If there is one positive to take from the COVID-pandemic it has been the industry’s ability to adapt to new ways of working and embrace technological innovations to not only allow the sector to continue to work through various lockdowns but embrace longer-term objectives to become more efficient.
In the first instance, the need to keep our highways workers safe during the last year has been at the forefront of every manager’s mind and many have been forced to work from home and take on different challenges than they had before.
With final easing of restrictions due to happen by mid-summer, this may quickly become a distant memory for some, but for the majority of companies in the sector, including local authorities and other road operators, working at home will still carry on for at least some of the week.
The picture across the UK in general, is very similar.
Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) found since the introduction of mandatory remote working, many employees had the chance to exercise more, spend time with family and have time to think and reflect.
Almost two thirds (62%) of people said they wanted to work from home more on a regular basis and a third of working parents (32%) asked in the report said that flexible working during coronavirus has allowed them to work more effectively as they could better balance their work with their caring responsibilities.
Some respondents discussed wanting to spend the majority of their time at home or have an equal split between home and office, and of those who said they wanted to work from home more often generally, more than a quarter (27%) of them wanted to do so more than one day per week. The research recommended that more employers should consider home working to support employee wellbeing, reduce the carbon footprint of commuting, attract and retain talented employees, support the reduction of the gender pay gap and improve productivity.
The research authors therefore said that where employers should help employees set up effective workspaces. The survey also included taking feedback from employees about challenges and benefits, determining an overall approach for homeworking and reviewing flexible working and homeworking policies.
In another survey, also reported by HR magazine, the majority (57%) of respondents also said they want to start hybrid working once the pandemic is over, and 18% said they would want to work from home all of time.
This information has led to two thirds (67%) of UK chief HR officers planning to encourage employees to work remotely on a regular basis after lockdown. In a survey by software company HRLocker, creating a better work/life balance was cited as the top reason (by 73%) for encouraging more remote work in the future.
Cost savings, including office rent and travel, were also a key factor for 58% of those encouraging the move.
For the highways sector, digital transformation has been central to work continuing as normal. One of the biggest challenges in this in industry, is that work being delivered on the live network or on a site means that critical information needs to be shared amongst many members of a team, as well as the teams working more separately on the ground with social distancing restricting how many people can work together or travel to a site together. Alongside this, the need for more paperless operations has never been greater, as is the ability to store and recall data to help support better, more-efficient decision making. The amount of work that goes into audits and the tendering for work requires more and more paperwork as well as constant monitoring when it comes to delivery of works. That is why there has never been better time to ‘go digital’ than now.
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For companies using Re-flow’s workflow management system, for example, it has been business as usual through the pandemic. Having a system such as Re-flow’s has enabled companies to keep track of paperwork, monitor the progress of work and complete vital safety checks more efficiently as well as invoice on time, as well as keep every member of a team involved with the progress of a job.
Matthew Turner, Operations Director at Premier Traffic Management says his company’s use of the Re-flow system has ‘totally transformed’ the way it works. One of the main challenges for Premier was lost and incomplete paperwork. “Paperwork was coming back incomplete or lost in vans or in a number of cases operatives didn’t even read it because the last thing on their mind when attending site was to fill in a load of paperwork which they may not have been able to complete anyway, and we realised that needed to change. With Re-flow’s paperless system we have been able to solve this problem instantly,” he says.
“The Re-flow system was integrated into our business really easily with just some minor adjustments to suit our way of working. Having the ability to instantly recall paperwork and track at what stage a job is at has changed the way we work for the better. Often paperwork is completed before our operatives come back to the depot and the ability to know when a job is finished so we can send workers to the next one has made us more efficient. The live planner function has also led to better planning of work and is much easier for everyone to access than wipe boards and hand-written diaries,” he adds.
This has made working through the pandemic much easier. “It meant work planned for the west coast could be managed from the east coast by staff at home as we had far less people in our offices and depots due to social distancing and we could monitor jobs remotely without constantly having to go to site,” says Mr Turner. Operatives can even book time off on the system and order equipment such as essential PPE in advance so its ready for them before they start their next job. “It gets frequently said by staff ‘how have we managed without a system like this for years?’,” he adds.
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As well as access for highways managers and operatives to all job information, any HSE, HR or other work forms are available on one app as well as the ability to manage SHEQ compliance.
Re-flow can create customised workflows that deliver any data required into management reports. One of its construction clients needed to keep track of site conditions for their daily returns to give more context and insights into how the operations played out over each month. Historical data of site conditions can be a really useful tool for planning long-term and large projects.
While using information from previous work cannot forecast something as changeable as the UK weather, it can help create informed decisions about scheduling and safety. If site conditions are not optimal for a number of days, having this information reported back to the project planners and managers can inform real-time decision making to divert activities until the site conditions have cleared up and can provide a more productive use of time.
Also, through Re-flow software, you can send important forms to other members of the team, straight to their smartphones and they can complete the necessary information, draw their signature and send them right back.
Using this process, not only keeps everything safe and secure, but it means there’s no need to print anything and store it in a filing cabinet. With the importance of audit trails, using a Re-flow form means you can preserve the authenticity of your documents, and have a full time, date and location stamped record of when and where that signature was submitted. Looking at their year-to-date 2021 data, Re-flow now have a signature being submitted via the app every 5 seconds.
Article first appeared: https://www.highwaysindustry.com/re-flow-the-time-is-now-to-go-digital/