On the construction site smart phones need to be seen as an asset, not a liability, says Tom Ravenscroft.
Earlier this week I received a press release with the subject line: “78% of construction workers use their personal smartphone whilst at work.”
This fact is probably not a surprise, as the smartphone has become ingrained in every aspect of each of our lives. Checking your phone is something that most people, in every industry, do on a regular basis.
According to the research (by etailer, LaptopsDirect.co.uk), 78% of construction workers regularly respond to personal text messages during working hours, 59% regularly take personal phone calls while working, 52% admit to answering instant messages via Whatsapp and Facebook and 9% have sent a Snapchat from their workplace.
What interested me about the report were not the findings necessarily, but that the research focused heavily on the negative aspects of smartphone use – construction worker’s phone usage supposedly adds up to 120 hours lost per year per employee.
While increased phone usage may indeed lead to reduced levels of productivity and certainly needs to be monitored on site, where being distracted by a screen could have serious safety implications, it is the potential positive benefits that contractors should be focusing on.
The increase in smartphone ownership presents a huge opportunity for the industry. Most site operatives and managers now carry a device that has great potential to improve how a building is managed and built, and this potential has been recognised by some of the more digitally aware contractors that I’ve spoken to recently.
Some have already integrated smartphones into their onsite recording and reporting process, while many others are actively looking to leverage the benefits smart phones can bring to their businesses.
As an industry that has a tendency to be resistant to change, technologies such as smartphones, 3D printing and drones are viewed with suspicion – the negative impacts highlighted before the positives can emerge.
For construction these digital tools ought to be embraced and seen as assets, not liabilities, for the benefits of the digital revolution to be felt throughout the industry.