Biggest Factors Affecting Labour Productivity in Construction

Poor labour productivity is one of the main reasons for costs overruns and projects falling behind schedule. To help you identify and prevent poor productivity in your work force, listed below are some of the most recognized factors affecting labour productivity in the construction industry in a recent study by Intergraph.

1. Overtime

Scheduling of longer work days than a standard eight-hour work day or weeks greater than a 40-hour work week lowers work output and efficiency through physical fatigue and poor mental attitude.

labour productivity in the construction industry

2. Morale and Attitude

The spirit of workers based on willingness, confidence, discipline, and cheerfulness to perform work or tasks can be lowered due to a variety of issues. The most common are increased conflicts, disputes, excessive hazards, overtime, over-inspection, multiple contract changes, and disruption of work rhythm, poor site conditions, absenteeism, and unkempt workspace.

3. Stacking of Trades

This occurs when operations take place within a physically restricted space with other contractors. It often results in congestion of personnel, inability to use or locate tools conveniently, increased loss of tools, additional safety hazards, and prevention of optimum crew size.

4. Absenteeism and Turnover

There is a great deal of time and money lost associated with high turnover and absenteeism on projects. Construction projects in certain areas with low manpower and high demand for labour will usually be more impacted than others. Extreme weather conditions (such as extreme heat or cold) will also increase absenteeism and turnover. Replacement workers are usually not familiar with the work or area, and require experienced workers to stop work and show them what to do. The impact can be up to four days of lost work for each worker.

5. Mobilize/Demobilize

This relates to moving resources on and moving off to projects as a result from changes or delays, causing work disruptions. Productivity may drop during these periods as time is lost when crews move from one area or work assignment to another.

6. Errors and Omissions

Increases in errors and omissions impact on labor productivity because changes are then usually performed on a crash basis, out of sequence, cause dilution of supervision, or any other negative impacts.

7. Start/Stop

This results from a work stoppage or suspension of work, which may cause a break in the schedule, usually triggering a start/stop of work activity. This can have a major impact on productivity and cost of a project. Work scheduled or reassigned during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, are often impacted with stop-starts. Workers tend to discuss the time off and lose previous momentum with a drop in productivity before they get back in routine.

8. Reassignment of Manpower

When workers are reassigned, they experience unexpected or excessive changes, losses caused by move-on or move-off, reorientation, and other issues that result in a loss of productivity.

9. Late Crew Build-up

This is caused when the planned project manpower loading is altered and causes manpower loading to build up slower than planned due to availability, shortage of resources, or competition from resources. Impacts can be in excess of 10 percent.

10. Logistics

Insufficient or poor material handling, owner-furnished material, procurement practices, or a lack of controls can cause procurement or delivery problems, as well as other issues. This prevents, delays, or disrupts the normal material workflow to a work area, warehouse, or laydown yard. This can also be a result from the additional replacement or substitution of material due to contract changes, defects, or delays at the work site.

11. Security Check

This could be caused by workers entering or leaving the area, or from checking in and out, toolbox checks, transport of labour to secure area, and so on.

12. Learning Curve

When crew turnover causes new workers to be added to a crew or additional manpower is needed within a crew, a period of orientation occurs in order to become familiar with changed conditions. They must then learn work scope, tool locations, work procedures, and so on.

13. Hazardous Work Area

This is caused when working in an area that is classified as hazardous, requiring special safety equipment and clothing. Restrictions may limit time and exposure of workers to the area, resulting in less time on tools in the area.

14. Dilution of Supervision

This occurs when supervision is diverted from productive, planned, and scheduled work to analyze and plan contract changes, expedite delayed material, manage added crews, or other changes not in the original work scope and schedule. Dilution is also caused by an increase in manpower, work areas, or project size without an increase in supervision.

Dilution of Supervision

15. Holidays

If workers work on holidays, there is not only a cost factor for holiday pay, but there is usually a loss of productivity as well. It may be addressed as a morale factor since workers are away from families and working instead of enjoying the holidays, or it can also be factored separately. Either way, there is usually a productivity loss to consider.

16. Weather and Season Changes

Performing work in a change of season, temperature zone, or climate change resulting in work performed in either very hot or very cold weather, rain or snow, or other changes in temperature or climate can impact workers beyond normal conditions.

17. Shift Work

This is when work is performed at any time other than the first shift or the morning shift of a work day. Work on second and third shifts are less efficient and may even be based on a shorter work period. The reduced daylight hours and problems trying to pick up where the last shift left off results in less productivity.

18. Over-manning

This is caused when work planners hire too many workers for the estimated work scope and duration. Sometimes, when labour in certain areas is scarce, work planners may overcompensate for potential absenteeism and turnover, which creates overstaffing. Another cause is the false assumption that increased manning will always result in increased work productivity.

19. Tool and Equipment Shortage

This is caused when there is insufficient quantity or quality of tools and equipment to meet the needs of the project.

20. Alternating, Staggered, or Rotating Work Schedules

This usually results in unusual scheduled work periods designed to optimize hours worked, attract labour to remote sites, compete for labour resources, and minimize fatigue. Examples include allowing half the work force to take every other Friday off, or staggered crews of 4-12s (working on four days and then four days off), or rotating crews to work a seven days on seven days off.

Technology Improves Productivity

A common theme between all these factors revolves around a breakdown in communication of some sort. When tasks aren’t communicated effectively or workers do not have a clear understanding of the task at hand, work will come to a standstill.

Technology has improved efficiency across many industries; BLS reported that 70% of the nation’s productivity gains came from technology. In the construction sector, technology hasn’t always been readily embraced, but with the rise of cloud computing and mobile devices, it’s enabling businesses of all sizes to manage their information more efficiently. Enabling your workers to communicate through technology as well as using it to assist in day to day tasks can help maximize output and overcome some of these productivity draining factors.