PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
work-life balance in construction

Family Matters: Why Getting Field Teams Home Is Essential to Your Business Success

How to Support Your Staff and Increase Productivity 

Ever felt struck by the Sunday Night Blues? If you’re working in the construction industry, you’re not alone. In fact, 70% of construction workers suffer from this syndrome. The truth is, finding work-life balance in construction is difficult, creating a feeling of dread for many when they’re thinking about the next workday.

Construction professionals are all too used to the daily grind. Getting up sometimes hours before the sunrises and alas heading home, well after it has set. Just add a brutally long commute to the mix.

For many construction workers, excessively long commutes–the longest average of all occupations–can take hours out of their day. In addition to the slew of problems associated with long-commutes, including poor eating choices and less sleep and exercise, it also shortchanges their much-needed home time. Add this to the fact that their work week is full of long hours and late night, often because construction isn’t completed as efficiently as possible.

While many field workers get into construction to provide a better life for their family, often they’re barely spending time with them. This creates a strain on their personal life and possibly projects. In fact, project-based workers in Australia who work more hours than their corporate office counterparts, experience significantly higher work-family conflict and job burnout. As a result, this further adds to the global construction labor shortage. 

You spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your family. As Mother’s Day is this weekend, it’s a time to reflect on your own families–at home and work. Pledge to take care of your work family and reconsider how much high-quality home time your construction crew is receiving and how you can improve this. Below, here’s how you can evaluate the work-life balance at your company and make meaningful changes to give workers the breaks they need.

3 Reasons Why Construction Is Overworked

The fact that your construction workers are overworked is not their problem. Here are three key reasons why construction workers are struggling to find a work-life balance.

Labor Shortage

For almost all general contractors, the skilled labor shortage is a serious concern.

Currently, in the US alone, there are approximately 196,000 vacant construction jobs.

As a result, construction companies are feeling the strain trying to complete jobs and relying on the workers they do have to step up and work longer hours to fill the gaps.  

Inefficient Projects

Many companies that are feeling the effects of the labor shortage are also plagued with productivity problems. Paper-based projects and use of outdated software like Excel hinders teams from getting their jobs done effectively.

Just think about the time wasted searching for sheets in a paper-based system or the time spent commuting from jobsite to office if a document is not readily available? When it comes to actually executing on their jobs, field workers are finding less time available if they are working from unproductive workflows and systems. Just to keep up, workers are working longer hours on the field.

Remote Job Locations

As mentioned, construction workers have some of the longest commutes out of any occupation. A lucrative construction job usually entails remote locations, far from one’s home base. Nevertheless, that is often where the money is, and construction firms have little control over site location unless they choose projects within geographical proximity.

Why You Should Be Over Overtime

Overtime is another fallacy in the construction industry. Yet, if your crew is unable to meet an important deadline or KPIs, you often resort to overtime. Most likely, and legally, you are offering overtime pay of perhaps time and a half in order to sweeten the deal. While your intentions might be based on well-meaning, the problem is overtime is actually working against you and your crew.

Just take a look at the following graph of how efficiency decreases with increasing overtime.

Bauerle work-life balance in construction

Source: Baurerle

When construction workers are made to work overtime, there is a negative impact on how well they work. According to Wired, studies show that overtime of 50-60 hours actually leads to a loss of construction site productivity.

In one study from 2005, construction crews required to work a 50-hour work week were eight percent less productive.

Worse yet, more overtime has the potential to put workers’ health at risk, both physically and mentally.  

Workers who are exhausted from manual labor and mental processes associated with construction could incur more injuries–adding more risk to your jobsite. Whereas your goal was to improve productivity and increase KPIs, you could end up with increased downtime due to injuries in the workplace. Then you have the increased costs of healthcare to contend with. But what is a better solution?

Getting Workers to Work Smarter, Not Harder

The underlying costs of overtime cannot be ignored. Yet, your task is to find a way for your workers to improve their working abilities without burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Instead of pushing your crew beyond their capabilities, your priority should be consistent home time for workers as part of a work-life balance in construction. Time with family and the ability to relax and unwind are critical to maintaining the mental health and wellness of your construction workers.

Benefits of Happy Employees

Your goal is to complete a maximum number of projects within a given period. To achieve your goal, you require the manpower of a balanced construction team. You have to also take into account their wellbeing. When your employees are happy, there are latent benefits to this.

For starters, your crew experiences fewer interpersonal conflicts thanks to a genuine increase in their productivity. Construction sites are safer when fewer accidents are stemming from being overworked. Happy employees are also more likely to stay with your firm. Less turnover and fewer conflicts equate to more productivity and safer sites, which is exactly what you want to see happen.

How Construction Companies Can Better Support Families

Now you are ready to take concrete steps to improve the health and well-being of your workers. Start with the following methods for improving work-life balance in construction.

Reduced Hours

Ensure your workers are not overworking by flagging any individuals who work over a set period each week. For example, set the standard maximum workweek at 40-50 hours. If any worker exceeds that limit within a week, flag them for it every Monday. You could also extend the review period to every four weeks. Then include a monthly report showing if anyone overworked during that time frame.

Work to change the fundamental way your company handles construction projects. If you begin work on a project that is expected to have excessive hours, plan on offering appropriate compensation for workers. Consider rotating your resources on these projects. For example, you could use a rolling 40-hour schedule. Here you would have three crews that work for 40 hours over the course of four days followed by a three-day weekend. Also, implement right-sizing of teams depending on the scope of the projects at hand.

Collaborative Planning

Collaborative planning in construction means workers are more aligned with project goals and momentum. One way cohesive planning can be incorporated into project culture is by implementing lean principles. By implementing lean philosophies, your construction crew is set up for success while reducing waste. This waste is often thought of in materials, but it also includes time lost on projects.

Using lean construction, especially paired with integrated project delivery, you minimize waste and maximize workflow. As a result, teams are more aligned throughout the project and can better meet KPIs.

Technology in the Workplace

When it comes to technology in construction, everything from automation tech like robotics to construction software can increase productivity. More importantly, with the right technology, your construction business can cut out manual tasks that take time and are often tedious for workers. You are streamlining the workflow for your workers, which combats a labor shortage by making the workplace more conducive. Collaboration software also helps to keep teams more cohesive, reducing the need for rework and change orders down the road. 

Yes, most employees are concerned that technology, especially automation, is taking their jobs away. The Pew Research Center reports that as automation and robotics become more prominent in our culture, more people are worried about this type of technology in the workplace. To be specific, 72% of people surveyed were worried that automation would force them out of their jobs. As such, your task will be to encourage an open discussion before implementing any such technology. This discussion should highlight the benefits that using a specific technology will have for the workers.

Personal Time Off

Providing your workers with personal time off is a wonderful benefit to offer. Getting them to take the PTO is another story. If you have individuals who are determined to bank their PTO, place limits on how much they can accumulate. After all, this time off is intended to give workers much needed rest and relaxation. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor puts it another way:

“The greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.”

Support Your Crew with More Work-Life Balance in Construction

A work-life balance for your team benefits more than just your workers. Companies flourish when employees are given the support and tools they need to do their job– and get home. Overcompensating for inefficiencies through strategies like overtime is not the best way to increase productivity on construction projects. Instead, take a micro approach by assisting your individual workers with their wellbeing and offer them ample resources to help them succeed while on the job. The results? By offering a beneficial work-life balance in construction for your crew, you improve your bottom line for your business over the long term.

Looking to learn more about how to provide a work-life balance in construction? You can watch the recording of our webinar, “[Engineering News-Record] Work-Life Balance: Real or Really Impossible? Strategies for AEC Success.

Further Reading:  Braving the Storm: How to Insulate Your Schedule from Weather Delays in Construction [Cheatsheet]

Grace Ellis

Currently, as the Content Marketing Specialist at PlanGrid, Grace is responsible for helping to manage the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With nearly eight years of experience in marketing, communications, and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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