Work today looks different than it did two or even one year ago and include remote workforce challenges. Today’s employees work from home, in the office, in coffee shops, on the road and just about anywhere in between. And technology is the reason it all gets done.
Some companies aren’t on board with remote work. NBC News stated Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in leaked emails his employees needed to be in the office because they weren’t as productive working from home. But remote work is said to be here to stay. According to projections printed by Forbes, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023.
But the idea of having employees that don’t spend their days in an office is nothing new for the construction industry. Working remotely or away from the office is more common than being in the same location day after day. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some challenges to managing a remote or field-based workforce.
Challenges of Managing a Remote Workforce
In construction, there are many workforce management issues; these are just a few that deal with managing a remote workforce.
Loss of revenue due to late workers and inaccurate timecards.
As most contractors know, the daily late-shows and hour-rounding by dozens of workers isn’t a sudden KO, but it’ll pack a punch over time.
First, there are those missed minutes at the beginning and end of the day. Those might not make a huge difference in one worker’s day-to-day, but an individual whose next steps are critical to a process can hold up a whole project. And when you get five or ten workers starting late or leaving early, you’re talking about real lag-time in kicking off a new task or completing an in-progress one.
The other issue is that when you add all those minutes you are paying for hours not worked, that can really undermine your profit margins.
Communication failure within the chain of command.
It’s frustrating when employees don’t follow directions. But as an owner or a project manager who isn’t always at the site, you want to get to the root of the problem. Are employees not listening? Or are the channels of communication between higher ups and employees not cutting it?
Lack of communication on a supervisor’s part, or lack of respect on an employee’s part, can have many repercussions. One of them is late arrivals and early departures (see above). Another way miscommunication can cost you is by allowing for too many surprises, including mistakes requiring rework and excessive OT.
Lack of good data about task completion time and other project details.
When workers don’t remember when they started framing or trench-digging, your project manager doesn’t have accurate data about tasks or project times, leaving them having to guess when making your next bid.
In this age of digital information along with plenty of competition in the field, owners, subcontractors and customers expect a higher level of accuracy, and will not leave good reviews after jobs that drag out forever or when change orders get piled on and contractors charge way more than the original budget.
With paper timecards, there’s no accurate accounting for task or project times, which makes for painful sessions of grilling your team, “trying to remember” on your part and theirs, and some very rough “guesstimates”—which in turn yields to embarrassing missteps, awkward apologies and unhappy clients.
Finally, workers often complain that their paychecks don’t reflect the hours they really worked. As for referring to their timesheets, unfortunately your payroll manager shredded those last week. Or maybe their supervisor just recorded their times wrong. With pen and paper, sometimes there’s no looking back, and there’s certainly no definitive record.
Worker frustration toward management.
Most worker complaints are likely about how they don’t feel they’re being respected, listened to or otherwise taken care of. To be more specific, workers may feel that what is expected of them isn’t conveyed clearly enough. This means they don’t feel like they’re getting enough instruction, and so they aren’t able to perform up to management’s standards even if they want to.
Your workers might also feel that when they encounter obstacles, their concerns are not being heeded by their supervisors or project managers, who are either too busy to hear them out or simply not in the right place to observe the problem.
Real Solutions for Field-based Management Problems
The challenges of remote workforce management are many, but they can be reduced or even eliminated using ExakTime’s digital time tracking app.
Our app can:
- Relieve your paper timecard woes
- Provide real-time data into time spent on tasks
- Make time tracking an exact science, saving you thousands
- Allow for the creation of multimedia notes associated with a job or task that can be stored in one central location (i.e., in a web-based workforce management application)
- Allow for digital scheduling creation so that specific instructions and tasks can keep workers informed of what’s expected of them
Workers are people, and people are complicated—but they do share in common the desire to be heard and for their truth to be respected. Communication will always be the biggest management challenge and one of the keys to success. Our advice: look for ways to take some of the obstacles out of the equation.