Don’t let the pressure grind you down

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2015, Osborne’s Director of Health, Safety, Environment & Quality (HSEQ), Chris Trodd spoke with Infrastructure Intelligence regarding recognising the signs of stress:

“Stress is a major issue in construction. Who knew? Well most of us, but we tend to think that it’s par for the course in a high pressure business. If it goes too far however, it can have a damaging effect on mental health. As Mental Health Awareness week comes to an end I though it was worth highlighting the issue.

The construction industry is really focused on safety and is concentrating on health, but mental health is bottom of the pile. Yet back in 2012, CIOB carried out a survey of 1000 professionals that revealed that 31.4% of them felt they were under significant stress. Those numbers are unlikely to have improved as the recession continued, nor now it is over and there is an over abundance of work and not enough people to do it.

So on personal level we need to develop some mental resilience so we are fit to take the pressure. And as managers we need to know the tell tale signs so we can prevent a full scale crisis.

At Osborne, we are about to embark on some pilot training in mental health awareness for managers to help them know what flags to look out for. Critical is to know your team members well so you are aware of any changes in behaviour.

These could be:


  • Dress and grooming –is someone not as fastidious as they once were or looking unkempt?
  • Mannerisms, posture, facial expressions – do look defeated, angry, aggressive?
  • Physical changes – such as shakes, increased nervousness, reluctance to make eye contact?


  • Speed – talking faster or slower
  • Volume – talking louder or quieter
  • Relevance – are they rambling, not focused
  • Flow – do they forget what they are saying, switch subjects randomly?

Social and interpersonal relationships

  • Are there difficulties in interaction with visitors, team members, supervisors, managers, family?
  • Are there problems with relationships/friendships?

 Content of thought

  • Are they full of conspiratorial theories
  • Are they exhibiting obsessions or compulsions?


  • Are their judgments and insights off kilter?


  • Are they experiencing mood swings
  • Are they depressive, flat, inappropriate or volatile?

 If people are exhibiting stress characteristics, the challenge for the manager then is to work with individuals to reduce the stress. Often they are putting themselves under pressure perhaps because they feel their job is at risk or they are having trouble managing their time.

If the culture of your company is one based on ‘presenteeism’, then question it. There shouldn’t be a competition to be first in and last out of the car park.

Likewise if people are answering emails late at night, they need to know that the company does not expect them to do that.

Managers need to let people know they are cared about. If they do not feel that, they will leave – and in the current climate, most companies do not want to lose experienced, loyal staff.

As individuals too, we need to know how to create our own boundaries to prevent stress.  Switch the phone off, put the computer away.

And write a list of everything you are expecting yourself to do. Then put realistic timescales against each item. Once you’ve got that list you can talk to your manager and ask for help in understanding priorities. 

It can be quite a shock to the system actually. I made that list and found that I was over promising by 50%! I’ve stopped putting myself under pressure and have reduced my stress. You can too.”