As I think back to my days working on construction sites, I am reminded of the significant number of people involved in these projects. For instance, on some of the larger projects I have been a part of, there might have been 5,000 people working there every day. Ensuring that all 5,000 individuals returned home safely at the end of each day was the highest priority for the site teams. 

I started my career in construction working for a consulting firm, fresh out of college as an industrial engineer. At that time, I was not completely convinced that the construction industry was for me; I hadn’t majored in anything related to construction, so the attraction wasn’t overly strong. Nevertheless, my life consisted of traveling around the country collecting data and interviewing project personnel. Then, I would head back to the corporate office to sit in solitude, analyzing project data to figure out how projects went over budget, were delayed, and came off the rails. 

While I might not have been on-site every day, my background in industrial engineering had me locked in. Suddenly, I was merging construction, solving problems, adding efficiencies, and optimizing processes. Through this experience, I began to notice something very interesting. 


Unlike any other industry, construction carries a unique set of challenges and stresses. I observed that this tension was present both within the office and on-site. The overall atmosphere seemed to be filled with stress, and it affected everyone involved, from the C-suite to the on-site teams. Curiosity led me to question my boss one day when tensions reached a breaking point, and his response struck a chord with me: “I wasn’t this way before I worked in construction.”

From then on, things started to make more sense. This interaction helped me realize that prolonged exposure to the construction environment can lead to increased stress levels among workers. The immense pressure and historically unspoken stress in the industry have contributed to a higher prevalence of mental health concerns and stress compared to other sectors. (In fact, the industry is saddled with a suicide rate four times greater than the national average.) Just as there are multiple reasons for this reality, there are undoubtedly numerous opportunities for improvement that can be explored, albeit requiring time and effort. 


First and foremost, construction is complicated. It has many moving parts, especially when working with larger projects or a high volume of them. All these moving parts always need to come together. Those in construction attempt to manage large projects with different things happening all around them (i.e., items coming in from all over the world or daily project changes). Adding to this chaos, some contracts nail down prices and schedules, bringing a competitive nature to the site before ground is even broken. 

Pulling together teams and trying to deliver something of value in a world disrupted by all the moving parts is challenging. On top of that, we, as humans, have a planning fallacy. 

So, when building out a construction plan, most people are wired to think of the best-case scenario. For instance, a construction team may assume they can complete drywall installation on one floor within a specific timeframe and then seamlessly transition to the next floor. However, this optimism often neglects the inherent challenges and obstacles that may arise, leading to unrealistic expectations and added pressure. The competitive nature of the industry further exacerbates these issues, as contractors strive to win projects by offering overly optimistic schedules and aggressive budgets that may not align with reality. 


The stress in construction is further amplified by the presence of risk. Financial risks such as budget overruns and project delays are prevalent: the vast majority (85 percent) of construction projects completed in 20 countries over the course of a 70-year period experienced a cost overrun. This is just the financial risk; the other, more important risks related to physical and mental well-being layer on top and arise from it.

When projects face delays or cost overruns, disputes can arise, negatively impacting profitability and straining stakeholder relationships. Whenever a contract is signed, general contractors agree to deliver on a timeline, but when activities don’t happen in the planned timeframe, the various trades get stacked, inefficiencies rise, and lives are literally put at risk. In addition, studies show that adverse working conditions and poorly developed management practices are significant causes of work-related stress—practices such as unrealistic expectations, lack of appreciation, lack of transparency, and poor communication. Because these issues affect all project stakeholders, the rise of construction technology might not be helping as much as originally promised. 


While the construction industry has traditionally been reticent to embrace new technology related to project planning and management, that trend is changing. In fact, the industry is experiencing a fever pitch for technology. According to Tracxn, there are over 6,200 construction tech startups, all promising to help execute construction projects. 

How does this contribute to the madness? Everyone at a given construction company hears about a different technology: why it is valuable, how it will solve problems, etc. But it all boils down to efficiency gains. If an organization rolls out 20 to 30 new technologies, the people in the field will be inundated. They must learn new processes while trying to finish the job. 

In my mind, the industry needs to develop an understanding of how different technologies can work together to alleviate this frustration. Technology overload is resulting in even more distractions for construction workers, preventing them from actually building. While the ability of cloud technology to connect site teams to the home office is a huge benefit, it is going to take time for it to really take hold. 


For the industry to change, the problems of low profit margins, as well as the all-too-common delays and overruns, need to be addressed. After all, more people are leaving the industry than entering it; as a result, lowering stress to elevate mental health is an even higher priority for most firms. And, while technology might offer many solutions, the process of implementation needs to be aligned with your processes. It needs to make the lives of those who risk their lives on-site easier, better and, of course, safer.  

About the Author:

Michael A. Pink is the CEO of SmartPM Technologies, which offers a leading platform for construction data analysis, allowing users to keep projects on time and on budget. Michael can be reached at For more, visit

Modern Contractor Solutions, February 2024
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