Managing the New Normal of Working from Home


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By: Allyson Grove,

Many of?us?in the preconstruction industry are adjusting to working from home
in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. By this time, you’ve probably secured the basic technology, such as laptops, HDMI cables, additional monitors, extra keyboards and a mouse. But that’s just the beginning of the story.  

As someone who spends her workdays training cost estimators and project managers, I know that working remotely can bring a whole new set of challenges. Whether you are brand new to working from home or if you’ve done it before (albeit sparingly), let me offer a few tips and tricks that will make the adjustment a little more manageable.  

Have a Designated Workspace  

First, carving out a place that will serve as your remote office is key. Some construction pros may have a small office area or at least a desk that you can retrofit for now. Others may have to use the kitchen table or grab a folding card table from the basement. You’ll also need to find a suitable chair so you’re not hunched over or in an uncomfortable position all day.  

Having a designated workspace allows you to leave your office setup in place from day-to-day. (If you’re working from the kitchen table, perhaps you can eat in another spot for a while.) Having this area will help you to “unplug” and separate your construction work life from your home life. This can be challenging—especially if other family members, such as your children, are also home right now. 

Accept Some Inevitable Distractions 

Along those same lines, it’s helpful to realize that we all need to make allowances for certain things during this time. For example, kids, spouses, or even pets may be heard—or seenin the background on conference calls with others in your business. No matter your role—whether you’re an architect, an estimator, or a subcontractor—this is likely to occur at some point.  

Also, doorbells may ring when you’re in the middle of conducting online training or on the phone with your material supplier. Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, loud motorcycles, or other outdoor sounds will inevitably make concentrating more difficult from time to time. If you’re used to visiting the jobsite, you may already be accustomed to these distractions. 

Without a doubt, these things can affect our productivity—whether you’re trying to finalize a bid or catch up with your work crew. But they also remind us that we’re doing the best we can during these challenging days. Your colleagues will understand because they’re likely in the same situation—or could be very soon. We should see those moments as good opportunities to smile and invite a few moments of levity and understanding. 

Keep to a Schedule 

Try to maintain a set work schedule. If possible, begin and end your workday at the same time you normally would. Doing so can help keep your productivity as consistent as possible. It can also make it easier for your colleagues to get in touch with you to review the details of a project, especially if the pandemic is prompting changes on the fly and decisions need to be made quickly.  

However, with so many of us having other family members at home with us, maintaining your typical work schedule may be more challenging. In that case, it’s best to discuss the situation with your manager to see what accommodations can be made to adjust your workday. There will be—no doubt—some long days as the coronavirus causes construction project delays and cancellations. 

Remember to Take Breaks 

On a normal day at the office (or the job site), you’d likely take a couple breaks and grab some lunch. You should also be sure to do the same while working from home. No matter your construction trade or role, this can help you maintain a consistent structure for your workday.  

During those breaks, make sure you get up from your desk as much as possible—just like you do at the office or on the jobsite. Consider walking around your house for a few minutesor even going out into your yard (if that’s an option). Fitting in a few minutes of light exercise can also help to refresh your mind and may even spark new ideas and strategies for a problem or situation you’ve been struggling with for a long time.  

Reach OutBut Don’t Touch Someone 

Finally, communication is more important than ever as we adjust to not seeing colleagues in person. As a result, consider choosing to call co-workers to discuss the details of an upcoming construction project, rather than email or text. Talking by phone can help you to reconnect with your peers and see how they are handling the current situation 

In addition, because everyone’s minds are occupied with so many different things right now, verbal communication is often the best way to avoid any misinterpretations about meaning or intent. This is especially true when trying to choose projects to bid or finalizing a bid.  

Likewise, when attending virtual meetings from home, think about switching on your webcam, even if you typically don’t do so while at the office. Seeing your colleagues’ faces will foster a renewed sense of community and teamwork. It can also be a morale booster for your team to see one another and know you’re all getting through this situation together—one day at a time. 

Allyson Grove is a Product Training Specialist at On Center Software by ConstructConnect. She delivers best-in-class training to construction industry professionals. Her passion is helping estimators and project managers sharpen their takeoff and estimating skills and win more bids. 


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