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Remote Working in the Infrastructure Industry: Insights from Infrastructure Leaders

Throughout the lockdown, we’ve seen organisations from across Infrastructure and Construction adapt to new ways of working. Implementing social distancing, using innovative technology and workers sharing accommodation away from their families are some of the methods used in the industry to stem the spread of the virus.

One of the most important implementations throughout the lockdown has been the move to remote working. Historically, not seen as practical in the Infrastructure industry, a recent poll by The Engineer found that 67% of those surveyed could practically complete their role at home1 for weeks at a time, with only a few days required to be onsite or in an office environment. Although not practical for all types of infrastructure and construction roles, it was the topic of discussion during our latest Infrastructure Digital Roundtable event on 5th May 2020.

We met with Infrastructure Leaders from across the UK in a virtual event to discuss the changes in the industry and what a post COVID-19 world could look like. Full insights from this event are available here. One of the main topics for discussion was the ability for their organisations to adapt to working from home. The question was raised as to whether we will ever return to office life as we know it. Certainly, there will need to be changes, but will we go back to the 150-200 worker office buildings of the past?

Leaders discussed the benefits of remote working for their businesses, including reduced cost, particularly in the London area, and the positive mental and emotional wellbeing benefits for their people. The use of technology is now paramount to a business’s day to day activity, as well as their ability to move forward through these uncertain times.

“Microsoft Teams has been a revelation for us, we held a stand up with colleagues across the UK and the response was overwhelmingly positive.”

With benefits, comes uncertainty, and organisations are now dealing with the dark side of remote working. Supporting our people in maintaining and improving their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing is more important then ever. We need to help our people avoid loneliness, and understand their needs in more detail.

“There will be those who are desperate to go back to an office environment and those who are actually scared to, we need to do what’s right for the individual and listen to people.”

Throughout the discussion, the leaders also recognised the need to consider the mental health of lone workers on construction sites. The term safety now goes far beyond physical safety, we must also protect our people and support them both physically and mentally.

One thing was clear, traditional leadership styles will need to change dramatically.

“This new way of working will challenge those leaders who never wanted their people to work from home because they didn’t feel secure or in control. It’s a huge level of trust that we’ll be placing in our workforce, which is a good thing, but you can’t underestimate the attitude change for some people. Long term, I think these changes will also need to be reflected in our contracts. If you look at a lot of the major construction contracts in the UK, they’re based around people being together either on or near site – often workers could do things remotely, but currently our contracts don’t work in this way.”

For the full insights from our Infrastructure Digital Roundtable event, you can download the insights here.