Teams and Zoom quickly became most people’s everyday “normal”, accelerated from a small degree of flexible working in pre-pandemic times. Companies have more fully embraced the digital technology readily available and from the outside, it seemed an almost seamless transition – amazing how adaptable even the traditional construction industry can be when something becomes crucial for survival! Is perhaps the increased flexible working and increased trust one of the ‘Covid cloud’s’ silver linings?
Are the online meetings that now compliment on-site construction and office breakout rooms, generally providing a productive and efficient means of operating? Is this a temporary fix or a ‘new normal’ with a modern workforce working from home when possible? There are many benefits in terms of; environmental, sustainable, social, and so on but the flip side is lack of social interaction; team building, client relations, collaboration as well as bringing the next generation of leaders forward and creating that crucial human connection we all need…
There has been a big movement on social media to ‘get back to the office’ highlighting the missed social aspects, sharing space, and being emersed in that positive workspace vibe. However, on the flip side, there is very strong support for home-based working, not commuting, having more time, and no travel expenses to talk about. So many different pros and cons; working out of a crowded house using the kitchen table or a converted bedroom, rural wifi traumas, overload of screen time, and no definite end to your working day balances against more family time, exercise on your doorstep, freedom, happy pets – the lists on both sides are endless.
What does the future hold?
With an adaptive and responsive workforce, enthusiasm to change has been centre-stage – opening up the long-term options for a ‘working from home and office combination’, with the employer-employee discussion in the future pivoting around this crucial factor. Ultimately, within construction, it does not necessarily offset the need to reside within a sensible office and/or site locations. However, it does open up more flexibility and presents fewer barriers for employers and any individuals seeking a new role. Expectations of a home and office balance appear to be high up on the agenda.
It is going to be difficult for employers to implement a flexible system that works for each and every one. So much has been lost but there are also real benefits and gains. How to take all this forward and what the outcome is regarding productivity and maintaining a happy efficient, well-functioning workforce. It will be based on trust, flexibility and maybe the answer is to reach the common goal to collaborate in the office and do more solitary tasks at home.
However – I think we would all agree – a Teams call will never exchange the energy and interaction that comes from a face-to-face meeting. A screen with limited eye contact and a ‘dicky’ connection is a poor substitute for sitting down to discuss something in person. Post-covid, we need the energy back in our lives, young people need to get into the workspace and socialise and learn how to conduct themselves. But, there is a place for a WFH hybrid offering that improves the overall attractiveness of the Construction Industry, utilising the endless array of digital tools that we have only just begun to embrace…