Working remote has taken our world by storm due to the recent pandemic that we experienced.
As of 2023, about 12.7% of people in America work full-time remotely. The remote work model allows for so much flexibility when it comes to your lifestyle.
The question we will explore today is if working remote is viable for a construction project manager.
If you want my opinion, working remotely as a project manager in construction is not ideal. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but there are a lot of disadvantages to trying to use this work model.
We will look in more detail why I don’t fully back working remote in construction project management.
Instead, I think a hybrid model would be ideal for this role. I have tried out a hybrid model and found it to be the most effective while giving me some benefits of working remotely.
Looking at the job market for construction project managers, you will see an abundance of hybrid roles. Most will still be in office positions, but we’re seeing that shift to allowing project managers to work remotely part time.
Even just a couple of days working from home can be a relief. For example, the time you save not commuting to work can be used now as your free time. Any time that I can get back in the week is valuable to me.
I think the hybrid role is something more companies should adopt. This is likely a case by case situation for the company depending on the commercial space they own. If they need to fill their office space, you could expect to work in person.
Working Remote in Construction as a Project Manager
We know that remote work is possible, but what does that look like for a project manager?
As a project manager, you’ll spend a lot of time working from the office. That is where you can most effectively coordinate and plan for upcoming work.
When you’re pulled away to the field, you spend all your time focusing on a single job.
So, isn’t the project manager role perfect for remote work if they should stay in the office? Well, yes, but also, no.
While it’s inefficient for the project manager to be at a job site, it’s also sometimes essential that they drop by.
When a significant issue needs resolution, the best way to find a solution is to get together with the team on-site. Then, you can all look at the issue and solve the problem on the spot.
I’ve experienced this multiple times where I think I can solve the problem through email, but it never works how I expect. As soon as I get all the players at the job site to look over the issue, things get solved right away and the work can carry on sooner.
So, since you’ll need to visit the job site occasionally, the role becomes a hybrid position.
Thankfully, most of the tasks of a project manager can be done remote. Tasks such as holding video call meetings or creating submittals only require a computer with internet. You can easily do that from home.
Another thing to consider is that for the hybrid role to work, you would be best suited to live in a reasonable distance from your job site. Living too far from the site might create some issues, or you would have to rely a lot on your team.
There are ways around this, especially with advancements in technology.
Adopting Technology for Working Remote in Construction
You could begin by asking the field guys to step in for you to be your eyes, but you’ll need to get good at communicating exactly what you need them to do for you.
Explaining what you’re looking for might sound simple, but your team members might sometimes understand differently. Unless they’re trained in a specific way to gather some information for you, you might be unsatisfied with the results.
In the past, I’ve made simple requests, such as taking photos of the job site. The guy I asked either forgot or took pictures that don’t capture enough information.
I can’t blame the guy. They have numerous tasks that they need to worry about. The last thing on their mind is taking photos of the job site.
You might be wondering why I couldn’t get the photos myself. The job site was in a remote location which I could only get there by flying. So, I had to rely on the field guys to handle this task.
The Use of Technology on the Job Site for Working Remote in Construction
If your company has the money, drone technology lets you view the job site from your computer. Not all companies will have the funds to afford something like this. So, if you’re working for a smaller company, they likely won’t allow the role to be fully remote.
Another thing you should consider is how being a remote project manager affects the team.
Think about it this way: you have someone who steps into the PM role, and you’ve never met this person before, but you need to take orders from them. How would you feel about that, especially if you’re in the field all the time?
I think it’s essential that you show face on the job site. It shows that you care and have an interest in what the field guys do.
The more you interact with the field guys, the better relationship you will develop. Working on this will make it easier to work with the guys, effectively making your job easier.
I’m not saying working remotely is impossible for a construction project manager, but it will be tough. For the best work experience, the hybrid model is the way to go.
If you don’t believe me, I’ll tell you about my time working in a hybrid role at a former company.
What it is Like Working in a Hybrid Position
Having the option to take days working at home was excellent. Some days I would wake up and feel like I didn’t want to drive into the office, I would just open up the laptop and start working in my bedroom.
Because I didn’t have to commute, that’s 30 minutes of my time that I got back to do what I please.
I had no issues working remotely; I could make phone calls, send emails, and attend virtual meetings from my home. It couldn’t have been a better situation.
As the project manager, I felt I could manage my projects without issues from home. That’s until problems arose at the job site.
Because I was working at a small company, I usually only had one guy at a job site. When an issue came up, they would have to lean on me to help find a solution.
Sometimes, it is hard to understand what they are dealing with entirely, and that’s when I have to make the trip to the project site.
There were also occasions when I would drive to the office to check on some materials received. You might be wondering why I couldn’t ask someone to check this for me. The people checking in the material don’t always know what they’re looking at or for, and if you need something done right away, you do it yourself.
Additionally, switching it up and going to see the coworkers in the office was a nice change. When you’re working from home all the time, you can begin to feel isolated.
At the same time, working in the office can be a distraction, primarily if your company uses an open office concept. I find it hard to focus when people are on their phones or in meetings because it can get so loud in the work space.
When working from home people need to call you to bug you, that give you the choice if you want to take the call or not. It sounds terrible, but the best advice I ever got, was take or make the call when you’re ready.
At home, you can control the work environment to be as quiet as needed. Working in a controlled environment makes me much more productive.
I’m hoping you can begin to see the trend here. Working remotely has it’s benefits, but can also have it’s share of disadvantages.
Here’s a graphic of the benefits and challenges of working remote as a construction project manager so you have something to look back on.
While remote work is possible for construction project managers, it is not ideal.
The best option for this role is a hybrid model, where the project manager works remotely some of the time and in the office some of the time. This allows the project manager to benefit from the flexibility of remote work while still being present on the job site when needed.
To recap, here’s a list of the benefits and challenges we covered when working remotely as a construction project manager.
- Flexibility: Remote work can offer construction project managers more flexibility in their work schedule and location.
- Reduced commute time and costs: Remote work can help construction project managers save time and money on commuting.
- Increased productivity: Some studies have shown remote workers can be more productive than their in-office counterparts.
- Improved work-life balance: Remote work can help construction project managers achieve a better work-life balance.
- Communication: When working remotely, communicating effectively with team members and clients can be challenging.
- Collaboration: Collaborating on projects and tasks can be challenging when team members are not physically together.
- Visibility: It can be tough for construction project managers to maintain remote visibility with their team and stakeholders.
- Technology: Remote work requires reliable access to technology and a good internet connection.
If you are considering working remotely as a construction project manager, it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons carefully. You should also ensure your company has the resources to support remote work.
Thanks for reading.
Table of Contents