How digitalisation is helping construction workers navigate the Christmas period

How digitalisation is helping construction workers navigate the Christmas period

As the holiday season fast approaches, Marius Stäcker, CEO of ToolTime, discusses the challenges construction workers are overcoming across the Christmas period through digital tools.

Marius Stäcker, CEO of ToolTime

Whilst there is no legal requirement to do so, many construction companies shut over the Christmas period as a matter of custom and practice – however, for many self-employed tradespeople and those running small businesses, at this time of year work can be busier than ever.

Demand for tradespeople is growing with new research showing that 51% of UK adults who have used tradespeople before will need to do so again in 2024, and a further 37% having already planned home improvements for next year.

Unfortunately, increasing demand isn’t the only thing driving construction workers to take on more hours – with the current cost of living crisis continuing to put strain on families across the UK, we can expect last years’ figures that around 20% of tradespeople were planning to work on Christmas day to be even higher in 2023.

Many of those working in construction are still reliant on pen and paper, or Excel and Word to manage their work, which creates significant inefficiencies that become more apparent during busy periods. Administrative inefficiencies lead to bottlenecks, which make it harder to get the job done. This becomes an even bigger problem at Christmas when workers are desperate to get back time that could be spent with friends and family.

Workers’ time and effort is best spent doing a good job, not being bogged down in tedious administrative tasks. Sticking with the status quo of ‘how things are normally done’ is becoming less attractive to the next generation of tradespeople in construction, and digitisation that creates new ways of working are set to be fully embraced in 2024 and beyond.

Defining construction challenges

Construction projects can be extremely complex, even on a small scale. Whether it’s project managing an entire new housing complex, or building a single extension, those in the industry need to carefully balance costs, predict, manage, and prevent delays, adequately staff projects, and maintain high standards on health and safety at a bare minimum.

Whatever the time of year, this can be difficult. However, in December you can bet on supply chain issues, shortages, and closures making things even more stressful!

What makes the construction industry stand out with regards to existing work patterns is that the industry is still largely informal in nature. There’s no standardisation of process or reporting, information often isn’t centrally stored, and many agreements are verbal rather than written at the SME level. All this makes workers vulnerable since they rely heavily on customer referrals and repeat customers to stay afloat. Increasing administrative burdens are at risk of jeapordising this.

Digitisation for everyone

Tradespeople on the whole tend to be ten years behind other industries when it comes to digitalisation, but this doesn’t mean there’s no place for it. While it’s true that small businesses have historically found it easier to stay on top of things without the help of digital tools, whether it’s booking in jobs or taking payment, this has only been due to the relative scale of their operations. For any business that wants to grow, or for those facing a lack of skilled labour, it’s imperative to become more efficient from an administration perspective in order to spend more time actually doing the work.

Moreover, with a significant rise in customer expectations over recent years, things like transparency on costs have become a key priority, and staying on top of all the moving parts in the construction trade is becoming increasingly difficult. So much so that trade professionals are spending 4-6 hours a day on tasks such as scheduling, inventory, invoicing and overall workflow management.

This indicates that SMEs in construction must bring order to paperwork and administration  if they want to succeed. Job management software offers a number of key benefits that benefit construction workers directly, including:

  1. Centralising quotes, invoices, job documentation, payment confirmation/reciepts and digital signatures to save time and support stress-free customer communications, accounting, tax returns, and business projections into the new year.
  2. Creating digital calendars that help with job scheduling, allowing construction workers to help them reduce time between jobs, accurately plan for travel time, make sure they have a proper lunch break, and ensure they finish on time – every time!
  3. Storing customer details, including phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, and job notes to improve communication channels and improve transparency, increasing the likelihood of securing new customers as regulars.

By choosing job management software that leverages cloud technology, all this can be achieved from anywhere, at any time. With tax return filing now digital,  streamlining the process makes life easier on multiple fronts.

Path to adoption

Job management is helping construction workers to create a better working environment for themselves and their employees, as well as enhancing the service they offer to their customers, overcoming many of the frustrations experienced when hiring tradespeople.

Tradespeople are far more willing to adopt tech now than even five years ago, and not just because manually tracking invoices and receipts is so time-consuming. The fact that everyone has a smartphone and is familiar with app functionality means that digital tools are far more accessible than ever before, and people are less sceptical about scoping out new digital platforms.

The cloud also makes these tools easier than ever to get hold of, has brought costs of adoption down, and allows everything to be managed entirely remotely. This enables access from wherever there is internet access – even via mobile, which is great for construction workers who are out on the job.

The path to digital adoption starts with increasing awareness – not only about what tools are out there, but also about the benefits of doing so. By saving up to 30% of working time with streamlined adminstration, construction businesses can reinvest the time saved into growing the business for 2024, or perhaps simply being able to spend more time with family at Christmas. The one thing that is clear is that in 10 years’ time the construction industry won’t function without these new tools.

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