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is flexitime the way forward for construction?.

New pilot shows construction flexitime works

The pilot involving BAM Construct, BAM Nuttall, Skanska UK, and Willmott Dixon explored schedules including staggered shifts and days off across a range of sites including HS2. The study found that workers sense of wellbeing increased and overtime decreased without negatively impacting budgets or schedules.

The study is already being seen as a blueprint for US contractors to break down the barriers to entry for new workers considering the construction sector. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) is already planning to collect flexitime data for an upcoming worktime survey in the summer.

Flex work schedules

Flexitime working including teleworking became common during lockdown. Staggered shifts were also used to minimise contact and preserve social distancing on-site. But the pandemic based study went further, proposing six types of flexible working schedules across a range of different construction sites:

Hour limits were used to reduce the working week to 45 hours including breaks. Staggered shifts gave workers a chance to work the rotation they required and choose their own break times. Other sites trialled earlier start and finish times.

Other approaches included an output based schedule with work hours set according to the daily and weekly output goals to be achieved, and team-based flexitime models similar to those used in healthcare. Finally, the flex-day strategy allowed workers to accumulate additional hours in exchange for an extra day off a month.

Numerous benefits

While none of the firms involved reported a negative impact on schedules or budgets, workers reported a number of benefits in their post-pilot surveys.

The most critical impact was on wellbeing, which rose among workers surveyed from 48% to 84%, with workers feeling they were given enough time to focus on their health. The percentage of workers regularly exceeding their contracted hours also fell, from 51% to 34%.

There were other interesting soft benefits including improved trust in colleagues working remotely. In fact the number of workers agreeing that they couldn't be sure if colleagues working from home were working as hard as they would be on-site fell by 15%.

And workers sense of guilt at not pulling their weight or putting in the hours also decreased. The percentage of workers feeling guilty for starting late or finishing early also fell from 47% to 33%.

Overcoming barriers to entry

Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for AGC, said young salaried workers often burned out through the demands of the job. He pointed to the lack of telecommuting and flexi-working as barriers to entry, where other industries and businesses offered flexible hours and remote working.

Adrian Savory, CEO of BAM Nuttall, said his firm's involvement in the Timewise flexible working trial was directly aligned to their focus on enabling people to be their best and promote inclusion and diversity in the industry as a whole.

He pointed out that the results of the pilot have demonstrated that flexibility for operational roles is not only desirable but possible, making the pilot a triple win for business, teams and overall wellbeing.

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