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Making remote working work

Barry recaps on our industry’s experience of remote working and explores how subcontractors can use software tools to enable efficient remote working, while not compromising on project delivery.

DURING 2020, I saw loads of subcontractors putting sticking plasters on existing processes and systems that were not designed for remote working, with the desperate aim of simply keeping projects and cashflow moving during the Covid pandemic.

At the time, many people thought life would soon return to normal, so there was a general feeling of ‘making do’ for the short term and accepting the failings of inadequate remote working methods.

By the very nature of what the construction sector does/builds makes it difficult for some people to work remotely, hence the UK government supported the continuation of construction during national lockdown.

Onsite staff went to site and many office-based staff mixed between office and homeworking.

While it was clearly good new that specialist subcontractors could continue working, the negative effects of a hasty retreat to home working were obvious in terms of lost productivity, lack of visibility and control, and in some cases, diminished profits.

The reality is the construction industry still runs increasingly complex and high value projects using many different disjointed spreadsheets. This makes sharing real-time intelligent data challenging at the best of times, therefore it’s not surprising we’ve struggled to move successfully to a blend of office, home and site working. We accepted it then as we had to. But fast-forward one year and expectations have changed dramatically.

‘3.4 million UK workers aim to find a role that will allow home-working in the next 12 months.’

New expectations
Continued lockdowns and restrictions, combined with increased time spent at home, have led many people to re-evaluating their priorities. According to Aviva’s ‘How We Live Report’, 53% of respondents plan to make changes to their careers in the next 12 months as a direct result of the pandemic and 3.4m UK workers aim to find a role that will allow them to work from home.

Ultimately, employees want more flexibility.

This, coupled with the continued need for some workers to isolate periodically following exposure to Covid-19 and a potential third wave in the offing, means one thing – the demand for efficient remote working will continue to rise across all UK industry. And construction is no exception.

Future-proofing your business
18 months into the pandemic, a picture of what life looks like longer-term is now becoming clearer. There has been time for reflection for business owners to consider how they’ll work more efficiently and collaboratively, despite the need for their teams to continue working from multiple locations.

My business provides cost management software to specialist subcontractors and every day we work with forward-thinking management teams who are future proofing their businesses based on new realities: that remote working is here to stay, so processes and systems need to adapt accordingly to remain competitive and efficient. They’re typically looking for cloud-based software solutions to enable unhindered project delivery, including:

  • Efficient collaboration between all staff regardless of location
  • Instant accessibility to the right level of information, using permissions
  • Powerful audit trails documenting who did what, where and when
  • Real-time project data comprising both commercial & operational information

The solution is an ‘all-in-one’ cloud platform
Just because your team is split up geographically, your project data shouldn’t be fragmented too. On the contrary, quite the opposite.

Chalkstring‘s cost management software covers everything from estimating to final account and more, all in one seamless cloud system. This means that all live cost information is always available in one central, accessible location, so the project team can work together using real-time data, regardless of their location, and there’s simply no room for error.

Gone are the hundreds of uncontrolled spreadsheets; processes are standardised across your business, giving you true control and visibility of live projects and business performance.

The pandemic has forced our industry to think differently and embrace remote working. True efficiency cannot be achieved if business owners simply ‘make do’ with sticking plasters on out-dated processes and systems. The specialist subcontractors that will emerge stronger from the pandemic are those who have used this opportunity to seriously consider people, process, and technology.

Not only will they have they reviewed and improved their business operations, but they’ll also have accounted for the major shift we’re seeing in employee expectations. If you’re not thinking about people, process, and technologies you should be – I know for a fact your competitors are.

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