Commercial Construction Management: Managing Your Workforce Remotely
The commercial construction market is heating up.
While the U.S. construction industry had an estimated value of $1.57 trillion in 2021, experts expect it to reach $1.67 trillion in 2022.
For companies that provide paving, roofing and other construction services, a hot market means more salespeople, recruiters and labor crews being dispatched across the country.
Managing remote workers has become the norm for all businesses due to the pandemic. Yet, crew managers in the construction industry have additional responsibilities: you manage on-site workers and their travel needs, which comes with its own set of challenges.
Here are seven tips for managing a remote construction crew.
1. Find the Best Short-Term Housing for Your Crew
First and foremost, your remote workforce deserves housing that meets their needs adequately while staying on budget.
Although you want to save as much money as possible, you need to provide a temporary housing solution that is comfortable and close to the worksite.
Luckily, there are many housing options ideal for remote workers. Let’s discuss these in detail and consider their pros and cons.
Extended-stay hotels can provide secure housing for your remote crew just about anywhere there’s a construction site.
From the crisp linens to the dependable Wi-Fi connectivity, extended-stay hotels can provide your remote crew with a level of comfort not easily found elsewhere.
When you book extended-stay hotels with platforms like Hotel Engine, you save money on housing costs and booking fees. These savings can be a boon to your budget, whether you’re booking short or long term stays, implementing a roommate system or not.
You can also take advantage of resources on the Hotel Engine platform that make managing your team’s travel easy. Plus, layered rewards points mean you earn credit card points, hotel stay points and platform-based points with each booking.
Extended-stay hotels don’t work for every personality type. Some people don’t enjoy staying at hotels for extended periods because it makes them feel like they’re living out of their suitcases.
Also, unless you use a low-rate, rewards-heavy platform like Hotel Engine, you can quickly run through your corporate travel budget.
A Furnished Apartment
Providing your crew with furnished apartments ensures they have the comforts of home while on the road. Whether you book for them or task them with securing a short-term lease for a furnished space, furnished apartments could be a good option for your team.
This concept is popular among traveling nurses and other traveling healthcare professionals.
Sure, your crew will be busy with work most days, but providing them with a furnished place to call their own can help reduce stress.
A more relaxed, well-rested crew is a more productive and focused crew.
Long-term rentals are expensive for most construction crew travel budgets if you don’t have a professional agreement in place.
To that end, check out Travelers Haven for furnished workforce housing that keeps your budget in check.
Relying on vacation rental housing sites to book remote workforce lodging can be tempting in some ways, but there are definitely several drawbacks to consider.
Vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway are simple to use. They also provide housing in just about every town and city.
Different types of housing are also available on these sites, like apartments, homes, cabins, condos and more.
As the name suggests, vacation rentals are best for, well, vacations.
They are typically not a cost-effective option for corporate housing. Plus, the property owners may have strict rules for renters that cut into your crews’ downtime.
If you want to book a special rental to have a team-building retreat with your crew (which we absolutely recommend, by the way!), then book a short-term rental for the location and have food, drinks and entertainment sent its way.
Discover the secrets to building a cost-effective travel plan.
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2. Build Relationships
Just like working remotely is different from working under the watchful eye of a manager, managing a remote team is different from managing a local one.
Both you and your crew need to adapt to this new way of life.
As a commercial construction crew manager, you’re responsible for your team’s wellbeing. You’re also responsible for managing the other aspects of the remote job site.
You must provide your crew members with rules and guidelines for living on and off the worksite. While you can’t be omnipresent, you can make it seem that way by organizing daily check-ins with your crew via phone or video call (more on this ahead).
Building strong relationships with your team members is only the beginning. The following steps will detail achievable ways for you to keep your team and worksite on track.
3. Create a Culture of Trust and Respect
Managing a remote workforce raises the ideas of trust and respect to a whole new level.
Everyone involved is out of their comfort zone. It may be the first time your newer crew members have had to relocate for work. They’re traveling to a new location, working on a new site and need to collect their bearings quickly.
To ensure a seamless transition and a productive job site, you need to be able to trust your crew, and your crew needs to be able to trust you.
How do you make this happen?
First, set clear expectations. Sit your crew down before they leave on the assignment and explain what is expected of them.
If you have crew members joining your team on the road and you’ve never met them face to face, schedule a video call to establish rules and expectations from the start.
Then, measure your team’s performance against those expectations.
Recognizing employees when they meet your expectations will go a long way toward creating a culture of trust.
4. Keep Communication Lines Open
One of the challenges of managing any type of remote workforce is that you may not hear about minor problems until they become major ones.
Major problems on a construction project can result in lost time, budget overruns, or worse.
Schedule daily check-ins to avoid these consequences, and make sure your crew knows that they can and should contact you when unexpected issues arise.
Don’t just rely on texts and phone calls, though; get face time with your remote workers using Zoom or another video-conferencing platform.
In an article by Harvard Business Review, the authors note how video calls can benefit employees and employers in several ways:
“Remote workers benefit from having a ‘richer’ technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face.”
They also say this:
“Visual cues allow for increased ‘mutual knowledge’ about coworkers and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.”
In short, video calls can establish and maintain the ties you have with your remote construction workers.
Because you can see your workers’ facial expressions (and they yours), it’s easier to get a better sense of how they’re doing. They may also feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with you over video than through phone calls or texts.
Learn more with A Construction Manager’s Guide to Crew Housing
5. Establish Company Travel Policies
Travel adds a level of complexity to commercial construction management.
You can simplify this process by creating a travel policy that outlines every aspect of employee travel.
Here are some topics your policy should cover:
- Booking processes
- Preferred hotel partners
- Housing stipends
- Per diem/reimbursement policies
6. Encourage Social Interactions
Just as you need to trust your crew and vice versa, your team needs to trust one another.
Not everyone will get along right off the bat; that’s just human nature. To build a more efficient worksite from the start, you need to encourage your employees to interact off-site, too.
Remember what we were saying about team-building activities earlier?
Send your employees out on the town (with or without a structured agenda), and consider it a team-building exercise.
Going for a more casual night out?
Research restaurants, bars and entertainment centers in the town or city closest to the worksite, and send your crew to some of the best options. Let them know it’s time to cut loose, get to know each other and have fun (on the company’s dime, of course).
Looking for a bit more structure?
Check out Team Builders Plus and its list of team-building activities in popular cities across the nation. Many of these places offer all-inclusive team-building packages.
Your employees will enjoy a fun activity centered around bonding. A small amount of planning and investment will go a long way toward helping your crew bond quicker than simply working alongside each other.
There’s definitely nothing wrong with being the cool boss that sends the whole crew out for a pizza and escape room night!
7. Use Efficient Technology
Technology has helped commercial construction companies stay operational through the pandemic.
Just as you’re willing to invest in construction technology that keeps your workers safe and productive on the construction site, you should also invest in the technology that protects your remote project team on the road.
Mobile apps allow managers to keep track of everything happening on the worksite.
Here are a few helpful mobile apps developed specifically for the construction industry:
- QuickBooks Time is a GPS-integrated time card app that enables you to track employees’ locations with precision.
- Field Recon, by Workforce Recon, is a popular app that construction managers use to document, track and charge for all the work their crews do.
- Raken helps you track work logs, incident reports and unforeseen events that can affect productivity.
- Bim 360 Field relies on cloud-based technology to increase workflow based on data and crew connectivity.
These handy apps can help you track your employees’ work to ensure they’re paid fairly. They also keep your team connected to maintain efficiency.
Managing a remote construction crew certainly has its challenges. You have to put in housing requests, deal with remote work hassles as they arise and keep an eye on productivity, all while planning that next assignment.
For further success with managing business travel, rely on Hotel Engine. We make it easy to find exceptional lodging solutions that keep your team energized and productive.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.