Learn to Collaborate Effectively if Your Team is Working Remotely
By David Wagner
July 23, 2020
Capital projects come in many shapes, sizes and budgets. They sometimes stop and start depending upon the initiatives that owners and contractors are given from their local, state or federal municipalities. However, to say the impact of COVID-19 over the last few months has changed even more the way we approach these projects would be a tremendous understatement. Sure, working remotely has become the norm for many industries, but construction sites 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 and be on top of the day-to-day site operations.
But what about the back-office support team that’s rarely on-site — estimators, planners, business managers, procurement managers, document controllers, and other managers and executives? In this new norm, do they really need to be in the office? We are already seeing and hearing from the industry, and the answer is no. An increasing number of construction firms are looking at making the working remotely model the norm rather than the exception.
Communication Is Key WHen WOrking Remotely
That said, working from home comes with its own challenges, and one of the biggest centers around maintaining communication and collaboration with the rest of the project team. 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 coffee machine conversations it’s easy to miss key pieces of the overall puzzle and lose sight of the larger mission. For example, how many times has it been overheard about a project going over budget? Like it or not, these conversations often lead to a reevaluation of the project and changes.
Navigate the New Norm WHile working remotely
So, let’s focus on what we know works. Phone calls and online meetings are pretty obvious, but it doesn’t need to end there. I’d recommend investigating digital 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 that allows 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 a centralised repository and is 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.
- Minimise 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.
Change Is Happening Right Now
More and more construction professionals will be working remotely even after the virus is behind us, but it’s critical they are not disconnected. With these tips, you will ensure your teams can work remotely and still maintain the level of collaboration and communication needed to design and build with greater project certainty.