BAM Construct, BAM Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon have been working since 2019 with specialist flexible working consultancy, Timewise, to develop new approaches for the construction industry.
The first site project for the study was BAM Construction’s One Causeway Park, a £40m office development to the west of London.
Although the trials were overtaken by the pandemic, which forced much of the construction industry to implement flexible working, BAM says that its new approach will have benefits for both its own people and the rest of the industry long after the pandemic subsides.
Andrea Singh, executive and human resources director, said: “There has been a shift in mindset across our business. We believe that every role can have some flexibility, but not every role can have the same flexibility. Our default position now is that flexibility is possible and desirable, and to prioritise a devolved, team-based decision-making culture to empower it so that it continues to support our business objectives.”
She continued: “We now ask, ‘how can we make flexibility work?’ not, ‘can we make it work?’ We’ve provided a framework for our teams without lots of rules and hurdles. Managers can find flexible working approaches that work for their team, their clients and their job.”
The measures BAM is promoting for its employees include:
- remote working
- rota working
- staggered start and end times
- flexible lunch or break times
- job sharing
- part time work
- phased retirements
- remote learning and meetings
- shared team calendars
- defined times for teams being in the same place for collaboration
BAM says that its new flexible working policy will provide a better work-life balance for employees, which in turn could make recruitment easier.
Ruth Hutchinson, a site administrator for several BAM schemes in Wales, became one of the first people in the company to notice the difference. She said: “I am a carer for both of my parents who have mental health and physical health needs. My father has severe Alzheimer’s and is also paralysed down the right side after a back operation and my mother had a stroke and has since developed dementia. I have to give them a lot of home help. I was going home exhausted every night.
“When this new policy took effect, after discussions with my team and line managers, I am now able to work three days a week from home where I have become far more productive in my role.
“What changed for me was the willingness of my team and managers to re-examine my role, to look again at the support I can provide for the business, and the extent to which my time is genuinely required on site.
“I could demonstrate I was more productive because of the greater flexibility. Not only has it improved my work, it has also given my parents much needed extra support and it meant my own mental health and stress levels have improved dramatically.”
At a university scheme in Leeds, three senior BAM managers, whose lives were traditionally based wholly on-site, evolved a weekly planning approach. This created a blend of office and home working for them all with digital tools and iPads making emails, diary management and made viewing documents and drawings easy wherever they were based. It allowed one of them to car-share with a partner, helping home life.
Andrea Singh said that each case was treated on its merits. “Working from home is only one aspect of flexible working. We must not see it as the only ‘new normal’, because that true flexibility means so much more than being at home for some people, as well as the fact that not everybody can work from home. Flexibility can include broader things like staggered start or finish times, the opportunity to work at a different location, split shifts, job share, and more.”
BAM’s policy comes with financial support to help its people with equipment needs.
The company says having comprehensive flexible working practices will attract a more diverse future workforce, retain and motivate people, produce better performance and mental health, and reduce business costs if less space is needed.
BAM has developed the new flexible working approach over 12 months, working with both Timewise and industry body Build UK.
Timewise consultant Angela Goldsmith said: “The perfect balance for flexibility is where there is a meeting of what works for the business and what works for the individual. One of the best ways to achieve this is by exploring a team-based approach to flexible working.
“The best way to create a truly flexible team culture is to have an open and honest conversation at a team level about what is and is not possible.
“This builds the foundation for a further team discussion about where, when and how much how individuals like to work. When are they at their best? How best can they juggle non-work priorities alongside the work that needs to be done? How do different roles interact? How can business priorities still be achieved? When the team come up with the solutions, they own them and make them work. It’s pleasing to see that BAM have taken this approach in their new policy and we hope this will bring great results for the business and their people.”