The contractors have teamed up with a specialist flexible working consultancy, Timewise, to research, design and pilot new approaches that could herald a revolution in working practices across construction.
The first phase is a study of current working practices and perceptions at BAM Construct, BAM Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon. Timewise will then develop a flexible job design change programme to be piloted across a number of construction sites.
While it may be hard for a brick layer or electrician to work from home, they might easily job share, for example.
Timewise principal consultant Pernille Solvik believes “there is an urgent need to design more flexible roles and career pathways within construction, to deliver better work-life balance and build a more diverse, healthier workforce”.
The results of the trial schemes will be evaluated and shared with the wider industry. According to BAM, it “could change the way the industry retains and attracts people”.
Emma Stewart, CEO and co-founder of Timewise, said: “Many people think flexible working in the construction industry, with its long hours culture, deadline-driven mentality and physical demands, is simply impossible. Timewise has been working with organisations in other industries, such as the NHS and the British Retail Consortium, who face similar challenges – and seen real change take hold. Improving flexible working is a key way in which to tackle a whole range of key workforce and skills challenges. We’re delighted to be working with our inaugural Construction Pioneers, Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska and Willmot Dixon, and with Build UK, to test and share how to make flexible working truly work in construction.”
Skanska executive vice president Harvey Francis said: “For too long our industry has struggled with how working patterns outside of the traditional norm can be accommodated. This hasn’t helped us in our desire to attract and retain a greater diversity of people, which we believe is critical to our long term sustainability and success.”
Andrea Singh, executive director of BAM Construct UK, said: “It has long been thought that making flexibility work on site is just too complicated. Our industry, however, has many creative teams and individuals who can solve the most challenging problems. Together we can, and will, find a solution.”
Build UK is also supporting the initiative. Chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “The construction sector has recognised, and acknowledged, that it needs to recruit and retain a much more diverse workforce to create the world we all live in and rely on. The challenge is to create a working environment that enables men and women from all backgrounds to realise their full potential in an industry offering a fantastic choice of rewarding careers whilst meeting their work life balance requirements. This is not something we can do on our own and Timewise is leading the way in enabling major industries to change the way they operate.”
Willmott Dixon head of people operations Clare Williams said: “We believe that helping our people to achieve a balance between their working life and personal life is central to their wellbeing. We’ve already made great strides in our journey to embed agile working and our people are telling us that they are more supported to work agilely now than ever before, but by working together with Build UK and Timewise we hope to be able to build on this and see a real step change in our industry.”