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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 Trends & Technology

How COVID Changed Construction

There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus has changed everyone’s life. Those who had it will never be the same, and those who haven’t still live in fear. The construction industry is not immune to these changes. From a drastic material shortage to new ways to collaborate, the industry will never be the same.

Here are five ways the construction industry has been impacted by COVID.

1. Materials shortage

There isn’t a trade that hasn’t been impacted by the materials shortage in some way. It started with factory shutdowns due to stay-at-home orders and was followed by a trucking and shipping labor shortage. Now we have hundreds of cargo ships stranded outside ports waiting to be offloaded.

The materials shortage started with lumber, then moved quickly to steel and other building materials. Now there isn’t anything that hasn’t been affected. Approximately 68% of contractors surveyed said they were experiencing material delays in the 2nd quarter of 2021. The shortage has delayed projects and caused prices to skyrocket. At one time lumber was up over 300% from the previous year! And now we have additional supply chain issues to deal with in the coming months. There doesn’t seem to be a quick answer to this one.

2. Health becomes a priority

Gone are the days of going to work when you are sick. Since almost any symptom could be a sign of the COVID virus, everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms was sent home. Workers were told not to come in if they felt sick. Then, once tests were available, we went to testing everyone and quarantining those who tested positive. Whole crews or job sites could be knocked out and the project placed on hold due to contact tracing and the required quarantining.

Now we are dealing with vaccines, mandates, and whether to mask or not. What started as a health issue has become a political hot potato. It’s left companies in employees wondering “what next?” Things won’t go back to normal anytime soon. Contractors developed new ways to track symptoms and contact traces using construction software packages.

3. New ways to collaborate

When the stay-at-home orders first came out, design teams could no longer travel or meet on job sites. Everyone that could work from home did, which made collaboration much more difficult. But teams rose to the occasion and found new tools they could use to work together. Tools like drawing collaboration were used to keep everyone informed of design changes. And Zoom calls became the norm as teams worked together to make it work.

Even building inspectors started doing inspections using photographs and video conferencing. This sped up the inspection process for all involved.

Cloud computing and web-based SaaS software have changed the ways teams collaborate. Since most were working from home and travel was restricted, being able to access documents and information from anywhere became a necessity, not a luxury. Cloud-based technology and construction

management software, like Premier, helped contractors stay connected, scale their operations without having to rely on human resources, make investments in their companies that eliminated time-consuming processes, and identify cash flow issues and problem projects early. Without such flexibility, many companies found it hard to operate in the new environment.

4. E-Signing became more popular

One thing that couldn’t stop was payments, and to keep the documents flowing many companies had to rely on electronic signatures. Although they’ve been legal for years, they gained in popularity during the pandemic. Some states, like Oregon, started accepting remote notaries, while others had been for years. A remote notary session involves the notary and signer getting together on a conference call to witness the signature. This makes it easier for lien waivers and other documents to be notarized so they don’t hold up payments.

The more electronic signatures were collected, the more document management became a necessity. Companies had to track lien waivers, subcontracts, contracts, change orders, and purchase orders and know when each had been signed. Construction management software, like Premier, allows contractors to keep these documents organized and know exactly who’s missing. You can seamlessly connect your e-signature software with Premier software to collect the signatures you need quickly and easily.

5. Materials cost increases force price increases

It started with lumber, rocketing 300 percent from its starting price, then other materials started raising their prices. Now gas prices are rising, along with other supplies for construction projects. As prices rose, contractors started to pass on those costs to their customers. The cost to frame a house more than doubled during the height of the lumber price spike.

Some customers delayed projects to try to avoid high material costs, while others just paid the price. Many contractors started adding price escalation clauses to their contracts to protect them in this volatile market.

Conclusion

We can only hope that someday we’ll be able to put this pandemic behind us and return to life as we knew it. Some of the changes to the construction industry caused by COVID are for the better, like making health a priority and the rise of collaboration. Other changes, however, like price increases and material shortages, are best left in the rearview mirror.

 

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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Uncategorized

Why Go Digital? The Future of Construction Management

The construction industry has traditionally been slow to adopt the technology. Many of its work processes are legacy solutions from decades ago, like spreadsheets and yellow notepads. Today’s workers are stuck in the process of trying to digitize an industry that has been stuck in the analog world for many generations.

However, contractors are beginning to realize that they no longer have a choice when it comes to embracing technology. Now it’s a race to decide who will be the first adopters to bring the industry into the future.

We’ve put together five reasons why construction companies need to go digital today.

Why go digital?

Save time and money

Many contractors run several software systems simultaneously – one for estimating, one for project management, and one for accounting. These systems often don’t talk to each other, and each system becomes its own information silo, creating obstructions to the flow of information. Each software system provides information, but it’s difficult or impossible to share that information with the other systems.

Companies soon develop workarounds like entering data by hand from one system to another or using spreadsheets to provide the information everyone needs. Some software systems allow data sharing through import/export, but it still takes time to capture the data, download it, then upload it to another system.

When workers have to manually enter data, there’s an increasing chance that mistakes will be made. Inaccurate information can lead teams to make wrong decisions that can have a profound effect on the financial success of projects over time.

All-in-one software packages create workflows that allow project teams to share data between departments without resorting to workarounds that can cause errors and lost productivity.

Attract a younger workforce

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

Construction management students are learning project management and documentation using the software. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using Excel and other legacy software. If contractors don’t adopt these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest in new talent.

Integration is key when it comes to estimating and material takeoffs. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create estimates and perform takeoffs. That data then has to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. Younger workers don’t understand why these systems are separated when there are so many options for integrating them.

Harness the power of new technology

New tech, like AI, machine learning, and automation are changing the landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes how machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models analyze projects for cost overages, schedule delays, and other potential issues. The software looks for similarities between past projects and current work, and from there it can predict potential problems and bring them to the contractor’s attention.

Machine learning is a subset of AI and uses statistical techniques and calculations to understand project data and gain insights. As more data is added to the machine learning model, the software is able to assimilate the information and refine its predictions in current situations. Contractors are using both machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects before they start so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project.

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is also gaining in popularity in construction. Construction management and accounting software systems use automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent errors. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and get notified when budget line items are over their limits. This automation helps ensure data is accurate and cost overruns are detected and managed.

Streamline your operations

With business growth responsibilities and processes are often developed organically. Employees do the best they can, but without a big picture view, they often create processes without knowing why. These processes certainly get the work done, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best way to do something.

The software can provide the overall structure needed to streamline processes that have grown cumbersome over time. With software as your guide, roles and responsibilities can be reorganized based on the most efficient way to perform a process.

Using an all-in-one system also simplifies record-keeping and data retrieval processes. Project records can be stored in the cloud, so now there’s only one place to look for information. Teams don’t have to search in multiple folders and software applications to find the information they need. It’s at the tip of their fingers 24/7.

Manage/control risk

Construction management software can help teams mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it can speed communication and document what’s being done to proactively address issues.

Project management software allows teams to see and address overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show outstanding items as well as who is responsible for those items. The software can also track health checks and other safety-related inspections that are required in today’s world. This daily reporting allows team members to see the status of various items and predict potential problems.

Having a central hub where documents are stored is a must, given the number that is created and distributed during a project. Document storage, version control, and distribution are easily managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are. The same is true for project correspondence. Team members have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. All communication is tracked and documented within the system, and specific items can easily be recalled in minutes.

Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can manage the project budget and costs from the site, without having to request information from the office.

Digital is changing the construction world

While the outside world and other industries transitioned from analog to digital several years ago, construction has always been behind the times. It’s only now that the industry has begun harnessing the power that has been available for decades. Tomorrow’s workers are better prepared for this change and are sure to lead the effort. See how smoothly Jonas Premier can assist you and your team in the process of going digital. Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use 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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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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Industry Insight Resources Tips & Advice

Automate & Standardize Construction Compliances

Contractors know the value of staying in compliance with their contracts and their customers – it can make or break the relationship. Keeping up with compliance requirements and ensuring that customers have all the information they need can leave those contractors without an organized process scrambling.

Developing a process, standardizing it, and using automation to carry out routine tasks improves efficiency and saves money. But you may wonder, how do you do this?

So, what is contract compliance?

Let’s start by getting clear on what contract compliance means in the construction industry. Contracts require certain documents and information from contractors so that project owners know that they are operating within the terms of the agreement.

There’s an almost endless list of items that could be requested in a project contract, and each contract is different. Contractors have to provide the requested information and documentation to ensure the owner that they are meeting the requirements, not only at the beginning of the project but throughout its life.

Here’s just a shortlist of information that may need to be communicated to a project owner to ensure compliance:

  • Licensing
  • Insurance
  • Bonding
  • Credit information
  • Background check
  • Union agreement
  • Lien requirements and notices
  • Safety and health information

Ensuring that these documents are received by the owner, meet the contract requirements, and remain up to date with all your clients can be difficult if you aren’t tracking them in an organized fashion.

Here are some suggestions to get started on standardizng and automating your contract compliance process.

1. Create a process

The first step to automating and standardizing your contract compliance process is to create one if you don’t have one already. If you already have a process, document it so everyone knows what it is.

The steps in a contract process may include:

  1. Contract intake and review
  2. List items that need to be sent for compliance
  3. Review list for any items you don’t already have
  4. Obtain/collect compliance documents
  5. Sign contract
  6. Return contract to client
  7. Review requirements regularly for ongoing compliance

Depending on the specific compliance requirements, more steps may be needed. Make the process as simple as possible but recognize that it needs to be flexible as well.

2. Define roles

Now that you have the process written down, you’ll need to define who is responsible for taking care of each part. Steps can be assigned to departments or specific employees, depending on the size of your company.

For each step in the process, define what needs to be done, who is going to do it, and when it will be completed. It’s important to set deadlines for the completion of tasks, as contracts are often time-driven, and you need to ensure that you’ll meet the deadlines listed.

Be sure to include a way to deal with new documents or new requirements that you haven’t come across before. As situations and conditions change, contract requirements will as well. Assign someone to research the new requirements, as well as assign the task to the appropriate department or employee.

Once the process has been written up and all the steps assigned, distribute the information to everyone involved in contract management. Everyone needs to know who will be performing each role and how long they have to perform it, so they can keep each other accountable.

3. Automate as much as possible

Once you’ve created a standardized process for contract compliance, automation is the next logical step. Instead of wasting time finding and collecting paper documents, use technology to expedite the process. Automation helps streamline processes, which will save your team time and improve efficiency. And the chance for human error is reduced when compliance tasks are automated.

Construction management software can help automate your compliance processes. Online document storage and notifications can help ensure that you stay in compliance with your customers.

4. Periodically review and audit the system

On a periodic basis, you should review the system and audit the results to ensure that you are maintaining compliance with your customers. Talk to the employees involved in the process and look for gaps or areas that continually get bogged down. You’ll also want to review the current status of compliance over all your contracts to ensure that the system is working effectively.

Once you’ve completed the review and audit, assess the overall system to see if it is working and if it’s effective. If there are changes that need to be made, implement them, and then review the process again after a while. Continual improvement will help ensure that the process remains effective.

5. Remain flexible

COVID has taught us that we have to remain flexible and ready to pivot at any time. Contract requirements can be changed in an instant, and new requirements are added all the time. Meet with your compliance team regularly to ensure that the current processes are meeting the needs of the contracts and make changes, as necessary.

Start the process today!

The first step to standardizing and automating your contract compliance process is to write it down. Then assess it to see if it’s effective. Assign roles and responsibilities so each step is covered. Then, find out how technology can improve your efficiency by automating as much of the process as possible. Software, like Premier Construction Software, can track expiration dates and prompt you to request new documents as needed, and provide online file storage so your whole team has access to compliance documents from anywhere. Reviewing and improving your compliance processes ensures that your company is always running at the peak of efficiency.

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.