Work-life Balance and Mental Health in Construction: Overheard in the Big Room  

mental health in construction industry

Working in construction can be incredibly rewarding. As a sector brimming with talent and innovation, the construction sector gives professionals numerous opportunities to build meaningful careers.  

That said, it can also be a stressful industry to work in and some construction professionals may struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prioritize their mental health. In fact, over 80% of construction professionals have experienced stress at work. 

It's also worth noting that poor work-life balance and mental health affects not just the individual but the people around them. Struggling workers may bring some of that pressure home, creating tension in their personal lives. At the same time, stress can negatively impact job performance and team dynamics, ultimately leading to safety issues, low productivity, and poor project outcomes.  

Needless to say, it's vital for workers to take care of their mental health. In the same vein, companies must prioritize work-life balance and improve their teams' well-being. 

Discussing Mental Health in the Big Room  

So, what steps can you take to achieve optimal work-life balance? And what can the industry do as a whole to promote better mental health in construction? 

We decided to pose these questions to members of the Big Room, Autodesk's online community for construction professionals. Designed to be a space for new ideas and discussions, the Big Room allows you to meet like-minded people, enhance your industry knowledge, and swap notes with Autodesk enthusiasts worldwide. 

Read more: The Future of BIM Across the Lifecycle: Overheard in the Big Room 

Join us in the Big Room today. It's an incredibly supportive community, and there are always interesting conversations happening.  

How can construction professionals achieve work-life balance?  

From setting the proper boundaries to taking time off, members of the Big Room shared actionable ideas you can implement in your work and personal life.  

Check out some of their insights below.  

It's all about balance 

"I now use weekends as family and me time—as they should be. I learned to detach myself from work over the years with a moderate level of difficulty at that. I believe this is a necessary balance to uphold in life." 

- Frederick Charles, Président / Ingénieur Structure at BTP Concept 

"There needs to be an on/off switch in our work. Rest and detachment are essential for any person to be effective. For me, Sunday is that day. I only work on that day if there is a major emergency. Other than that, I am unavailable. This 'collaborative work model' needs to be tempered with some boundaries to enable people to stay balanced." 

- a Design Manager 

Set boundaries 

"I think it is always good to set limits and give time for each 'thing.' The pandemic broke many paradigms and helped people realize the value of our health. Many of us learned to give each area of our life its place and not take anything for granted." 

- Jonas Alberto Vidal Valdivia, ATC Cubicomp 

"I try to refrain from answering work emails once I'm home, and I strive to leave work on time each day. Also, leaving my phone at my desk while I take lunch in the break room or outside (weather permitting) helps me feel refreshed during the work day." 

- Kira Vander Zanden, Junior Project Manager at Pacific Glazing Contractors 

Companies are stepping up 

"I believe it's easier when a work-life balance is mirrored from the top down at a company. If people at the top showcase this lifestyle, it is easier for those who work under to align. Otherwise, you always feel like you are going against the grain." 

- a VDC Lead 

"Companies probably have better results when they invite employees to 'care less' about work. This is something I'm really happy with in my actual role; it gives me the opportunity to be at home and not think about work." 

- Eduardo Flores Schoenau, BIM Manager at SSEN Transmission 

"Organizations are starting to recognize the importance of mental well-being and the engagement of their people. These days, it's getting easier to find opportunities that match each individual's work culture preferences and goals." 

- Pradeep Sahoo, Director, Industry Solutions at Hummingbird Innovations 

"I feel like the mentality about this has definitely shifted since the pandemic, and more companies are seeing the value in being more flexible about working from home." 

- Steve Rollo, National BIM/VDC Manager at Graham Construction & Engineering LP 

Use your PTO 

"Setting a strictly followed work schedule has enabled me to better prioritize my time. Plus, making use of PTO really helps and gives me something to look forward to." 

- a BIM Specialist 

"We need to take care of ourselves, and vacations allow us to refresh and then come back to work." 

- Ruth Tuss, CAD Drafter/Designer at TD&H Engineering 

How can we improve mental health in construction? 

The stigma surrounding mental health in the construction industry has long been a barrier for many workers seeking help. And while this is starting to change, there's still work to be done. Here are a few ideas on how teams can bring these conversations to the forefront.  

Don't be afraid to say something 

"I believe that communication is key… sharing is caring. Creating a healthy work environment where it is not frowned upon to speak on issues amongst colleagues is a great place to start; they are, after all, the family away from home. A family must always stick together and take care of their own." 

- Frederick Charles, Président / Ingénieur Structure at BTP Concept 

"Part of improving mental health means telling people how you're doing—similar to therapy. I think this is the fastest way to cut out the stigma." 

- Eduardo Flores Schoenau, BIM Manager at SSEN Transmission 

"Just continue to reiterate that it's ok not to be ok and offer avenues to seek help." 

- an Environment Engineer 

Make it a team effort 

"Have open and frank discussions with team members, as well as mental health check-ins. Strive to maintain work-life balance." 

- Michael Isaak, Design Manager at AECOM 

"To improve mental health awareness in the construction industry, there is a need for teams that have not yet embraced mental health talks to consider doing so. Group discussion about mental health and regular checks are the way to go." 

- a BIM Architect Technician 

"I think teams need to be honest when talking about mental health issues. There should be tools in place to improve mental well-being—not just in the context of work but in life as a whole." 

- Jonas Alberto Vidal Valdivia, ATC Cubicomp 

"If you are in a management or supervision position, it is important to educate yourself on warning signs for those who may not feel like they can approach someone about their struggles. This helps you take preventative action, so issues don't spiral out of control." 

- Steve Rollo, National BIM/VDC Manager at Graham Construction & Engineering LP 

Go back to your "why" 

"Consider a visit to nature for reflection and perspective. When we forget the 'why' we do something, we quickly forget 'who' we are in doing it." 

- a VDC Manager 

Looking to Connect with Other Construction Pros? Join Us in the the Big Room 

Many of us in construction work long hours in high-pressure environments, so finding the right balance is tricky—but it can be done. Hopefully, the perspectives and tips above give you some ideas on how to improve your mental health.  

Have more construction insights to share? Head over to the Big Room to start or participate in discussions. See you there! 

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.