- Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, companies across the country have pivoted to hybrid working models — part in-person and part remote — and according to new data, construction is adopting this trend, too.
- Construction tech company OpenSpace surveyed its customers about their working models and found that prior to the pandemic, 52% of respondents said their field teams had never worked remotely but now, 92% say that they will allow occasional or frequent remote work.
- In addition, 95% noted that technology was very or critically important in their decision to continue allowing remote work. Respondents hailed from a wide range of firms, including general contractors, subcontractors and developers, according to OpenSpace, a San Francisco-based maker of artificial intelligence-driven technology that captures and analyzes construction site data.
The survey found that, much like in the wider professional world, hybrid work is here to stay for construction even though it is typically thought of as an in-person industry. Many companies reported seeing a wide range of benefits by adopting a combination of in-person and remote work for field teams.
Despite COVID-19 challenges, many construction companies have thrived in hybrid setups, with 80% of survey respondents saying that they were just as productive or more productive when working remotely, compared to only 20% who saw productivity decline.
Some of the benefits of remote working, according to respondents, are:
- Saving time and money by decreasing travel to and from sites (72%).
- Improving work-life balance (72%).
- Allowing teams access to the best candidates (35%).
- Enabling teams to put their best people on more jobs than would otherwise be possible, likely due to reduced travel times (20%).
The move to hybrid work has been made possible by technology solutions such as virtual meeting software and video walkthroughs that have enabled construction firms to work safely through the pandemic. OpenSpace's customer count increased by more than 150% and site captures were up by more than 300% over the past year, the company said.
These findings are on par with what construction executives reported last year when the pandemic began. CEOs of major construction firms such as Jacobs and AECOM said that their employees quickly pivoted to productive remote work.
In the early days of the pandemic, AECOM saw up to 90% of its employees working remotely. Company leaders said they were pleased to see that the move to telework accelerated productivity as workers gained back time formerly used for telecommuting and travel.
The nearly overnight shift to remote working environments was enabled by the company's investments in IT and technology-based tools, according to AECOM. The quick pivot was a differentiator for the company as it allowed projects to continue and teams to collaborate with clients with no delays, executives said.
These developments could decrease real estate space needs in the near future, former CEO Michael S. Burke noted in an earnings call. "We spend about $400 million a year on rent, so even a 20% reduction in that could be an additional opportunity for margin improvement going forward," he said.