B002 – Boss: “As Long as You Get Your Work Done.” Me: “Yeah Right! 😏”

Who – This text focuses on work hours for salaried employees in the construction industry, but I’m sure employees in other industries can relate.

The nature of the business (early concrete pours, office work when field crews are gone, weekend hours to meet deadlines, etc.) makes it almost impossible for construction managers to have a regular 9-5 job experience. In addition, work-life balance is a myth for some people who are forced to work long hours due to inefficiencies in the office and in the field and due to the type of projects they work on. In general, if your responsibilities include supporting activities in the field, the expectation is most likely a 50-hour work week or more.

There’s often a silent competition in the office to see who’s showing up first 💪 and who’s the last person to leave 💪. And let’s be honest, sometimes this aspect of the construction culture is not so silent, especially when the least productive employee gets rewarded for his/her long hours and others get penalized or reprimanded when they leave before 5:00PM (even after a very productive day). We’ve all heard these passive-aggressive jokes:

“Oh, Mr. Half-Day” (when you leave before 5:00PM)

“Thanks for showing up today” (when you show up at 7:15AM and there’s an unwritten rule about work starting at 7:00AM)

“Nice of you to show up this morning” (when you show up at 9AM because your kid is sick)

So, yeah … I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “As long as you get your work done.” Yet, we still associate value creation with the number of hours spent at work and refuse to focus on finding ways to increase productivity as a team. This #FirstOneToShowUp and #LastOneToLeave culture can put a lot of unnecessary pressure on green employees who care more about doing meaningful work than anything else. No one should have to fake bringing their laptop home 🙈.

How do we start creating a culture that rewards productivity instead of long hours in the office? Maybe there’s not a formula that will work on every project, but here are a few things to consider when trying to solve this problem at the project and corporate levels.

  • Hire people with strong work ethics to eliminate the need for babysitters.
  • Hire the right people (skills + experience) for the job and find ways to promote training and encourage knowledge transfer between coworkers.
  • Hire enough people for the job.
  • Eliminate or improve internal processes that used to make sense 30 years ago.
  • Avoid making people feel bad about getting some rest or taking a break to reenergize. No one is Superwoman or Superman. Going home to get some rest or staying in bed for an extra hour or two after having worked a 12-hour shift on the previous day should be ok if it helps you be more productive.
  • Eliminate/Avoid useless meetings and conference calls 😩. These meetings push people to stay in the office to get actual work done after 5PM.
  • Plan the work and work the plan. A serious lack of planning puts everyone on reactive mode and the team ends up putting in more hours than necessary.
  • Hold everyone accountable. When there is a lack of accountability on a project, the A-players are picking up the slack, and they may be working more hours than they should.
  • Please try not to schedule a mandatory meeting with your Project Engineer at 6AM when you know his/her commute takes 2 hours. And, one last thing, no meetings on Fridays at 4:30PM please 😂. #JustKidding #NotReally

What has been your experience so far?

Thanks for reading. Happy building! 👊

Olivier Coquillo

Author, Construction Managers #Hired2Win

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