The COVID-19 crisis has brought countries around the world to their knees as governments grapple to slow down the disease. Governments have implemented strict lockdown protocols to limit the movement of their constituents and slow down the spread of the virus. As a result, business operations have been partially paralyzed and only the industries that are deemed essential in the fight against the novel coronavirus and a few others are allowed to continue their operations.
The COVID-19 situation is unprecedented in many ways and businesses are not fully equipped to handle it. A recent business continuity survey from Gartner found that only 12% of organizations are highly prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus. And even if a company has the means and policies in place to deal with COVID-19 risks, it is not able to activate them until it is too late.
Because of the government’s stay-at-home orders, many businesses are either forced to temporarily stop their operations or look for creative ways to allow for business continuity. Working from home, for instance, has been the current default work arrangement simply because employers and employees have no choice.
Remote work is seen by business owners only as a temporary measure. However, some experts think that it is more likely to become the norm. As of this writing, scientists are yet to create a vaccine. It is best to take a practical approach and be prepared for the future of work.
Remote Work and the Construction Industry
Even before the COVID-19 crisis hit, the modern construction workplace was moving towards more remote business operations. The more conventional approach involves project managers going to construction sites one by one to check the progress of projects. This can take a lot of time, especially when multiple sites are far apart, not to mention that project managers can use up a lot of time just traveling from home or the office to a worksite. More importantly, all of these can add up and take away a significant chunk from a construction company’s finances.
All of these problems can be solved if construction companies take advantage of new technologies that will enable them to manage their workforce even without being on location. Modern project management tools let managers track employee hours, collaborate with other stakeholders, and communicate with team members with just a few clicks on a computer or even a smartphone.
That said, the convenience brought by these new technologies has given rise to new issues. Because the construction industry has one of the lowest levels of digitization, it can take a considerable amount of time before employees can get used to the new system. The sheer number of workers working both on-site and off-site can also be overwhelming.
Construction Remote Management Best Practices
Now that we are in a crisis, it is more important than ever to adopt remote management practices not just for business continuity but for the advancement of the industry as a whole when we finally recover. Here are some remote management best practices that you can apply to your construction company today.
1. Tracking employee productivity
The transition from an office environment or a construction site to a work-from-home setting can be quite overwhelming. Not all employees will be able to maintain the productivity that they had before. The presence of colleagues working within reach is actually conducive to their own productivity and not having them around can have a significant effect on their workflow. And with the COVID-19 situation, they may feel a swirl of doubt, fear, and anxiety, making it hard to concentrate.
As a business owner, project manager, or team leader, it is your job to keep your employees on track and put everyone on the same page. Schedule a routine meeting where everyone is available to talk about what they are currently working on. This meeting is also a good opportunity for them to talk about issues in productivity that they encounter and discuss possible solutions.
Finally, you may use project management software that will serve as a reference point for tasks. With this type of application software, employees can take a look at pending tasks, inform managers and colleagues on what they are working on, and manage their work hours.
2. Ensuring payroll accuracy
Another aspect of business that has been affected by COVID-19 is payroll. Before the crisis, the payroll department enjoyed more of a back-office and support role. However, the current situation has made it necessary to implement new rules on sick pays and leave entitlements. There are also government relief packages that the payroll department needs to distribute. As the payroll department is thrust to the forefront of discussions, they need to be able to quickly adapt to remote work and ensure the calculation of compensation for their fellow employees working at home.
One of the best ways to ensure payroll accuracy is to use time and attendance software. Using this type of software, your payroll department can easily implement any required adjustments and improve record-keeping. You can avoid payment issues if the payroll calculation is backed by accurate data.
3. Addressing communication issues
Another important aspect of remote management is how you approach your communication with employees. Because your employees are scattered across multiple locations, from the construction site to their homes, there is a significant risk of communication delays or misinformation.
The current situation calls for a multichannel approach to communication—via phone, email, and video chat—to ensure that all employees are provided with the latest information. In order to reduce communication issues, you need to ensure that you are reaching your employees through the channels they prefer. This way, all employees will be kept posted on changes in work tasks and able to address issues as quickly as possible.
The COVID-19 crisis may have forced a lot of businesses, including those in construction, to quickly adopt remote work strategies. However, this is also a great opportunity to explore the tools, systems, and best practices that you can implement should you choose to embrace remote work in your company.
About the Author:
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.