The Covid-19 pandemic forced an immediate need for remote working and, for a period, this even in construction.
While trade labourers remained on site, construction companies sent several support service employees home, such as estimators, quantity surveyors and engineers.
Now, we return to normal working practices, many construction leaders are questioning what their new normal is. Can they support their projects remotely? Is it fair to have some staff remote and others on site?
PCW’s recent remote work survey found that 55% of respondents said they’d like to work remotely at least three days a week. Other surveys have also found people are more willing leave jobs than to return to the office full-time.
So, with the current war on talent, construction leaders are also second-guessing what working practices to adopt to attract, retain and engage their talent.
Back to portacabins and site offices but not all?
Accommodating a hybrid working model outside the global pandemic backdrop can require a mindset shift for some employers who may worry about productivity or company culture. But research shows many of those worries are misdirected.
When asked by the CIPD about increased home/hybrid working in October/November 2021, over two-fifths of respondents (41%) said the new ways of working had increased productivity. Equally, a report on the future of work after Covid-19 conducted by McKinsey (global management consultancy) found that 15 to 20% of construction employees’ time is spent on tasks that can be done remotely.
Estimators, planners, quantity surveyors and office administrators are among the individuals with the potential for remote or hybrid schedules, experts say. Some may be required to work on-site occasionally to check in on progress and nurture relationships. But if they are already balancing site work and office work, there’s no reason why that office must be company premises. Leaders need to decide if the company culture, processes and communication are aligned to support a two-tier way of working.
Big players setting the scene
As many large contractors and consultants have already moved towards remote and hybrid working models, leaders should consider the challenge of attracting new talent who now have greater demands for work flexibility. In February 2022, more than three-quarters (78%) of those who worked from home in some capacity said that being able to work from home gave them an improved work-life balance (ONS).
It is vital that you stay aligned with your culture. If you have commitments to clients that require a full-time site presence, then accept hybrid working may not be suited at this time. Ensure that you are consistent in your approach in order to retain existing staff. If you offer a recruit hybrid working when existing staff have been told to remain on-site, you will start to disengage your teams!
Remember, if the applicant is the right fit for your company and culture, they will understand why their role needs to be performed on-site.
Rising costs and reducing emissions
In a time of rising energy costs, leaders are under pressure to re-evaluate overheads and consider reducing office space. For some, the space may have already been reduced, which will have helped make the choices on the future direction of working locations.
Furthermore, many companies are driving down emissions, and so corporate social responsibility targets have been achieved with ease while employees have remained at home. But is it right and appropriate for your business to prioritise this over and above other business objectives, such as client needs? Ask yourself what impact it has had. Was it positive, or have there been compromises?
How technology can support your choice
Others argue that with advances in technology, such as virtual reality tools and drones (for site inspections), the sector should use this opportunity to embrace remote working where feasible. Consider your future technology strategy. If you are planning to embed technology that enables remote site visibility, do you want to stop and start remote working?
Making your choice and crafting your policies
It is important when designing your work location to ensure that you consider your supplier, client and employee motivators and circumstances, their demographics and what drives each.
If you choose to adopt a hybrid working model, be clear in communicating your expectations. Employees seek fairness and will want to know the rules.
If adopted, carefully consider the mechanics of temporary hybrid working. Can employees set their own working pattern? How is this communicated with the team? Should a manager approve whereabouts on a weekly basis? How will you decide what roles can be permanently hybrid? A hybrid working policy will set your expectations and be available for all current and new employees.
We help you develop the right policy for your company and culture and support you in embedding new ways of working.
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