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Working Remotely in Construction

  1. Working Remotely in Construction Focus on Office Staff and Field Managers
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  3. Agenda 1. Working from Home Culture a. 5 tips to share with your team b. What to watch for as a management team c. Communication is key d. Legal considerations 2. Setup a. Computer / Network / Employees WiFi / Security b. Software / Tools i. Meetings ii. Task management iii. Communication c. Home Workplace i. Ergonomics ii. Options
  4. Agenda - continued 3. Meeting Cadence a. SCRUM / Morning Stand Up b. Operational Meetings c. Impromptu Communication d. Online Meeting Etiquette 4. Construction Specific a. Tracking / Comments / Tasks b. True Cloud Based Applications / SaaS c. Document Management d. Field Communication 5. Additional Resources / Links
  5. Working From Home - Culture 5 Tips to Immediately Share with your Team Signals to Watch For as a Leadership Team Communication is Key Legal Considerations
  6. 5 Immediate Tips to Share with Your Team 1. Dress for Work Staying in PJs sounds tempting but you still need to get into the mindset of working. (You’ll be using video a lot with remote work as well.) 2. Accept that this is a transition You and your team need to be self aware that there will be feelings of loneliness, stress, frustration and isolation. Be understanding to this and allow for these feelings. You’ll all get into a groove. 3. Take regular breaks There are varying thoughts on how much to work and when to take a break but everybody agrees that regular breaks are a must. Even in the office, take a 5 minute break away from a computer screen every hour.
  7. 5 Immediate Tips to Share with Your Team - Cont’d 4. Over Communicate My personal experience in office and remote work is that every problem in the world has come down to a lack of communication and not setting the right expectations. Be clear about expectations, communicate progress and use multiple channels to share these communications. In this space it’s important to be aware of how different people communicate - which sometimes requires you to change your style with them and how you listen. Methods for communicating remotely in order of urgency: Phone - Used for immediate conversations that need a decision or collaboration now. Text - More immediate need for a response and 1 on 1 communication but not imperative. Slack - Communication tool that can eliminate most email Online Document - Posting updates, communications that can be read at any time. Email - Save this for last. Useful for company wide communications and sharing daily or weekly updates. Respect Boundaries in Tip 5, Leaders can set great examples with this.
  8. 5 Immediate Tips to Share with Your Team - Cont’d 5. Protect Your Workspace and Time Mindset is also impacted by your environment, working on the couch with the family while easy in this time will be distracting. Create a workspace in your home with a desk and make it your own. Only use it when you’re working. Make sure the workspace is ergonomic - comfortable and enforces a good posture - the couch or even a kitchen table most always are never ergonomic. This might mean buying or borrowing a computer screen, keyboard and a mouse; maybe even some stacks of books or paper. Use headphones to keep yourself focused. Set boundaries with your family/roommates as well as co-workers. When you are in your work space no interruptions unless it is an emergency. Go to work at a defined time and include a virtual commute. This could be a walk or a cup of coffee and doing some e-learning, podcasts or what have you. End work the same time each day like you would in the office and have a virtual commute home, maybe your favorite word game or an episode of a tv show. These boundaries help keep the work-life balance when they seem to be meshing more than ever.
  9. Signals to Watch For ● Isolated Employees - Non Engaged ○ Most employees won’t have an easy time transitioning to a work from home setting. ○ You’ll wonder what they are up to, you won’t see updates and they won’t be completing tasks. ○ Each case will be unique - but you’ll need to understand their roadblocks and concerns. Some might be unsure of how to use “remote” technology, others could be situations at home or distractions. In all situations don’t assume, talk with the employee to try to understand the reason. Start with statements like “Hi John, I’ve noticed that you haven’t been updating your tasks with status’. Is there something I can help with? Any roadblocks that I can help remove?” - Don’t be satisfied with one word answers. Use video for communications. “Let’s setup a quick 15 minute video call and we can [work past issues/talk through concerns]. ○ Lead by Example - You’re there to ensure your team can be their best in whatever situation. This isn’t a time for demands, dictatorships and ultimatums. A great read on considerations for coming up with action plans as leaders remotely: ○ LISTEN - Schedule weekly 15 min 1-1 with each of your direct reports. A time for them to talk.
  10. Signals to Watch For - Continued ● Distracted Employees ○ This is expected especially in times of uncertainty ○ Be respectful and set the right expectations; doesn’t mean letting people take advantage. ○ Work Time Flexibility - Employees may be taking shifts to watch children so they may be doing some work at night or very early in the morning. ○ Use task management - Set an appropriate expectation of work to be completed in the week and let the employee determine when it needs to be done if possible. ○ Mandatory Meetings - Sometimes meetings are required. Allow for the occasional exception on individual basis. Use the record meeting functionality to allow for those who must miss them to watch after. Also have a note taker and make that person responsible to capture meeting notes and action items.
  11. Signals to Watch For - Continued ● Tasks and Work Slipping ○ Set the right expectations and monitor - On the onset of transitioning to working from home project managers should set a lower amount of expected work to be completed in a week from the office team. Something like 5 hours in an 8 hour period. This can be increased to a max expectation of 6 hours, expecting more individual contributor work to be completed in this time will over burden employees. The additional 2 hours will be spent on meetings, increased communicating and 1-1 discussion between employees. ○ Adjust as you go - Lay the expectation that we are in uncharted territory as we continue on this journey as a company we will adjust expectations of productivity. Employees will be verbal if they have too much work or you will see missed tasks and disengagement. On the flip side they may not be verbal about too little work, but keeping a daily pulse on what’s been completed will help managers understand the “velocity”.
  12. Communication is key Slack - In my opinion is a must have, even for post working from home. It helps declutter email, separate threads and provides a link from mobile to office workers. Over communicate - Communicate in multiple forms. Communicate Expectations, Transparency on Company Progress. Basically you are trying to compensate for the water cooler and lunch time discussions. The post meeting talk that happens after in office meetings end and discussion continue. Remote First - In traditional remote working you may have part of the team in the office and one or two remote. Most frequently these remote workers feel isolated. Handling meetings with a remote first (or only) mentality overcomes this. Everyone is on the level playing field, there is no post meeting discussion that online participants miss. Any discussion that happens afterwards is usually in Slack in a channel. Urge people to discuss items that others may want to hear in non direct message channels.
  13. Legal Considerations I am not a lawyer so I defer these discussions to articles that exist. But know that there are legal considerations of having remote employees. Different states have different laws. Consult with your lawyer on your states requirements. A few topics include: ● Hourly Wages for remote workers (answering an email at 10pm) ● Liability in the Workplace (which is now their office, ergonomics as an example) ● Security of Information/Data (Are employees using personal devices, secure VPN?) Here are a couple articles to checkout:
  14. Setup Computer / Network / Employee Wifi / Security Software & Tools Home Workplace
  15. Computer & Hardware Ergonomic Workstation Laptops are great for mobile work but after even 2 hours bad habits can form. Supplementing with a monitor, mouse and keyboard if able to do so are a must for sustaining a long term work from home. This helps employees setup a dedicated workspace. If you can’t loan them out, offer a stipend. Amazon and stores may soon be unable to stock/ship these, other options are adapters that can connect laptops to Televisions through HDMI. At the very least a laptop stand or makeshift stand to get the screen to eye level along with a keyboard/mouse.
  16. Network & Access If productivity software is on premise; stored on a computer in the office, you will need to setup a VPN ( Virtual Private Network) to get from home into the office network. Another option depending on software is a Citrix or remote access client. (Contact us if you have questions with this we can help you with how to do this - or contact a local IT Company) (One Example of VPN) ( One example of Remote Access) Suggestion - Use this time to transition to 100% Cloud Solutions or Software as a Service (SaaS). On Premise solutions are becoming expensive to maintain and outdated.
  17. Software & Tools Slack* (Eliminate Email Clutter / Remote Communication) - (get $100 credit using this link - and you help us get $100 credit on our account too) Zoom* & Google Hangouts [or Microsoft Teams] ( Remote Video Conferencing) (Zoom Referral Link) Trello or Monday ( Online Task Tracking) - Trello is basic and offers a limited free version, Monday is a bit more complex and versatile. * Recommended - Trello, Zoom and Slack links are Affiliate links and will give Thunderbolt Innovation free months / credits to the service if you sign up using them. They by no means influenced our recommendations - it is what we use.
  18. Meeting Cadence 1-1 Checking Meetings Online Meeting Etiquette SCRUM / Morning Stand Up Operational Meetings Impromptu Communication Social Gatherings
  19. 1-1 Check In Meetings ● Managers should have weekly 1-1 video check ins with each direct report. ● Let the employee do most of the talking. ● Have an Agenda for each meeting and encourage the employee to fill it in ahead of time. Use this as a talking points/template: ○ How are you doing? How did the past week/month go? ○ What would you like to talk about today? ○ What are you proud of? Anything blocking you? ○ Do you need any support? How can I help you? ○ Anything else you’d like to talk about today? ● Stick to 15 minutes - schedule additional time if needed to work through specific issues.
  20. Online Meeting Etiquette Pay Attention - Multitasking should not be done while on a meeting. If you aren’t needed don’t attend. Cameras on as much as possible At least for Daily Meetings / 1-1s / Weekly Communications, and Social Gatherings - every opportunity. ● It will be awkward but body language is a large part of communicating. ● Using a Camera helps with the isolation and feelings of disconnect. Set an Agenda and Purpose for Every meeting along with a time limit and stick to it. Respect people's opinions, no backchannel chat, keep the discussion in open channels. There is a bigger opportunity to talk behind someones back, to bring discussion into a secluded channel where others miss the extra conversation.
  21. SCRUM / Morning Meetings A component of Lean Construction ( used widely in Software Development) Scrum is a workflow to complete a project. Sprints - a Unit of Time that is used to complete work. Usually 1-2 Weeks. Scrum Team - A logical team usually 5-7 people that complete the work in a Sprint. Can be multi-functional and usually are. Points - Used to Estimate the size of a task that is assigned to a sprint. Velocity - How fast the team is completing work. Usually in terms of Points/Sprint
  22. SCRUM for Construction (In Depth Article)
  23. Simple Scrum Workflow 1. Pick a Duration of the “Sprint” 1 Week or 2 Weeks 2. Break all work that needs to be done down into 2-4 hr tasks and keep them on an online board into a Backlog ( Trello/Monday). 3. As the tasks get close the Project Manager adds more detail or asks team to add more detail ( could be a Grooming Meeting). 4. PM moves work that needs to be done this week into the TODO column and can assign to employees. 5. Let employees take a task off the TODO column and move to the DOING column with their name. 6. Employees move finished tasks to DONE and then pick another in the todo column.
  24. Simple Scrum Workflow 7. Meetings a. Start of Sprint to go over work to be done ( 1hr) b. Daily Checkpoints (15 min total - 1 min / person - What did i finish yesterday, What am I doing today, Any blockers?) c. End of Sprint Review - team goes of what was completed, what wasn’t and why and moves uncompleted work to the next weeks todos. d. (Optional) Sprint Retrospective - Talk about how the process is going, improvements and opportunities and things to not do.
  25. Warnings for SCRUM Managers will be overwhelmed if they manage too large a team - you can pick Scrum Masters which can be a senior person on the team to do the work of monitoring and ushering the process. Trying to do this at the 1-1 level will also be overwhelming and can lead to unproductive micro-managing. Be open that this is a living process, not every structure will work for every team. Be willing to adapt and try new things; but be weary of switching process to often and making sweeping changes. Let the workflow adjust organically and over time. There will be a productivity decrease initially but it should return and could even increase. This process can be brought back into the office setting as well. Analogous Article on Software- ramming-techniques-and.html
  26. Operational Meetings Camera - Agenda - Don’t Overwhelm the schedule with meetings. Are they completely necessary, do all attendees need to be here. Consider a Focus Day with no meetings. Focus Fridays Thoughtful Thursdays..
  27. Social Gatherings ● Schedule Friday afternoon drinks online ○ Everyone gets on the video conferences as a team and just shoots the breeze ● Wacky Wednesday ○ Where a different hat all day or a costume or a fun shirt. ● Keep your culture even while remote ○ Make these required to start - you’ll get into the groove, some people may join for 5 minutes. ○ You do have to somewhat force the online culture and it feels awkward. ● Have other channels in slack for non-work talk ○ #watercooler, #coffee, #3dprinting, #tools, #letpeoplecreatechannels to socialize in ● Make it your own remote culture - take suggestions from your team
  28. Impromptu Communications Respect Boundaries Even slack at 11pm - especially from a manager might elicit a response off hours. Can it wait until the work day - be a role model Is it the right method of communication? Go back to the urgency scale, when is a response needed?
  29. Construction Specific Tracking / Commenting / Tasks True Cloud Based Systems (SaaS) Document Management Field Communication
  30. Tracking / Commenting / Tasks ● Be sure to over comment and update tasks or tracking documents / software. ● Use CRMs or Collaboration tools like Thunderbolt Pipeline ( to ensure anyone can see the current status without the need for a phone call or a message. ● Keep Channels for Projects in tools like Slack - keep internal communications out of email as much as possible - or at least save these emails in tools. ● Keep Tasks Updated at least daily with the latest status or blocker. (Set 30 min time blocks in your calendar to do this update every day) (Time blocking can be used for email checking too)
  31. True Cloud Based or SaaS Applications As part of a flexible workforce On Premise Solutions are becoming outdated. Hard to maintain, expensive and overly burdensome on the Construction Company. ● Use the “slower” times of year to research. Focus on Bid Tracking, Estimating, Project Management, Field Tools, Accounting / ERP, Time Management. ● Look for applications that allow customizations even for a cost - these may be expensive to begin but matching your workflow will make it quicker and easier for your team to adapt. ● Integrations - Applications that have open or closed integrations ( api or will customize/integrate to match your workflow)
  32. Document Management If you are still using paper you are behind. Move to Online Documents, first and easiest step to becoming remote. ● Online Spreadsheets, Google Drive, One, Drop Box ● Store PDF/Scans - Get Forms into online form applications like Google Forms at the very lease. ● Use a Bid Management tool with File Attachments, Plangrid or an ERP system. ● Best to keep documents in a contextual manor - with project and allow for notes. ● Keeping documents stored on a server in your office is a disaster waiting to happen. If that drive fails you could lose everything. Cloud Storage is safe.
  33. Field Communication ● Phone calls and voice messages can slow production down. ● Use Mobile Versions of applications like Slack ● Goal here is to decrease WAIT waste, both on ? side and Answer side. ● Can more than one person answer the question? Ask question to all people at once in a tool that can do this ● Does the answer need to be shared with others? If in phone or email this answer can be lost - ask the question in the right forum ● Mobile Version of existing applications
  34. Questions that have been asked ● How were we supposed to plan for something like this? (Specifically around IT things) ○ Business Continuity Planning - Bi Annual Meetings to think about scenarios ○ Construction companies already thinking about if equipment goes down or materials are delayed, think like this but at a higher level. ○ IT companies have planning in place for disasters like Amazon computing centers being destroyed. ● Other Questions?
  35. Additional Resources / Websites
  36. Working From Home ● ● ● ● edium=social&utm_source=voicestorm&hootPostID=51a539b7-c9a0-4590-b993-dd84f712e777 ● ● ●
  37. Questions? Thunderbolt Innovation LLC Sean Hussey 1 (888) 335-6234 53 Washington St Suite 300 Dover, NH 03820