Karla Nugent

Karla Nugent

It is no secret that finding labor in the construction market is increasingly difficult. According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 371,000 unfilled jobs in the construction industry.

The demanding schedule of construction work often presents an additional barrier to entry for new workers.

“Young salaried workers often become burned out because of the demanding hours and lack of flexibility in construction,” says Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for AGC of America.

A pilot program run by the consultancy Timewise evaluated flexible work schedules on jobsites conducted by four major construction firms in the U.K. and found that workers’ sense of well-being increased without negatively impacting project schedules or budgets.

Weifield has seen similar results in our own projects where we have implemented flexible work in recent years. Weifield has run numerous jobs on both a straight 4/10 schedule—where the entire crew works the same four 10-hour days—and a rolling 4/10 schedule—where overlapping crews each work four days but whose shifts cover all five days of the work week.

The resulting data showed increased employee morale, and productivity was at or above the predicted rates—in fact, flexible work was likely a key factor in exceeding the positive rates.

According to Dillon Flynn, a foreman at Weifield, “Our electricians have more time for their lives. Most general contractors are very receptive to this plan, and we have achieved higher than average gross margins on these jobs.”

As a result, Weifield Group is taking active steps toward the industrywide adoption of flexible work as a means of attracting and retaining talent.

We have developed a comprehensive flexible work initiative white paper and have sent it out to our vast network of construction partners. Many of our partners have responded and are generally thankful for “someone” raising this issue publicly and for further discussion.

The shift starts with thinking about outcomes rather than hours spent at work, as well

as actively challenging traditional perceptions and mindsets about how work needs to be performed.

To implement a flexible schedule model, Timewise suggests a five-phased approach that starts with creating a clear vision and obtaining owner buy-in; working with HR to determine options for flexibility in every role; training leaders on how to manage flexible teams; conducting trials of the new approach before rolling it out universally; and measuring the impacts to budget and schedule on those trial projects.

If construction firms are willing to explore new ways of recruiting and retaining talent, collectively, we can ensure the well-being and performance of individuals and teams while protecting our industry’s future.

For more information on the flexible work initiative, please visit weifieldcontracting.com and click on “About” at the top of the page and then click on “Flexible Work Initiative.”