A project manager is an inherently adaptable individual. They typically enjoy the structure of delivering a project with a start, an in-service period and an end. However, as the last few years have ably demonstrated, they are also flexible, creative and willing to embrace change.
One major change that has affected the vast majority of UK-based project managers is their working environment, with up to 78%  of project managers recently polled by the Association of Project Managers reporting that they are working either entirely remotely or on a hybrid working pattern in which they spend part of their time in the office and the other part working from home.
When we at Build Space asked the question as to whether remote project management really works for the construction industry, it was a very close call between "Yes", "No" and "Depends on the project", so in this post, we will explore all sides of the argument.
The role of project managers in construction
Project managers are vital to the successful delivery of construction projects. They oversee all elements of the planning and construction, engage with stakeholders, clients and contractors and are responsible for keeping the project on track in accordance with budget, time and quality parameters.
They are in charge of organising logistics and managing financial expenditure. They play a key role in ensuring that every project is completed in accordance with its requirements and to the client's satisfaction.
It is a role which requires frequent stakeholder communication and in-depth knowledge of the aims and objectives of the project and the manner in which it fits into the organisation's overall strategy. So, can this role be conducted effectively from a remote location?
Benefits of remote working
There are many benefits to remote project management. The first is that construction companies can access the highest quality talent, wherever it is geographically located. By removing location restrictions, it is possible to open up a much wider talent pool and secure the dedicated and experienced project management expertise that a business needs.
Secondly, project managers who work remotely or in hybrid working arrangements tend to have a better work life balance and are more emotionally resilient than those who are continuously tethered to a work location. This may be due in part to the ability to enjoy more time with their families, engage in hobbies, and be able to work at a time that suits them, free from interruptions and disruptions.
The technology that is now available is fully able to support remote working. Project managers can maintain a presence in all meetings via video or teleconference, and they can create cloud-based access to key project documents, enabling easier collaboration and auditability.
Disadvantages of remote working
In order to successfully deliver a project, it is necessary to absolutely understand it. Project managers need to immerse themselves in the bones of the project and engage wholeheartedly with the construction personnel, architects, contractors and engineers who are working on it to assess the risks and timelines associated with delivery.
It is often very helpful for them to attend site visits, to spend time in person with contractors and delivery personnel, to provide input into complex tasks, manage conflicting deadlines and requirements and facilitate on-site coordination. Being unwilling or unable to participate physically in the build can have reputational ramifications, may lead to them being left out of the decision-making process and result in lower productivity.
Does remote project management work?
Yes, in many cases, it does. There will always be a need for a project manager to attend some meetings and site visits in person; there is no getting away from it. However, the vast majority of their workload can be very effectively conducted from a remote location.
An effective project manager knows when to accept advice, to ask for support, and when to delegate. They are professionals who care deeply about the outcome of the projects that they manage and will commit themselves to deliver in a way that is appropriate for their own individual circumstances and the needs of the business that employs them.
The question, therefore, should not be "Does remote project management work?" but "How can I find a project manager who will fulfil the needs of the business?" At Build Space, we can supply the talent that is required to ensure that your next project runs smoothly and is effectively managed at all stages of its lifecycle.
Construction, as with project management, is an ever-evolving and dynamic industry, and by employing the best talent that is available, it will be possible to embrace new innovations and deliver outstanding results.