bugging them and increasing the stress level like sweat in the eyes, a bad sun angle, or the client showing up to critique the work when it’s not done.
Think Creatively About Setbacks
Setbacks happen. This is a fact of construction and most companies do their best to give accurate estimates with the inevitable setbacks in mind. That said, you’re not limited to either over-working or letting the deadline slip. There are often creative and more strategic options for getting the schedule back on track. You can make arrangements with your contractor teams to make up the time or cover more work, you can find a faster way to do things, or if a setback was significant and understandable enough, like a week-long blizzard, you can talk to the client about a reasonable extension.
Find Solutions As a Team
For bigger problems like a policy or technique used by the company that seems to be causing stress or an issue that’s been associated with setbacks, don’t feel like the only solutions can come from the top of an organization. Construction is all about hands-on problem solving and you can use the same approach when handling deadline stress. Don’t forget to ask your team about their ideas for how to speed up, make better use of your time, or how to work schedules to get overtime without stretching any one person too thin. In most cases, your guys are just as innovative because they want to see the project’s success just as much as you do.
Practice On-Site Communication
Finally, the best way to reduce stress on a construction site is to have a clear plan and constant communication. Especially when everyone’s trying to work a little more quickly to speed up the project, it’s imperative that the team continuously deliver updates. While the conversation may not be sparkling, little announcements like “Coming behind you” and “Ready for that bucket?” are incredibly important and can save lives and limbs when everyone is feeling just a little jittery.
Workplace stress is a problem that every industry struggles with but in construction, it can be a matter of life or death. If your team is constantly dealing with long work hours, demanding clients, and short schedules, it’s best for both your team and your bottom line to reduce stress on the construction site.