Flexible working boosts wellbeing among construction workers, study finds

Experts say pilot project proves ‘beyond a doubt’ that even complex, site-based industries can successfully implement flexible policies

The provision of flexible working has been shown to lead to a massive improvement in wellbeing among construction workers with no effects on project budgets or deadlines, research has discovered.

A study, conducted by Timewise, found that introducing flexible working increased the number of workers who felt they had enough time to look after their own health and wellbeing from 48 per cent to 84 per cent – a 75 per cent increase.

Similarly, the percentage of workers who said they regularly worked beyond their contracted hours dropped from 51 per cent to 34 per cent, while the proportion who said they felt guilty for starting later or finishing earlier than colleagues also fell from 47 per cent to 33 per cent.

Trust in colleagues working remotely also increased, with the number of workers saying they were unsure someone working from home was working as hard as them falling from 48 per cent to 33 per cent.

The findings are the results of the Timewise Construction Pioneers programme, through which the flexible working consultancy worked with Build UK and four of the UK’s biggest construction companies to pilot different forms of flexibility.

Among others, these included earlier starts and finishes, output-based working, staggered start times and a ‘flexi-day approach’ where workers were allowed to take a day off a month in lieu of additional hours worked.

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The pilots were conducted with teams of between 14 and 120 workers over an 18-month period, and found that all of the projects were complete without any negative impact on deadline or budget.

Emma Stewart, director of development at Timewise, said the programme proved “beyond doubt” that flexible working worked even in complex, site-based industries such as construction.

“Wellbeing and balance should be possible to achieve for the whole workforce – not just those in office roles,” said Stewart. “Working practices no longer need to be a block to attracting the best and most diverse possible talent.”

However, the report said that because of the “complex operational barriers” faced by sectors such as construction, firms looking to implement flexible working needed have in place a strategic roadmap.

“Timewise strongly recommends that all firms carefully trial their plans to increase flexible working, on one or two sites, before rolling out,” the report said, adding that firms should consider what flexible options could be made available and should consult HR teams to ensure their flexible working policies are fair and inclusive.

Suzannah Nichol MBE, chief executive of Build UK, also urged firms to share their experiences of flexible working.

“By sharing what works, we can help companies across the sector create the working environment that will attract and retain a diverse workforce, making construction a positive career choice for everyone,” she said.