Video: A Simple Way Contractors Can Improve Employees’ Family Ties

Updated Nov 12, 2022

As construction faces the highest suicide rate of any industry in the country, host Bryan Furnace focuses this episode of The Dirt on another way that could help improve workers’ mental health.

He notes that spending extended periods away from family can be a contributing factor to suicide. To alleviate that he asks contractors to consider this question: “What can you do to have an impact on that?”

He also offers one possible solution: hosting a family day at work.

To find out more about his proposal and how your company can help reduce the industry’s suicide rate, check out this week’s episode of The Dirt.

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In this episode:

00:00 Intro to incorporating families

01:21 What can your business do to impact family time?

05:18 What can you do to incorporate families?

06:25 Wrap up on incorporating families


Bryan Furnace:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Equipment World, you're watching The Dirt. I'm your host, Bryan, and today I want to talk about families. So if you've noticed on this channel, we've talked about our suicide rate in this industry. It's four times the national average, which is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. It's something we should all collectively be ashamed of. But if you've also noticed, I've talked on a couple subjects that came out of that suicide discussion. What were some of the factors that played into the high suicide rate? Well, first tone on the job site, how do we treat and conduct ourselves with our employees? And we've talked about that. We've actually gone into discussions and talked about how we can change our tone on the job site.

Now, I want to talk about the family component, because another component that plays into the high suicide rate is extended periods away from family. The number of hours that we all work in this industry, where we aren't able to spend time with loved ones, we're all familiar with it. So my question to you today is what can you do as a business to have an impact on that? How can we move the needle just a little bit on a family aspect that will help slow down that suicide rate, that we're all fighting here in the skilled trades. So what can we do from a family standpoint? Because it doesn't really make sense to have kids running around on a job site in flip flops, and three year olds in the laps of their fathers while they're straddling a pipe trench. Okay, let's be realistic.

What can we do as an industry to help incorporate families and help get families more involved? What about a family day? Has your company ever considered hosting a family day? And I would encourage you, shut your job site down for a day for family day. Don't make it on a Saturday. Don't make it on a Sunday. Actually show your employees and their families that they are valuable by being willing to shut your job site down. And take a day for the guys to bring out their families, do a cookout, do something to get some involvement of the families, make it fun. This is going to go a long way, not only for your employees themselves, but also bolstering them by bringing their families alongside them, so that I get to show my kids what I do for a living. Think about the pride that is involved in the skilled trades for you to allow your employees, to bring their kids out and their wives, and show them what we do on a daily basis. That's huge.

Think about the number of moms that are working for you right now that don't get to see their kids to bring their kids out and for mom, to be able to show the kids what she does at work all day. That's a huge sense of pride. Are you allotting an opportunity for your employees to do that? It's really common in this industry. And we've talked about it before to think about people as just another asset. A person is an asset that operates another one of your assets. And this industry has operated that way for a very, very long time. That's really what I refer to when I say business as usual. We are very used to treating individuals in this industry like assets, but we can't do that anymore.

First of all, again, going back to our statistic four times, the national average of a suicide rate is abysmal. Clearly it's not working, but outside of that, the workforce is changing. And I think we've all alluded to that. We've all talked about it on various topics here on The Dirt, but the workforce is absolutely changing. The expectations of what work should be like is changing. And the industry is very reluctant to go along with that change, but that's why we're suffering from a workforce shortage. Or at least it's one of the contributing factors. Because right now with a workforce shortage, if I have my option of going between one of five companies, I as an employee am going to the one that treats me like a person, not like an asset. One that might allot for a family day, instead of just working me until I'm exhausted and sending me home. So what can you do to help incorporate these families? That's my ask today.

What are some of the events you could throw, or perhaps bringing out some of your smaller equipment and doing a family day to allow the kids to get to ride along with dad. Something along those lines. And I would encourage you don't put yourself at a liability obviously, but at the same time, be creative. Sit down and take a minute with some of your office staff and think about how you could bring families to the table, and get them involved in mom and dad's work. Let them see what mom and dad do, because if nothing else, this will be a tremendous morale booster for your people. And if there's one thing I do know, it is that happy employees are far more productive than your irritated employees. Employees that have been run into the ground are not operating at maximum efficiency. But if you can make your employees feel valued and you can show them by doing things that incorporate their families and show them that they are more than just an asset, you'll actually see efficiency go up. Productivity will increase.

So that's all I've got for today. Nothing special here, but really evaluate what can you do or what are you already doing? Perhaps some of you are doing things already and by all means, that is awesome. But what can we do to incorporate families, to get these guys and girls that are out on the job site for 12 to 14 hours a day. What could you do to maybe boost the morale and bring the family in? So that's all I've got for today. Thanks for watching, and we'll catch you guys on the next episode with The Dirt.