How To Overcome Remote Work Challenges In Construction

As the industrial construction industry faces the severe effects of the Coronavirus outbreak, more and more companies are forced to shut down their sites or limit their activities.

Because of that, remote working and working from home has announced its presence in the construction industry.

This has led many construction companies to adopt a new way of working and communicating with their remote teams.

Our new reality has presented challenges for construction companies worldwide that are now trying to manage their construction sites remotely while keeping their workforce connected. Not only are the construction companies relying more on their project management tools and teams, but the remote workers also have a lot of challenges to overcome.

If construction companies have to work remotely, a lot of things are going to change.

How do we manage to create a situation where companies can keep their projects going and keep their teams on the same page even though they have to work remotely?

Luckily, the answer to this question is relatively easy.

If you consider that construction companies can maintain constant access to all project data using their smartphone, laptop, or tablet, the problem might not seem overwhelming. 

If you use adequate construction software, the remote management of a job site, and the remote workers are much easier than you might think.Remote working in the construction industry is becoming more popular

But, a digital tool is not a cure. 

These tools cannot function independently without dedicated team members.

For our tools to succeed, there needs to be a will to change the underlying behavior.

A digital tool is an investment to improve current work processes and fix a problem, but it can only act as a catalyst for change. 

It's a tool that needs the support, hard work, and dedication from your staff to provide results.

If it's implemented the right way, a digital solution can make remote working easier, ensure visibility on-site, and improve efficiency levels.

The article below will discuss a few steps that will allow the construction industry to overcome remote work challenges.

Table of Contents

 

Track Your Employees In The Cloud

Punch cards and paper timesheets were once the standards for time tracking in many industries, but they are becoming a thing of the past. 

If a construction company is still using them, it is likely because their system has been in place for a long time. 

Today, this process is inflexible, and susceptible to human errors that can result in costly payroll mistakes. 

It's also a drain on your team members' time because you have to collate data.

It also doesn't prevent time theft.

Employees and business owners who still use manual time tracking systems likely find it inconvenient to punch in and out every day, especially during a pandemic. 

Many employees also resort to "buddy punching" if they are running late. In a world where social distancing and remote working is more common, it's hard to stop these types of things that can dramatically affect production and efficiency.

A few minutes here and there may not be much, but it certainly adds up quickly to your payroll costs.

Digital time tracking with cloud software lets project managers eliminate time theft, buddy punching, and other manual time tracking inconsistencies. 

It also requires minimal maintenance, which frees up time for HR and project managers to use for more productive tasks. 

There are several digital time tracking options on the market today.

Having choices is good, but it can make choosing the right program for your company difficult. 

Key features to look for in a time tracking software are:

  • Cloud-based time tracking that lets users track employee hours remotely and eliminates paper timesheets.
  • Real-time tracking allows project managers to know who is working on-site during work hours and see all the time logs in progress.
  • Project tracking lets construction managers assign team members to specific projects and manage employee time logs based on tasks.
  • Detailed reporting that generates reports on time logs by project, client, or employee.
  • Integrations - This allows users to push data from one software application to another for easier management.

Having a reliable time tracking software in place can help streamline a lot of processes and allow for better project management. Instead of chasing down data and working to make sure that everyone is following proper procedures, which can be difficult with a remote team, you can now focus on getting the projects done.

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Connect Your Data To Your Tasks

All construction companies will need to take a closer look at their teams' efforts to stay on top of their tasks and report critical updates in real-time.

As mentioned earlier, the data you collect shouldn't be static. 

In other words, the feedback captured from the field should be linked directly to the respective tasks.

construction management helps keep projects on schedule

The project participants should have an accurate view of what's coming next and define your project's needs in good time.

Furthermore, the right people need to have access to the right pieces of information. 

It sounds simple, but it isn't. 

When a project management team in construction uses tools like WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams, there is always a chance that team members will end up communicating and working in silos.

The absence of a central data repository often leads to miscommunications between remote workers and costly mistakes that can harm a project's development. 

A clear communication platform and path between everyone involved in a project is a must-have. 

Everyone should be able to connect and see the impact of their latest updates on the overall plan in real-time.

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Communicate With Your Remote Team Daily

 

Another vital part of remote work that project managers need to be mindful of is how often they communicate with team members. 

Your level of communication will depend entirely on your management style and the needs of your current construction project.  You will also need a communication platform that can make communication easier when dealing with remote workers.

Daily communication, especially in a remote team setup, is critical. 

When you check in with your team every day, it lets you know what each team member is working on and check each task's progress. 

It will also improve your relationship with your team members. 

Having a casual conversation with and asking them how they are and how or what they are working on at home improves team dynamics and builds rapport. 

With remote work, there is no water cooler or corridor to meet colleagues and connect. 

That's why project managers need to be proactive in creating opportunities to foster authentic interpersonal connections. 

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Training is more important than ever in a remote environment

Invest in Training

The success of working remotely in construction is vastly dependent on the tools that your organization implements. Still, it also requires a strong digital strategy and the commitment of your team members. 

People, processes, and tools must be all perfectly aligned.

And that alignment can only be achieved with proper training and continuous investment in increasing the digital maturity of your business and employees. 

Introducing mobile reporting to your construction teams is a crucial step in the effort to keep them connected. 

And this is something that will be important for your business during and after the Coronavirus outbreak.

It's not a quick fix that won't be necessary once the COVID-19 outbreak is under control. 

This is a data-driven approach that will allow you to stay on top of your projects regardless if you are working at the site or working from home.

For that reason, good onboarding is critical. 

That's another factor you need to take into consideration when you choose the tool that will help you support the digitalization of your reporting processes. 

You need a team that has done this before and can provide you with personalized support throughout your entire journey.

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Recognize Hard work and Achievement

Perhaps the quickest and easiest way to improve employee engagement is to recognize their valuable contributions to the company. 

This is even more important in a remote construction team setting. 

Construction work is a stressful job, and employees are exposed to genuine dangers on the construction site. 

Monetary compensation is an excellent incentive to motivate employees, but there are several other ways you can reward employees' hard work and dedication.

Maybe a team member achieved a new milestone, or a new hire completed training and exceed your expectations. 

Or maybe one remote team has found a way to help improve the construction process during this challenging time. 

Maybe someone on your remote team discovered a way to improve work efficiency during these challenging times? 

If so, all of these employee achievements deserve to be recognized and rewarded.

Words of appreciation, whether they are done in public or private, can enhance your entire team's enthusiasm. 

For the genuinely exceptional achievements, annual gatherings and holiday parties are the best venues to give out awards to deserving employees. 

Or you could write about their accomplishments in a company blog or newsletter to show that you appreciate their work.

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Plan For The Future

This Coronavirus outbreak has presented a lot of challenges to the construction industry.

But, this crisis has shed light on some of the most significant problems construction is battling against, like the lack of accountability, admin and mental workload, siloed communication, and more.

It's not an exaggeration that this has been a strong wake-up call for many stakeholders in the sector who now realize the importance of going digital with your reporting and planning processes.

If you haven't done so already, now is the perfect time to plan and open up to opportunities that digital technologies bring to the entire industry. Communication across multiple divisions and platforms are more important than ever.

Being able to increase visibility across the supply chain, even when working remotely, is a challenging but undoubtedly crucial mission in every construction project. 

Only then will it be possible for your teams to deliver successful projects on time and stay within budget, avoiding unnecessary delays and costly reworks.

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Talk Less and Listen More

Listen to your workers

While the ability to communicate effectively is an excellent skill for a manager to have, listening is even more critical when your team works remotely. 

Many aspects of construction work are stressful, exhausting, and even dangerous. 

When you have a constant need to meet deadlines and consider budget restrictions, you will always have challenges, conflicts, interpersonal issues, and a lack of employee engagement. 

Through listening, you can identify issues and provide appropriate solutions. 

While you're working remotely, you won't be able to gauge a person's feelings through digital cues like you can in an office environment. 

That is why team managers must create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about their challenges at work. 

Ask the right questions and listen to them when they start talking.

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Prioritize Safety

This step is dedicated to the construction heroes who show up on the job site under these challenging circumstances to keep the projects going, ensuring that everything will be delivered as expected.

Their safety and all project participants' safety should always be the main priority.

Especially when we consider that the construction industry is more susceptible to workplace accidents than any other industry around the world.

It is imperative to be sure that your construction sites are complying with all the required safety regulations.

Your field personnel should have everything they need to operate safely and productively. 

This is even more critical during these days where the construction industry has been decimated by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This is again an area where reliable construction software can play an important role.

A good software program can provide Project Managers and Directors with the clarity they need to make working sites safe. 

The power is in the data and how they are connected to the master plan.

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Remote Work In Construction Is Here To Stay

The Coronavirus has pushed construction to a new reality. It has presented challenges that many have never considered before.

All of a sudden, remote working is the go-to strategy whenever that's possible. 

Communication, and being connected to remote team members has become even more important.

Naturally, this seemingly overnight change has generated a lot of confusion.

But, it has also gradually shown that construction is an industry that is willing to adapt quickly and take proper safety measures in a timely and responsible manner.

Governments and associations are now supporting the industry's effort to be creative and innovative so they can remain open while staying safe. 

It is crucial that everyone involved in the construction industry remains optimistic and plan through this crisis.

By digitalizing systems and processes, companies are paving the way for very positive long-term changes. 

Both our societies and the construction industry have experienced a shock that forced them to re-evaluate the best way to operate.

The discussion for digitalization as an essential competitive and survival tool is getting louder on a daily basis.

More than ever, the construction industry needs to accelerate and become more efficient, and safer by using digital solutions. 

Remote working is expected to be part of this paradigm shift due to better communication and data sharing between the different project agents.

With that in mind, if you are looking to begin a new construction project during these challenging times, we invite you to contact STEVENS today.

STEVENS is dedicated to doing its part for the members of their community during this crisis. 

They are committed to learning about and understanding this virus and they make sure to support the communities within their footprint.

STEVENS has put processes and procedures in place that enable them to continue to serve you while keeping each of you and our staff safe.

To speak with STEVENS about your new project, click the button below.

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