Cal Beyer discusses how new technology can harm the mental health of those working in construction, and what companies should do about it

His mission is saving lives – that is how Cal Beyer describes his job in human capital risk management and wellbeing consultancy. As an executive committee member for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Cal has devoted the majority of his adult life to helping people with mental health issues.  

After starting primarily with first responders, Cal shifted his career focus to the construction industry in 2016 after reading a Centers for Disease Control report that said construction workers had the second-highest rate of suicide by industry and occupation in the US. He has spent the following years helping construction workers self-regulate their emotions through techniques like deep breathing and understanding triggers that set off their emotions. 

“Think about the whole person who comes to work,” Cal said. “It’s not just mental health. It could be coping strategies, or maturity. It could be people away from home for the first time. It could be someone new to the industry. We just need to build a bridge so everyone can safely perform their work, and that is what this movement has been about: getting more people across the finish line.” 

A representative of eSUB Construction Software – a management software made to meet the needs of commercial construction subcontractors – took the opportunity to interview Cal about his perspective as to why he thinks construction workers struggle with mental health issues more than people in other industries, why introducing new technology on the job can lead to more mental health issues and what you can do to decrease its impact on wellness. 

Why do you think the construction industry struggles with mental health issues in general? 

Fundamentally, you see this in most male-dominated industries. There is a pattern of behavior where males don’t seek medical or mental health support, they delay care, and they don’t do intervention early enough. I think it’s seen as a sign of weakness, not strength. Historically, people were concerned that they would be passed over for promotion, be the first to be laid off and not be hired in the first place if they admitted that weakness. So, it became a very stoic, tough guy, tough gal culture. Multi-generations of construction workers from the same families probably pass that belief down. It becomes a standardized norm. It’s the way we do things.   

Then, you work long hours in construction with physically demanding labor and deadline pressure. Many workers travel to do their work, so they don’t get the benefit of a short commute, and sometimes that work is out of town, away from family and regular support. 

Do you think small contractors struggle more to address wellness on the job? 

Larger companies have been able to address the issues involved faster and implement solutions quicker. Smaller contractors have probably slipped through the cracks. They don’t have HR and safety professionals, risk managers, etc. People wear a lot of hats in small companies. They’re probably spread pretty thin. 

The areas where I remain concerned are the areas of substance abuse and not having enough strategies around addiction, treatment and recovery for workers and families. That impacts everyone. Then, the opioid crisis continues to affect construction adversely. I spend a lot of energy working for solutions in that area. 

How does introducing new technology on the job impact these issues? 

It usually means there’s a change, and people respond poorly to change in any industry at any level. When change is introduced without a proper introduction, when it’s not being rolled out strategically and when it feels dumped on people, you feel extra anxiety and stress.  

Cal Beyer
Cal Beyer

How do you address that extra anxiety and stress? 

The organizations that do a better job managing and even leading a technology change tend to get better results with mental health concerns. I’ve seen organizations that have been willy-nilly with technology changes, installing them at the last minute and not being strategic. That causes a ripple effect of adverse consequences. You have to be very intentional. You must have a communication process, a strategy, and a timeline. 

You have a business to run. If you don’t implement and adopt change, you could be left behind as a business. People will be more confident about a new technology by communicating the why, when, how and who. Otherwise, they’ll start to worry about their job security: Is the boss trying to replace us? Am I going to get left behind because I’m not tech-savvy? Tap all your available resources to create a coherent, implementable strategy to avoid those feelings of uncertainty and stress. 

What do you do if half of your workforce is tech-friendly and welcomes the change while the other half views it as a negative and fears it? 

If you can get internal champions of change involved in leading those projects jointly with the implementation team from the software provider or vendor partner, that’s useful. Take time to roll out the new technology with teaching sessions. Don’t dump it on your crew with one big session. Break it up into bite-sized bits. Also, having live trainers teaching, not sending videos, really helps.  

If you want to make the transition to new technology as stress-free as possible for workers, should ‘ease of use’ factor into your product choice? 

It’s a smart strategy. I’m at a lot of conferences, and I see a lot of displays from different vendors. Software companies are always touting ease of use, ease of implementation, ease of execution and ease of reporting, so the industry is responding to that call. You can have a bigger, broader, more powerful technology platform, but it will only get traction if it’s user-friendly. People recognize that ease of use will help with successful implementation on the job site. 

How do you feel about the future of addressing mental health issues on construction sites? 

I’m optimistic. We’ve come a long way as an industry. I think that’s one thing I love about construction. We are problem solvers, and we are unified on this mission to address mental health to reduce suicide rates. We have a way to go. In some places, we’ve only scratched the surface. Still, I’m optimistic when I see the number of associations and labor unions that have embraced this topic, sharing resources, focusing initiatives and efforts, and building resources. 

Are there any apps you recommend to help with wellness on the job? 

There’s an app that I like called Dario. It has an integrated platform that lets you look at everything from posture to diabetes to blood pressure. It addresses chronic health conditions, which we sometimes call comorbidities, that co-exist with many mental health conditions. I also like the Calm app. It teaches you how to meditate and guides you in relaxation exercises. There’s no quick fix to mental health issues, no easy button. It’s a process of discovery and some trial and error. 

It is clear from Cal’s sentiments that in the high-pressure world of construction, where deadlines loom large and physical exertion is the norm, mental health often takes a backseat. Yet, as he passionately argues, this neglect comes at a cost. With construction workers experiencing alarmingly high rates of suicide, the imperative to address mental well-being has never been clearer. 

Prioritizing mental health isn’t just a matter of compassion, it’s a strategic imperative, essential for the well-being of workers and the success of
the industry as a whole. 


Cal Beyer  

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention 

Established in 2010, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) is the nation’s public-private partnership for suicide prevention, working with more than 250 national partners to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. Current Action Alliance priority areas include: transforming health systems, transforming communities, and changing the conversation.