Although many industries have adapted to the remote-working life, the same can’t be said for construction. Digital marketing agency Mediaworks explains why it is vital all construction workers return to site when it is possible to do so – and how to do so safely
Although construction work was allowed to continue throughout the continuous national lockdowns in Scotland and Wales, not all workers were required to be on-site to do the job. Instead key roles such as engineers, architects, and surveyors made the switch to remote working.
According to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the end of lockdown restrictions is in sight. That said, concerns over the remote working abilities of construction workers delaying the fast and efficient recovery for the sector are raised by industry leaders.
Although many people have adapted to the working-remote life, we discuss why it is vital all construction workers return to the site when it is possible to do so and how this can be done safely.
Remote working: How feasible is it?
Before the pandemic, 49% of those in the engineering and construction industry had not previously worked from home before, according to one employee experience index. Furthermore, 91% of those who have remote working experience would usually work from home for only one day or fewer per week.
Furthermore, considering just 32% of people have workspace available at home, the evidence indicates that for the construction industry in particular, remote working conditions are not suitable.
Although the construction industry was allowed to continue it’s working processes throughout the second and third lockdown in England, regulations determining who can and cannot work on site are still in place.
“Before the pandemic, 49% of those in the engineering and construction industry had not previously worked from home before”
The guidance prioritises those who cannot work from home. In construction and engineering, this may be limited to labourers and infrequent visits from engineers when on-site reviews must be completed.
Despite working from home being made possible throughout the pandemic, there is little incentive to maintain this way of working in the long term. Construction must remain focussed on safety and quality, which can only be achieved through in-person assessment.
Road to recovery
The current consensus is for normal working conditions for construction workers to return to work on site as soon as possible.
The Office for National Statistics states that, while construction output has achieved a seventh consecutive month of growth and has finally recovered to meet pre-pandemic levels, aspects of the sector such as new work still sit 3.1% below the output levels seen in February 2020.
This represents £282m of output in the sector. New public housing construction, which requires efficient processes, is still 22.1% below its pre-pandemic level. There is a clear need for normal work processes to resume.
As for maintaining remote working circumstances in 2021, the majority of construction businesses don’t intend to maintain this. According to the ONS, only 5.5% of construction businesses want a permanent increase of home working, as opposed to 83.5% who do not want remote working to increase after the pandemic. (11% of businesses were not sure.)
Only one in five businesses show any dedication to maintaining remote working capabilities, with the majority of the construction sector strongly suggesting this should be avoided. Business leaders have proved that attending the workplace is best for productivity and output.
The value of space
As far as social distancing goes, experts suggest this will continue throughout most of 2021 despite the vaccine rollout. However, as construction workers continue to return to sites, these regulations must be adhered to. As a consequence, additional working space is essential.
While this temporary measure may work effectively, in the long run site managers may benefit from looking for a storage container in order to create an easily portable shelter for workers. As an office, the space is versatile, allowing engineers to review plans and make appropriate amendments in the vicinity of the construction work.
“Unless relevant action is taken, concerns over the construction industry not returning to its full potential will continue to arise”
Office spaces are valuable for collaboration, and with a variety of roles on construction, office space is central in curating innovative decisions which can help improve the quality of work, regulate safety on site, and help reduce costs.
This collaborative effort is prevented when working from home. While objectives such as CAD and steel detailing may be compatible with remote working, doing this in isolation prevents co-workers and other departments from contributing to the planning stage.
Unless relevant action is taken, concerns over the construction industry not returning to its full potential will continue to arise. Resuming normal working conditions is essential and doing this while adhering to social distancing and health guidelines is important. Accommodating as many workers as possible back into construction sites and offices may be critical.
Image: BELL KA PANG/Shutterstock
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