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Constructing a better balance

Balfour Beatty have taken a positive approach to introducing flexible work options to help the work-life balance of people working on construction projects


Having a better work-life balance is no doubt good for employees. But is it good for business? It is – as long as it’s managed properly, according to leading organisations that have implemented flexible working with work-life balance in mind.

When Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Major Projects surveyed their employees two years ago, it found that an overwhelming majority liked working for the company but that for 62%, work-life balance was a problem. “I love my job and feel proud when I drive past a bridge and know that I helped to build it” says engineer Chris Till, “but I live in Preston and working on the M1/M25 means I live on site during the week and it can take me four hours to get home on a Friday”.

Balfour Beatty took these concerns seriously. “We are always striving to improve both our service to our customers and the well-being of our employees”, said Commercial Director, Nigel Roberts. “A contented workforce leads to better productivity and fewer accidents on site”.

The Company employed flexible working specialists, Swiftwork, to help improve work-life balance. Working initially with the project team on the M1 construction site, the concept was tested. “We had to be clear that the business case for this significant culture change was sound”, says Nigel Roberts. “We wanted to ensure that performance was maintained and that our customers and suppliers needs were met. But we were also hoping that this would have a positive impact on recruitment and retention in an increasingly competitive market for highly skilled employees.”

Following a senior manager workshop, schemes were developed by local teams, to target specific work and individual requirements. Each team devised new ways of working that suited its business needs. Most were variations on flexitime and, for some, compressed hours over the working week were introduced. One team developed cross-skilling to offer a broader depth of service to internal clients across the whole day. Cost savings were also made to night services supplied using a flexitime scheme that had previously been provided by an external consultant.

For Balfour Beatty, the business case is proven. “We have realised operational improvements in efficiency,” says Nigel Roberts, “for example, there is better interdependence and communication between teams, time recording is better, health and safety cover has increased - not decreased - with more flexibility. Now we’re hoping to build on this and develop even smarter ways of working”.

Lynette Swift, of consultants Swiftwork, is confident that new ways of working have huge potential for achieving productivity gains and reducing costs. “If it’s not improving performance, you’re not managing it right,” she says. “To succeed, new initiatives should be people driven but also business focused, not just about acceding to individual requests for flexible work patterns”.


Flexible working is not only about office workers

It is one of the myths or misperceptions about flexible work that it only applies to desk-based jobs.

In this case study we profile the construction giants Balfour Beatty, who wanted to address the work-life balance issues of their motorway construction employees.

Aided by specialists Swiftwork, they adopted a measured and systematic approach to aligning better business performance with work-life balance initiatives.




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