To say the world has changed over the last few months would be one of the great understatements of our time. One of the most significant changes we’ve seen– almost overnight – is the shift to remote work. A large portion of the workforce has transitioned to being stay-at-home workers. Undoubtedly, working from home affords many significant advantages, including improved employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and decreased turnover and cost savings to both the company and the employee. But does this apply to the construction industry?
The Times They Are a-Changin‘ (a little)
It goes without saying that until robots take over the world, construction sites will still need professionals and skilled labor on-site managing the work. Front-line supervisors such as project managers, superintendents and foremen are still very much required to manage the day-to-day site operations. But how about the back office support team? The estimators, planners, business managers, procurement managers, document controllers, and other managers and executives? They are rarely on-site. In this new world order, do they really need to be in the office? We are already seeing and hearing from the industry, and the answer is no. More and more construction firms are investigating making the work-from-home model the norm rather than the exception.
That said, working from home is not a panacea. It comes with its own challenges, and one of the biggest is around maintaining communication and collaboration with the rest of the project team and your colleagues. Sitting in the comfort of your home, it becomes all too easy to get tunnel vision and not expose yourself to the valued inputs of your team. Without the office-enabled water cooler conversations it’s easy to miss key pieces of the overall puzzle and lose sight of the overall mission. How does the expression go? You don’t know what you don’t know.
Navigate the New Norm
So, what can be done about it? Phone calls and online meetings are pretty obvious, but it doesn’t need to end there. I’d recommend investigating solutions geared towards providing a collaborative environment and proactively providing key project information at your fingertips. For example:
- If you are estimating and planning in Excel today, try a more collaborative-based solution allowing professionals to collectively work on project plans and estimates together. One estimator should be able to see other estimators’ input in real time. Planners should be able to seamlessly request input from other experienced planners to make the best decisions.
- Institute a single source of document truth, ensuring everyone on the project captures, reviews and distributes the most current information. No need to wonder on which server or cloud-based collaboration tool the project data is stored; it’s always in the single source of truth and always the most current iteration.
- Ensure managers and executives can leverage real-time reports and dashboards to know exactly what’s happening on their project. All too often, managers are forced to hunt for the right person with the latest project updates. Put the most up to date and best information at their fingertips.
- Capture an audit trail of actions and events across the entire extended project team. Ensure there is never any reason to ask who did what and when they did it. You’ll already know.
- Enable your project controls professionals to have access to real-time budget, cost and actuals data without having to make multiple calls.
- You can even minimize your foreman’s and superintendents’ time on-site by allowing them to plan out the days’ events ahead of time, and deliver this information directly to their craftsman via a mobile device.
The world is changing. More and more construction professionals will be working at home even after the virus is behind us, but this doesn’t mean they have to be disconnected. By following the suggestions above you’ll go a long way toward ensuring your teams can work from home but still maintain the level of collaboration and communication needed to build great construction projects.