Remote working is a relatively new concept but basically means someone who does not work in a traditional office. This practice is becoming more popular because of technological change and growing evidence of the positive effects remote working has on productivity, efficiency, employee retention and other facets of work. Remote working has traditionally been the reserve of jobs that rely solely on a computer and a working internet connection, but this is changing and it seems destined that there will be many more remote workers in the future.
Remote work is not just something for the future. It exists now and it’s popular. For example, in 2008, more than 1.7 million Canadians worked from home at least once a week, up almost 23 per cent from the 1.4 million in 2000, according to the most recent Statistics Canada report in 2010. Many people may not realize that remote working is as popular. Last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to a poll by Gallup. Technology is both the enabler and driver of the increase, with software as a service (SaaS) making remote work easier.
Benefits of Remote Working
- Increased Productivity:
Many employers are reluctant to employ remote workers because they have concerns regarding how their productivity will be affected without physical management supervision. But these fears may be unfounded. Studies have shown that worker productivity actually increases when they are allowed to work remotely. Contrary to what employers like to believe, offices are filled with phone conversations, meetings and all kind of distractions that negatively affect productivity.
Freeing up office-bound workers from their desks to do their job in a work environment that has less distractions, so that they can focus on their specific tasks, can be a significant improvement. New digital technology is also enabling management so supervise their remote workers, even if they are not physically in the same space, something that’s having a dramatic effect on working remotely more “hands-on” sectors like manufacturing and construction.
- Monitoring Projects in Real Time:
Software is widely available that enables management to monitor projects closely from its inception, right through to project end. In heavy industry, building information management (BIM) has become the norm for planning all aspects of a project and keeps everyone on track. Cloud-based software means that this information is right at a worker’s fingertips. The ease of digital communication allows for instant feedback so the right decisions can be made faster for the maximum possible impact.
- Better Collaboration:
In the past, collaboration necessitated people being in the same place, usually a meeting room in an office, or on-site. Managers were left with the choice to either schedule regular meetings, that were often time-consuming and unproductive, or risk the breakdown of a project because of a lack of coordination. Digital technology makes this choice redundant. Internal messaging software enables constant collaboration across all teams within a company, without the need for everyone to be in the same room. Meetings are less frequent but more useful as they can focus on solving specific problems or on bigger picture questions. Virtual meeting software means that remote workers and teams can be in any location and still be able to give their input.
- Coordinate Workflow:
It’s vitally important that every worker’s tasks contribute towards a common, overall goal. This means coordinating a company’s workflow, so that tasks are assigned properly based on personnel and the priority of a task. This information also needs to flow internally and be communicated effectively across a workforce. The heavy industries are among the least productive in the world and improving a project’s workflow can have positive effects.
Digital tools improve communication so that workers are aware of their own tasks, other workers tasks and the overall goal. Project management software takes this to the next level through collaboration tools that allow for information to be shared easily among the workforce. This makes it easier to search for business documents and design plans, as well as making tasks visible so that everyone is on the same page.
Remote workers used just mean anyone with a laptop who could do their job from home. However, as technology has advanced, the idea of what a remote worker can be has broadened. Remote working is now a reality in the hard-hat industries because of innovations such as wearable technology, which give managers the ability to monitor worker performance. Wearable technology can be included in a variety of equipment, including vests, boots, gloves and belts. They come equipped with sensors that can monitor a worker’s essential health indicators, as well as their location on-site.
In addition to helping to improve low levels of productivity in heavy industry, wearable technology’s biggest positive impact is in safety. Wearable technology allows an employer to keep track of who is on-site and where they’re working, so everyone is accounted for. If an accident does occur, management are aware of where it happened and can provide immediate emergency response. Wearable technology also gives management more data to help them improve their safety standards. Supervision resulting from digital technology is actually more comprehensive than traditional methods because it can constantly keep track of a worker, something not possible for a human supervisor.
- Increased Flexibility:
Remote working is becoming more popular, in part because of demand from younger workers. Worker retention rates are better for employers who offer remote working. According to a study by Deloitte, millennials employed in very flexible working environments are 10% more likely to stay with a company, compared to those employed in inflexible workplaces. This is becoming a deal breaker for workers. According to a Flexjobs survey, the number of people who say they’ve quit a job due to lack of flexibility has nearly doubled from 17% in 2014 to 32% in 2017. Workers know that remote working is possible due to advancements in technology and are coming to expect its availability. Employers need to consider offering opportunities to remote workers in order to hire and retain the best quality candidates.
Remote Workers in the Hard-Hat Industries
At this moment, the hard-hat industries have a relatively low level of remote working for a variety of reasons. There are fears that a supervising manager not being physically present is a safety risk. There are also productivity concerns, which are not unique to heavy industry. These arguments have some merit and it is important to recognize that not every job (or worker) is suited to remote working. However, companies should consider how software as a service (SaaS) solutions have made it possible to access real time information from remote working environment and extract value.
Despite an ingrained reluctance within heavy industry, the attraction of remote working, for both workers and employers, is starting to catch on. Construction and manufacturing have seen a 4% increase in the amount of remote working, one of the largest increases across all industries in the past few years. Companies in heavy industry already use many forms of technology that would make remote working a success: Contractor management software, wearable technology and BIM.
GoContractor is a simple and powerful way to manage remote workers in heavy industry. The online platform ensures that all workers have the proper documentation and training before they set foot on-site. The system also includes a traffic light system that tracks worker behavior so that on-site productivity and safety are maximized. As more companies make the move to becoming friendly to remote working, contractor management systems will become a necessity.
Remote working is made possible by a combination of technological advances and the will of employers to innovate and try new things. Companies are coming to realize that software exists that doesn’t just make remote working possible, but makes it more productive and worthy of investigation. For employers who want to hire the best candidates, remote working is interesting proposal that’s worth investigating.