Flexible working in the construction sector requires flexible thinking

Flexible working in the construction and engineering sector requires an approach that suits individuals’ and business’ needs; and what works for an office based role may not work for operational teams.

That was one of the findings of the "Unlocking Flexible Working" webinar which launched The Inspiring Women in Construction and Engineering programme on 8 March, International Women’s Day, which is now available to view on demand below.

Chaired by NCE editor Claire Smith, webinar speakers included Bam UK and Ireland executive director people Andrea Singh, Kier head of diversity and inclusion Tracey Collins and Timewise director Amy Butterworth.

The discussion confirmed that flexibility should not be “prescriptive” but should be viewed “simply as a different way of working that suits an individual's needs.”

The different role types in construction and engineering – be they desk-based or site roles, also needed consideration, while construction and engineering’s “unique challenges” with projects typically working to very rigid deadlines and complex supply chains, were also a factor.

The discussion found a strong business case for moving to flexible working, primarily in terms of attraction and retention of talent.

Another benefit was the link between performance and well-being, with research showing “a dramatic decrease in sickness absence” over the span of a year in which organisations had tracked their sickness absences.

Also important was the potential to re-think the role and training of management, with line managers increasingly being asked to manage teams in new ways, requiring new levels of maturity and receptiveness in understanding individual and team needs.

There was also potential to re-examine the current legislative framework, speakers confirmed; this supports a standard “request and response” model where an employee asks for flexibility and the employer responds, but could benefit from a more strategic, negotiated approach going forward.

Overall, organisations should also be thinking more proactively about flexibility at point of hire as well as for their existing workforce.

And critically it was vital to ensure that the concept of flexible working was fully embedded in organisations’ thinking about workforce management across all areas of the business, the speakers concluded.

Smith concluded the event with revealing details about this year's Inspiring Women in Construction and Engineering Awards and Conference, which will take place on 4 October. Click here for full details.

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