Kier and McAlpine among firms to look at flexi-working for site workers

30 June 2021 | Construction

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Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine and Multiplex are exploring possibilities to enable tradespeople and site-based staff to work flexibly, Construction News can reveal.

Kier will soon start pilot programmes on three projects that will see workers, including tradespeople, try flexible-working options. The pilot will be run in association with flexible working consultancy Timewise, which last week published positive results from similar trials with Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall and Skanska.

The tests at Kier will be done on telecoms, highways and building projects. The jobs to run the schemes are yet to finalised, but they will have up to 75 people working on them and the pilots will last around three months. It is expected that each site will take a different approach to flexible working.

Kier group HR director Helen Redfern said the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated the benefits from working in a more “agile” way. “There are several benefits to this approach, including increased productivity, a reduced carbon footprint and better work-life balance for employees,” she said. “Technology has enabled our office-based employees to work in a more agile way, and we’re working with Timewise to explore what will work best for our site-based employees.”

Sir Robert McAlpine is also working with Timewise to explore how its own trials with flexible working for site-based staff can be rolled out. Chief executive Paul Hamer said implementing flexible working would make the company and the industry more appealing to a “larger swathe” of the workforce.

“We already have flexible and agile working policies in place at Sir Robert McAlpine but we want make sure they are applicable to every role,” he said. “We have been working with Timewise to pilot solutions that are informed and driven by our people on construction sites, with a view of rolling them out company wide.”

McAlpine has previously commissioned research into the issue with flexible working advocates Mother Pukka.

CN understands Timewise is also working with Multiplex, which has carried out its own on-site flexible working pilot and is now considering the findings.

Industry-wide flexible working change

Timewise co-founder and development director Emma Stewart said successful pilot programmes could lead to changes across the industry: “It is all about trying to scale change at the sector level, particularly in sectors where the assumption is, ‘flexible working is great, but you can’t do it here’,” she said, adding that the case studies produced by the pilot programmes would help foster change.

Last week Timewise published the results of an 18-month long series of pilot studies carried out with Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska UK and Willmott Dixon. It  found that a range of flexible working options were possible for site-based workers.

Bam Construct tried a team-based approach to flexible working. This involved a weekly meeting where site workers would discuss with managers the schedule for the week ahead and suggest how it could be changed to better suit them while ensuring that work was delivered.

Bam Nuttall tested a ‘flexi-day’ approach, which allowed workers building up overtime to swap it for a day off. This was particularly popular with those who worked away from home during the week and wanted to take a three-day weekend.

Timewise claimed that there was also no evidence that flexible working on site had any detrimental impact on delivery times and budget. Stewart said one of the organisations objectives for the coming months is to collect more data about the commercial impact of flexible working.

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