Timewise, the flexible working consultants have launched the Construction Pioneers programme, an action research project looking at how to re-design jobs to enable more flexible working in the construction industry

The Construction Pioneers programme has been designed for construction businesses to maximise the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility and diversity. 

The first four Construction Pioneers to take part, are: Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon. It is thought the project will enhance flexible working for 13,400 employees.

Shift-based environments often have specific operating constraints that make it harder for employers to offer truly flexible jobs.

Recent Timewise research found less than 5% of adverts for frontline construction jobs contain any reference to flexible working options. This is 10% below the UK industry average (15%). And yet there is demand from the workforce for better flexibility.

Led by Timewise, and steered by Build UK, the Construction Pioneers programme has been designed around four aims:

  • Pilot new approaches to make flexible working ‘work’ in the construction industry.
  • Help the industry attract and retain talent, and tackle skill shortages.
  • Help employers become more inclusive.
  • Share insights to influence wider industry change.

The Construction Pioneers project will:

  • Focus on frontline, onsite jobs, i.e. those which are typically seen as roles that cannot be done flexibly.
  • Explore how to design roles with flexibility built-in.

Insights from the project will be shared to help meet a range of goals in the industry such as improving overall wellbeing and mental health; tackling the long-hours culture; attracting a diverse talent pool, including more women, and retaining more men, particularly in later life.

Timewise’s Innovation Unit, which creates flexible working pilot programmes specifically for the sector, aims to work with the Construction Pioneers to trial new ways to structure and manage shifts.

Following a detailed diagnostic, the four Pioneers will undertake a 12-16 month guided programme including workshops, training sessions, mentoring and consultancy support to introduce better flexible working. These pilot case studies will help the development of an industry-wide toolkit.

Emma Stewart MBE, CEO and co-founder of Timewise, said: “Many people think flexible working in the construction industry, with its long hour’s 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.”

Suzannah Nichol MBE, chief executive of Build UK, added: “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.”

Harvey Francis, executive vice president of Skanska, commented: “We are delighted to be part of this flexible working pilot. 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. A great opportunity.”

Andrea Singh, Executive Director of BAM Construct UK, added: “I am excited that BAM is part of this pioneering project and taking these first steps to reshape the future of our industry. We will all come to benefit from these essential changes.”