A Construction Manager’s Guide to Crew Housing
As the world settles into its new post-pandemic “norm,” the construction industry is taking off again. Hotels, apartment complexes, and other massive enterprises are building new structures and revamping their existing ones.
This is great news for the industry, but travel managers have new challenges to overcome as they house their crews.
Updated government policies, international restrictions, and other regulations mean the “old” ways of handling details aren’t always possible anymore.
However, if you’re a construction manager, these new changes can be a positive part of your travel policy.
We have you covered in this guide. We’ll walk you through every step, from finding lodging with the comforts of home to handling expenses to managing your crew’s travel.
1. Be Aware of These Updated Safety Regulations
Most OSHA regulations aim to make the job site safer. However, it’s your duty to make sure every aspect of your crew’s business trip is safe.
This is especially true if your crew is sharing temporary housing and transportation.
Before you send your crew off to a construction project, check OSHA’s newest regulations to ensure that you’re compliant with all of their COVID-related rules.
COVID Safety Changes to Know
The pandemic has brought about the addition of an entirely new section of compliance requirements.
Under OSHA’s new rules, there are some things you must do to limit your construction workers’ exposure to COVID:
- Put the employees who’ve tested negative in separate housing than those who have not yet been tested
- Screen workers for symptoms and enact policies for self-reporting
- Quarantine workers who are/may be ill away from others
- Use single-unit housing when possible (such as hotels or trailers) instead of dorm or bunk housing
This list isn’t comprehensive and, like the virus, is often changing.
Depending on your industry, there may be nuances that you’ll have to follow. For instance, the yachting industry has a more specialized set of requirements for each yacht crew.
Check with OSHA’s regulations frequently to make sure you’re operating according to the most up-to-date policies.
2. Finding Lodging
Your crew is your responsibility, even when they’re on the road.
You want to make sure they’re safe, healthy, and content, but you need to stick to a budget, too.
How do you compromise?
One thing you can do is to partner with professionals like Hotel Engine to streamline your lodging plans.
Using Experts to Book Your Crew’s Housing
Keeping your crew safe and comfortable is part of your job. And that means that you should know about the cities you’re sending them to.
Hotel Engine can answer these questions for you, saving you time on research and booking.
Our free hotel-booking software is designed to help travel managers find the right lodging for their crews.
With Hotel Engine, you can narrow down furnished housing for your crew members using dozens of filters:
- Length of stay (check for hotels that have monthly or weekly rates and extended stay availability)
- Cheapest corporate housing discounts or per diem rate comparisons
- Distance to the construction site
- Suites to cut back on expenses (kitchens and multiple rooms save money on meals and room taxes)
- Hotel safety protocols
- Full-service, short-term furnished apartments
- Free Wi-Fi, washer and dryer use, and other amenities
- Multiple rooms for crew accommodation in the same wing
- Nearby parking areas for large construction equipment and trucks
Hotel Engine also lets you pay for lodging through an automated monthly invoicing system. Plus, you can authorize users to book their own rooms and set travel policies so that each traveler books in-budget.
3. Handling Expenses
The lodging part isn’t the only necessity of managing housing expenses; you’ll also need a system in place to break down essential overhead versus the total cost of the job.
This is one of the first things you need to do to safely make a bid that won’t cost you more than you’ll earn.
To do this, start by creating a budget for job costs. Use a spreadsheet to define your consistent costs, then add any expenses specific to this job. Take the total plus your intended profit and cushion that into your bid.
Here’s an example of overhead and indirect costs to include in your budget:
- Rent/mortgage of office space
- Salaries for the crew, day workers, and other staff
- Office utilities, phone, and other essential bills
- Cost of vehicles
- Equipment financing
- Transportation costs and expenses for housing solutions for each crew member
- Per diem
- Cleaning costs for linens, uniforms, etc.
You’ll also need to account for job-specific costs, such as fees for permits for working in a shipyard.
Simplifying the Expense Process
Your job is important and complex. It makes sense to want to simplify it where you can so you can focus on the details.
Here are a few ideas:
Keep Accurate and Timely Data
Another time-saving tip is to keep up with the job’s expenses in real-time. Synch your customer relationship management apps to send you reports for any costs incurred throughout the day.
You may not get to balance it until later that week, but it’s better than waiting until the end of the month. Keeping your eye on spending lets you track how close to the projected budget you are and make changes as necessary.
Sometimes, you have to make purchases on the spot. But if you have a little time for research, you can find the lowest prices possible for your materials and other expenses.
When you find your preferred vendors and the best prices on regular items, add them to a spreadsheet, along with the contact and ordering info. As the prices change and you connect with new vendors, this sheet can easily be adjusted.
Add a column for any discounts you can use when buying from a certain company.
At Hotel Engine, you’ll gain access to exclusive lodging rates that are hard to match. Members also get the benefit of layering discounts using Hotel Engine’s loyalty program and the hotel’s rewards program. If you use a credit card to pay the bill, you’ll get your credit card points, too. Win-win-win.
You can use Hotel Engine to compare prices for different types of housing options, too.
For instance, a furnished apartment may be the most cost-effective option for a small construction team’s extended visit.
Check for furnished rentals that advertise workforce housing and include the essential housewares. Review the floor plans to make sure they’re OSHA-approved for COVID safety.
Shopping around makes it easier to stay within your budget and maximize your profit margin.
Set Up Your Team With Direct Billing
Our Direct Billing feature extends a line of credit to your company that your employees can charge to during their stay. At the end of each month, all charges are billed back to your company, which makes reconciling charges much easier for everyone.
No need to sort through a stack of individual credit card bills!
4. Managing Transportation
Getting your crew to the construction site is a logistical necessity. It’s easy if you’re working in a major city, but if you’re working in a remote area, you might have to fly your crew to the site and rent equipment to do the job.
Depending on the profit, it could be cost-effective, but what about once everyone gets there? How will you manage transportation then?
Consider the distance from your crew’s lodging point to their location. Would it be more cost-effective to use a rideshare, book a rental car, or go through newer apps like Turo?
Keep in mind that you’ll need to park those vehicles, and many places charge extra for oversized vehicle parking. By doing the legwork ahead of time, you can tuck this fee into your bid.
5. Tying Up the Loose Ends
The major things are done. Now, it’s time to handle any leftover tasks, like making sure everyone on your crew can communicate without going through you.
How you facilitate communication between everyone on the site will be unique to your company. However, there are many mobile apps that can help.
Starting With Your CRM
Your customer relationship management system should have real-time texting, calling, and video chat features that work with Wi-Fi.
You’re sending your crew into places where their cell phone reception may be spotty at best. For their safety, they’ll need other ways to get a hold of you and each other.
Your CRM software houses important documents, like your travel policy and expense forms. Instead of coming to you for every question, teach the crew how to access FAQs and commonly used paperwork from the cloud.
This is helpful for small, unexpected purchases, as well as larger urgent requests.
Maybe the details for the yacht job you sent your crew to in Palm Beach have them staying at hostels where they don’t feel comfortable. They need the approval to move to a safer place that evening, and you’re not on the clock.
They can fill out an urgent expense report, get the crew manager to cover the costs with the corporate card, and safely move to their new lodging.
Construction-Specific Apps for Real-Time Organization
Other apps are geared toward the construction industry, like TSheets Crew, an app that uses GPS integration to track the locations of your employees. Field Recon is an app that construction managers use to track the progress of the overall project.
Your crew manager doesn’t have to wait until they’re back at their housing base to update the progress documents for the day.
Whether your work takes you into the Dakotas or has your crew building skyscrapers in the middle of the city, you’re going to deal with loose ends. The more you can tie up with mobile software, the better everyone can focus on their jobs.
As a construction manager tasked with sending your crew to new places, you need a plan of action.
It’s your job to stay updated on local and federal policy changes, international restrictions, and all the other regulations that affect the job and staff.
Letting Hotel Engine do the hard work of finding the best lodging lets you concentrate on the other logistics. From setting your budget to tracking it in real-time, your concrete plans are ready for you to put into action!
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.