I used to work on new houses in the next town along – a 15 minute drive each way. Intention was to stick up 350 of them on the one site with more land, a bigger site, bought across the other side of the main road. Great time of it! Short, comparatively, working day and then home to wife and kids! Incidentally, that other site still hasn’t been built on!
I think we had stuck about 35 of these houses up when a recession hit. The company I worked for had sites on the go from Sussex to Glasgow – about 10,000 houses in total. That included another four decent-sized sites in the home town area. I had it made! I was indispensable because I was unique among their Site Agents in using Build Programmes and reduced the build time from the buyers signing the contract to them moving in down to 6 weeks. That outfit went bust on me,just like that, and I was out of work!
“Never mind” thought I, “I’ll soon get another job”. I didn’t, but it was the beginning of a learning curve! There were absolutely no jobs in my local area for which I was remotely eligible. Trotted along to the Job Centre and was taught how to write a C.V.. I also learnt of the existence of Employment Agencies who started getting copies of my C.V.
Money was pretty tight but the kids were still well fed! I turned into a hunter-gatherer and also caught lots of fish in Morecambe Bay. Eventually, three months later, I got a job offer! Not work from home, though; it was 250 miles away, due south! I took it and dossed in the back of my van to save cash! That finished after about 3 months and soon got another job. This one was 150 miles from home, due east! This was a new Head Office for one of the big accountancy firms and ended up looking good on my C.V.! I started there as a lowly Site Supervisor and somehow ended up as Project Manager by hand-over time! Still economised by sleeping in the van, though. Airbed, couple of arm chairs and chemical toilet in it by that time!
In the last 30 years of my working life I had something like 150 contracts. Of those only 5 ever allowed for me to do a daily trip to work from home and they added up to a time period of about 6 months! Now there will be those who say to themselves “150 in 30 years? That sounds odd!” Well, the reason for that is I proved to be so good at construction management I ended up getting loads of project turnaround contracts and they are essentially short-lived jobs!
Now I had never thought in terms of Construction mobility: – “luxury v. necessity” before writing this Blog, but as soon as I did it was obvious! There may be a very limited number of people who manage to get long-running jobs in their locality, something like major housing developments when the buyers are slow coming forward that makes “work from home” a routine for a few years. The rest of us simply have to go where there is work for us if we want money coming in! Even the VIP Senior Directors of companies have to travel to get to all their sites! That travel can be international, too! If you are lucky enough to get a job lasting a few months sticking up a tower block in your local area, what are the chances of you getting another job working from home and doing the same?
There is an up-side to this mobility, though! It isn’t all just having to be away from family and friends. We go somewhere new to work and we have all the excitement and interest of exploring new places. You know what I have found to be a strange thing about England? Everywhere you go they call bread, rolls, etc., different things! Means you have to point at what you want!
The first time I had to work overseas was in La Défense, Paris. Fascinating, except when I needed a haircut! Only place I could get to had two pretty girls working there. Shampoo before and after the haircut, which was great. The £25 bill for it wasn’t! The next (and last) job before the Big 65 was in Bucharest, Romania. Found I loved the country and the people! I also found that I had discovered the best, most subtle bit of the building game – bridging language and culture!
That is the reality. The only way someone is likely to be able to spend their construction life working from home is if they are jobbing builders! Most of us construction professionals would soon get bored with that! I know; been there, done that – although my work was housing refurbs for re-sale.
Mobility in Construction is Not a Luxury – It’s a Necessity– so get out there and enjoy it!