Out-of-town work has become more common for contractors as their customers who once built locally are now developing projects farther away. And with advancements in integrated platform technology, owners, architects, and contractors can easily manage the building process and communicate without leaving their home or office. Because of this technology, many contractors send their employees out of town to perform work. Unfortunately, I have seen several contractors lose great employees due to poor management related to employees and out-of-town work.
I spent 20 years as an employee doing some out-of-town construction projects and another 20 years as a general contractor sending my employees out of town to perform work. Experiencing both sides has given me a full understanding that allows me to better help contractors.
If you are a contractor who sends your employees out of town, I would like to share some tips from my experience to help improve employer/employee relationships regarding out-of-town work.
It starts in the contractor's bid process. Compensation and travel expenses must be properly evaluated and added to the job. Not allocating enough money can create stress for the employer and employee, but inflating those numbers can cause the company to lose the bid.
Employees have different expectations and views about out-of-town work. Some will like the idea of getting out of town, some will be OK with it for a short time, and others will dread leaving home. The employer should sit down with each individual employee to work out a mutual agreement. It is important for the employer to understand that the employee is making a sacrifice by leaving home. The employee should be aware that taking performance up a notch can help the overall project schedule and completion.
There is much to consider when working out compensation details, such as driving time, meals, lodging, daily allowance (per diem), and work hours.
This is what worked for my company and employees for projects between 2 1/2 to 5 hours away from the office that would last approximately 16 weeks:
I found that most employees get burned out from working out of town after a while, so it is important to alternate personnel if possible. Employers must be aware of federal and state labor laws. If you are a signatory with a trade union, it is wise to review your contract with an attorney if you have questions.