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Industry Insight Tips & Advice Uncategorized

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Mental health awareness has skyrocketed in recent years. With celebrities, athletes, and public figures bringing this once-hushed topic into our daily lives, many industries are having long-overdue conversations. The construction industry needs to be one of them.

More so than almost any other type of business, the people who make up the construction industry are dangerously susceptible to poor mental health. In fact, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center places construction as the industry with the second-highest rate of suicide, behind only the mining, quarrying, and gas extraction industry. That’s a statistic that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The issue is this: overall mental health in the construction industry can’t improve if the tough conversations don’t come up and leadership doesn’t take action. Let’s take a deeper dive into mental health awareness in the construction industry and what we can do to improve it.

What is mental health?

While it’s one of the most affected industries, construction as a whole doesn’t talk much about mental health—in fact, the topic is often looked down upon. For that reason, folks who spent their whole lives building things might not be overly aware of what mental health truly is.

According to the CDC, mental health is “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”

And, here’s a critical distinction: mental health and mental illness are not the same things. These terms are not interchangeable, and someone experiencing poor mental health is not necessarily suffering from a mental illness. This is an aspect of mental health that the construction industry needs to recognize.

Why is mental health in the construction industry so poor?

Before we can take steps to improve the mental health of the people that make up the construction industry, we have to identify what the issues are.

First, understand that stress is a major factor affecting the mental health of the construction industry. Long workdays, delays, employment uncertainty, contract disputes, and the generally physically taxing nature of the industry all wear people down. When you also consider the amount of money on the line for many contracts, the stakes are incredibly high for the industry. 

Employees are often afraid to take a sick day or leave early for fear of it affecting their jobs, as well. Rather than stay home when sick, hurt, or suffering from mental health challenges, they come to work out of fear they’ll be fired, scolded, or berated. 

We also need to look at the demographics of the industry. Construction is—and has thus far been—male-dominated, with men making up approximately 90 percent of the workforce. As a whole, males are less likely to discuss mental health than women for fear of being seen as weak or unable to cope with their challenges. As a result, they never reach out for mental health guidance, which is evident in the construction industry.

This is also an issue perpetuated through generations. The older generations never discussed mental health or even recognized that it could be an issue. By handing down trade secrets, techniques, and wisdom to the newer generations, they’ve unknowingly transferred this closed-off mindset toward mental health.

With this closed-off mindset comes the inability to recognize the signs of mental health distress or find healthy ways to improve it. Instead, depression, diminished physical health, high blood pressure, substance abuse, and other “accepted” issues plague the industry, many stemming from the taboo surrounding mental health. 

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Construction Industry

Thus far, it’s been a very bleak outlook for the construction industry’s mental health. But, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. With a bit of awareness and encouragement, construction doesn’t have to suffer as it always has.

1. Improve Company Culture

Company culture has a lot to do with the stress that its employees feel. A rush-rush, hectic company that ignores accomplishments and harps on mistakes is not a great place for anyone to work, and it will take its toll on mental health.

Instead of that volatile environment, strive to improve company culture:

  • Recognize employees for their hard work
  • Throw events to show your crew you appreciate them
  • Have quarterly seminars with guest speakers and free lunches
  • Encourage employees to sign up for training
  • Allow employees to use their PTO time responsibly
  • Encourage breaks during the day

There are more approaches to take as well. While none of them improve mental health directly, they do create an atmosphere where employees feel valued.

2. Educate Employees

Many of the most affected employees don’t recognize the signs of poor mental health. For that reason, education is critical.

There is employee well-being training that will come to a workplace and educate the employees about mental health. This will inevitably be met with groans and eye-rolling, but with the right trainer, a lot of good things can happen. Holding regularly scheduled training keeps the conversation rolling, and as employees find benefits or takeaways, those training will begin to pay dividends.

3. Give Your Employees the Opportunity for Help

Even when someone recognizes that they aren’t feeling like themselves, they might not know where to turn. An Employee Assistance Program (or EAP for short) gives them that first step. These programs help with not only mental health at work but also the effects everyday life can have on a person. 

Also, provide your employees with contact information for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other similar programs.

4. Make Mental Health Awareness Part of the New Generation

One way to improve your company’s approach to mental health awareness is to sow the seeds early with the new generation. Whenever onboarding a new employee, be sure to discuss your training, sick day policies, and EAP so they know that their well-being matters. Just make certain that you hold up your end of the deal.

While this is certainly a “long game” approach, it’s much like farming for a healthier company. Planting the seeds with this generation will help remove the stigma over time and create a healthier, more accepting work environment where conversations about mental health are more normalized and less taboo.

5. Make Awareness Start at the Top

Construction is a taxing and tolling business, and successful business owners, project managers, foremen, and supervisors have all taken their share of blows. It’s important to understand that for mental health awareness to truly take hold, it needs to start with these leaders.

First, business owners need to believe in something if they expect their employees to follow suit. Attending their own training, reaching out for assistance when their backs are against the wall, and having these difficult conversations are all critical. Only then can the belief trickle down to the managers and supervisors. With management on board, the boots on the ground will have the support they need to take care of themselves and their mental health.

It Takes Awareness

Improving the mental health of the construction industry as a whole requires awareness. Once we’re able to remove the stigma surrounding asking for help, we might be able to lower the rate of suicides, depression, and health conditions while also improving productivity and safety. With the tips outlined in this article, change is within the industry’s reach. 

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. See how we can help your construction company to work smarter. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

 

 

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Tips & Advice

Is Manual Data Entry Costing Your Business? Why Automation is the Solution

If you think that investing in software to automate your systems will cost you more money than doing everything manually, you’re not alone. Many businesses operate under the assumption that paying for automation is more expensive than paying people to do things. The truth is there are hidden costs to doing things by hand, and those costs can significantly affect your bottom line.

We’re going to look at the hidden costs you may not realize you’re incurring by doing your data entry manually. The magnitude of some may surprise you.

1. Increased error rate

Workers entering data manually, without verification, can have an error rate as high as 4%. That means for every 50 entries, two are wrong. In an experiment in 2009, it was shown that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. This is the nature of human data entry.

When errors involve money, the stakes are high. These errors could lead to over-and underpayments, over-and undercharging customers, disruptions to the accounting and auditing processes, and may lead to financial trouble. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

2. It takes time

Manual data entry takes time. The average typist can perform 10,000 to 15,000 keystrokes per hour. Depending on the amount of data and its form, it can take even the fastest typist hours to perform data entry. If the data requires comprehension or analysis before entry, this slows down the process even more.

It could take a competent operator between 8 and 10 minutes to enter 400 units of data. This may not seem like much, but if the volume of data is high, it can cost your company valuable time that could be spent on other workflows, like analyzing the data.

3. Can’t focus on important business tasks

With so much time spent ensuring that the data entered is correct and finding and fixing errors, there is no time left to work on the business. Managers spend their time ensuring that the data they’re reporting is accurate and less time actually analyzing that data. A survey found that 37% of manufacturing professionals don’t trust the reliability of manually entered data when making strategic decisions. If you can’t trust the data you’re getting from your team, how can you grow your business or take on additional work?

4. Inhibits business growth

When management receives data, it often makes decisions based on that information, whether it’s correct or not. These decisions may inhibit the growth of the business. For example, a costly mistake can lead managers to believe a project is over budget when it’s not. They then make moves to cut company spending to protect the company, when instead, they should be investing in future growth.

5. Hidden costs

Most companies think automation costs more than entering data by hand. The truth is there are hidden costs to entering data manually. There’s the obvious labor to enter the data, then more labor to check for mistakes, and more labor to fix the mistakes. At each level, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to detect and correct mistakes.

It has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. In particular, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

6. It’s boring

Continually spending days or hours doing mindless data entry can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. When workers spend hours keying in the same information, they are bound to lose focus, which increases errors and leads to frustration. Data entry work is repetitive and tedious. 55% of employees in a survey cited the collection, uploading, and synching of data as the least productive part of manual data entry. When employees don’t feel productive, their morale lowers and they are then more prone to make mistakes.

Automation is the solution

How can companies save themselves the time and money that is lost through manual data entry processes? Automating as much as possible is one way to recoup these costs. By using machine learning and automation, the software can automate much of the data entry process, leading to fewer mistakes and speeding up the process.

Premier Software uses AI, machine learning, and automation to speed up invoice entry and other repetitive tasks, so you can spend time working on your business and less time entering data. For a demo of how our automation works to save you time and money, schedule one today.Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

 

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

9 Reasons You Need Drawing Management

Drawings are the backbone of every construction project. Without correct drawings, the work completed may be incorrect or not needed at all. With so many drawings being issued for even the simplest of projects, keeping them organized is imperative for project teams to work successfully. Drawing management software provides the organization and features that teams need to complete their projects on time and on budget.

We’ve put together nine reasons why you need a drawing management system to help you stay on top of your project and your work.

1. Version control

It’s crucial that project teams work off the latest revisions of the drawings and specifications as the project progresses. New drawings may be issued periodically based on changes to the design or RFI responses. Keeping up with these changes can be confusing and difficult if you don’t have a system to keep it all straight.

Version control tracks the latest version of each drawing and ensures that you’re always looking at the most current one. This ensures the team is always up to date and working off the correct drawings.

2. Central storage

Teams often have multiple places they store their drawings, some on local computers, in Dropbox, in email attachments, etc. With a central storage location for all drawings, you reduce the number of places you have to look for a specific file. This can save hours of frustration and search.

A central storage system keeps all drawings in the same place so everyone can have access when they need it.

3. Markup ability

Changes happen in every job. With a drawing management system, you can digitally markup drawings to document questions or changes to the drawings. You can highlight changes with bubble clouds and mark as-built locations for utilities, walls, and other features of the project.

The ability to digitally markup drawings allows teams to keep a live as-built set in the system. Everyone can access it and know exactly where things ended up.

4. Connect drawings to other correspondence

Drawing management systems allow teams to tag RFI locations and link them with the corresponding questions, then markup changes on the drawing based on the response. They can also tag change order locations and associate them with the appropriate CO. Now when someone asks why a specific change was made, teams can go to the electronic drawing tool and immediately see the RFI and response that caused the change.

Open communication is key during construction projects, especially those with lots of changes. The ability to connect drawings to other correspondence allows teams to instantly see when and why changes were made.

5. Security and controls

With drawing management tools, you can set security permissions to allow team members to see only those documents that they need to see. This keeps sensitive data and trademarks safe from those who don’t need to have that information.

Keeping data safe and secure is important in any data management system. By setting security permissions on a need-to-know basis, you protect your client’s trademarks and trade secrets.

6. Cloud storage

Storing drawings in the cloud allows all team members to have access from any device with an internet connection. No more searching in folders or trying to locate links, all the drawings are on the tool and everyone who has access can easily see them. Cloud storage also provides limitless data storage, allowing multiple large projects to be stored in the cloud.

Cloud storage provides easy access from any device for all team members who have permissions.

7. Easy to archive

As electronic drawings are marked up throughout the project, the record creates an as-built set that can be accessed at any time during the project. Team members can easily see how the documents have changed versus the original design. All changes are recorded in the electronic version visible from any device.

The ability to create an as-built set at any time during the project improves communication with the owner and speeds up the project closeout process.

8. Search capabilities

Optical character recognition allows the software to locate specific keywords within the drawings. Teams can search for specific terms or location names and find them instantly without searching through all the pages.

Searching for keywords in the drawing tool saves teams hours looking through individual sheets.

9. Avoid added work or rework

Teams can avoid rework and performing added work that wasn’t necessary by always using the latest version of the drawings available. Having a drawing management system ensures that the latest version is accessible with a click of a button, as opposed to searching through folders and documents. The system will also document the receipt of specific drawings, so the information can be used if a dispute arises.

Teams can avoid rework when they work from the latest versions of the drawings and can document receipt of new versions.

Save time and money with drawing management

Drawing management systems should make your life easier, not create more work. They can help keep teams organized, help them find the information they need, and save time and money searching for documents.

When looking for the best drawing management software for your team, make sure it has the features above and fits your workflow. To find out if Premier Construction Software is a good fit for your team, contact us today.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

A Way of Attracting Younger Construction Workers? Technology.

Many construction industry companies are looking for ways to attract the younger generations to work with them so their businesses can continue on into the future. But with a labor shortage throughout the country, and particularly in construction, companies have to work harder to attract younger workers.

The answer to the question of how to reach younger workers and encourage them to join the industry is technology. By updating systems and software, using the latest in tech gear, and focusing on recruiting young workers, construction companies can make the industry attractive again.

An aging workforce

Workers younger than 25 make up only 9% of the total construction industry workforce. Roughly 40% of workers in the industry are 45–64. And according to data from the Center for Construction Research and Training, workers aged 55 and over increased from 17% in 2011 to 22% in 2018.

Add to that the fact that the industry has struggled to attract younger workers and it’s a recipe for a shortage in the near future. High school students are encouraged to go to college and choose a career path from there. The trades and other construction-related occupations are not given as much fanfare.

Contractors are complaining about the lack of skilled workers available, but the truth is the industry doesn’t do a good enough job attracting potential workers. The younger generations have grown up with technology by their side and have come to rely on it for every aspect of their lives. However, construction has been slow to adopt new technology, and many workers still rely on outdated resources to perform their work.

If contractors and other construction companies want to attract younger workers, they’ve got to adopt the latest in technology. This will allow them to take advantage of the benefits of younger workers’ skills. Students in construction management programs are getting trained on the use of scheduling software, project management software, estimating software, and electronic material takeoff. Administrative and accounting professionals are being trained using new software with new functionalities. Asking highly trained workers to use outdated programs discounts the education they worked so hard to get.

By asking workers to use systems they are not familiar with also slows down the training time and increases costs. Companies that still do manual takeoffs will struggle to teach a Millenial worker about scales and manual calculations. This leads to a longer onboarding process, costing companies more money while they wait for a new worker to become productive.

Upgrade your tools

Companies that want to attract younger workers need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology can offer. You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge, but there’s a lot of researched and tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech to help match the skill sets, education, and training those future workers are receiving.

Accounting

In accounting education students are quickly trained on the debits and credits, then they are moved to software. While most construction companies use accounting software, not many use software specifically designed for the industry. QuickBooks and other general-purpose accounting software can be useful when a company is starting out, but as they grow and want to attract a higher level of talent, industry-specific software becomes a necessity.

Since construction accounting is so different than any other industry, using industry-specific software becomes even more important. Trying to show someone the intricacies of construction accounting using software that isn’t built for those intricacies can lead to a lot of confusion. New workers need a straightforward process that often isn’t available when using generic software.

Project management

Students in construction management programs are learning project management and documentation by using software packages. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using an Excel spreadsheet. If companies aren’t using these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest.

Estimating and takeoff

When it comes to estimating and material takeoffs, integration is the key. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create project estimates and do material takeoffs. Those amounts then need to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. By integrating and automating the estimating takeoff process, companies can improve speed and accuracy. Both of these lead to more work and higher profits.

Scheduling

Scheduling software allows project managers to build dependencies and relationships between tasks on a project. This makes updating the schedule a lot easier because tasks automatically move depending on their predecessors. Having to spend hours manually updating a schedule can be costly.

In addition, some schedules can be imported into the project management system, allowing the team to view the day’s activities and adjust the schedule as needed.

Update your software with Premier

By implementing the latest in technology and bringing processes into the 21st century, construction companies can attract younger, skilled workers. Companies that do not upgrade will continue to struggle to recruit new workers and attract the best and brightest.

If your company is ready to upgrade your accounting and project management software, contact us to see a demo of Premier Construction Software.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

 

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Accounting Industry Insight

How to Create a Time & Materials Billing for Construction Projects

In our final article series covering the main types of billing methods in the construction industry, we’ll be discussing time & materials billing and its key benefits.

Some general contractors prefer time and materials billing, as it shifts most of the risks onto their customers. Any costs incurred come out of the customer’s pocket, not the contractor’s. This format allows them to focus on their profits and concern themselves less with the unpredictable nature of contracting. 

While the time and materials agreements are straightforward, the act of putting together a bill can be daunting. Contractors have to collect all the receipts for all of the materials they purchased throughout the course of the project (possibly with mark-up), account for manpower, and add any support documentation that the customer requests. Factor in time for manual data entry (and the mistakes that tend to come along with it), and the process gets even more convoluted. 

Thankfully, Premier Construction Software provides a time and material billing solution that quickly and easily generates accurate, professional invoices.  

What is time and materials billing?

A time and materials billing format involves the contractor charging the customer for, quite literally, time and materials. The contractor bills for every man-hour spent on the project, as well as for any materials purchased for that job. Labor rates are typically outlined in a simple format in the contract, though these rates can vary depending on the tradesperson working on the project.

On top of the labor rates and materials costs, some time and materials contracts allow the contractor to mark the cost of the materials up a bit. Again, this is something the contract will clearly outline, but it does help the contractor maintain a healthier profit margin. Should the customer decide to use high-end materials, the contractor’s profit will grow accordingly. 

To calculate a time and materials invoice, a contract needs to multiply the man-hours by the agreed-upon rate for each trade, and then add it to the materials costs (plus the markup, if contractually allowed). This is a very transparent billing format where the customer is aware of everything other than the hourly rate you’re paying your crew.  

Time and materials contracts are most suitable for projects where the scope isn’t crystal clear. If the customer is undecided on materials, direction, or the project is ripe for unforeseen costs, time and materials contracts help keep the contractor and customer on the same page. It also does away with pinpoint estimating, allowing contractors to get to work right away.

This billing format does hold a few disadvantages for the customer. Contractors have to be meticulous with record-keeping, from receipts to man-hours. One missed expense and the profit margin shrinks. Also, the costs to get the project off the ground are on the contractor’s shoulders, making timely accurate documentation and timely billing a sink-or-swim proposition.

How to calculate a time and materials billing

The first step for a contractor to be successful under a time and materials contract is meticulously detailed record keeping. This includes documenting labor, equipment rentals or purchases, and materials. 

Contractors need to log each of those costs into Premier Construction Software’s accounting system to ensure the contractor can charge for them when it’s time to bill. They also need to consolidate any separate ledgers, time logs, or job cost entries with the job. Any cost accidentally left out or forgotten comes directly out of the contractor’s profit. 

Creating your bill is easy. While you’re in the time and materials billing module, simply select the costs and labor hours to add. You can set each cost to bill with the current invoice, save them for later, or mark them as never bill. 

Once you select all of the costs and their billing designations, Premier Construction Software will automatically calculate the invoice. The system will automatically determine the appropriate rate for each man-hour by the labor code. And, if the contract allows, you can set the time and materials billing module to add set percentages for materials markups.

Once you review the invoice, Premier Construction Software will send the bill automatically via email to your customer. Your customer will be able to open the invoice from any internet-enabled device, drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to get paid.

What documents should be included with a time and materials billing?

Top view of general contractor working on aia application for time and materials billing

Each project has different billing requirements, including what supporting documents the customer wants included with the invoice. Luckily, Premier Construction Software’s document management system makes it easy.

Most time and material billings will include the following backup:

Invoice – The invoice should provide a summary of the amount. It should include the number of man-hours, and the labor rate, material expenses, and the overall markup.

Transaction list – Include a detailed report of the labor hours and costs for which you’re billing. The customer will want to review this list for accuracy and use it for their own reporting purposes.

Copies of invoices and receipts – Most customers will want copies of your accounts payable invoices that are being used to determine the invoice amount. They’ll also likely want to see any store receipts for smaller purchases. 

You can spend hours tracking these down and making copies, or you can use Premier Construction Software’s document management tool to automatically add copies of pertinent invoices to the email that goes to your customer.

Copies of timesheets or certified payroll reports – Customers may also want to review copies of your employee timesheets showing the hours worked on their project. 

If the project is prevailing wage, you may also have to provide certified payroll reports. These reports list all the employees on the project, the hours they worked each week, and certify that they were paid the correct wages and benefits.

Lien releases or waivers – Some customers may require copies of lien releases or waivers from your vendors and subcontractors as proof that they have been paid.

Time and material billing doesn’t have to be a waste of time

Preparing a time and materials bill for construction projects requires a keen eye for detail. Being able to put your finger, or mouse, on every receipt and timesheet that applies to a project will ensure you aren’t leaving money on the table. And, the faster and more accurate this process is, the better. 

Using Premier Construction Software’s document management system with the time and materials billing module will streamline your time and materials billing process. You’ll be able to create accurate invoices instantly, free from missed line items or forgotten costs. And, with electronic signatures, you’ll even reduce the amount of time it takes to get paid.

If your team struggles with assembling time and material billings, let us show you a simpler, easier way. Book a call with one of our representatives today to see it live.