For most of us Christmas and New Year mean time off from work and spending time with our loved ones. Yet in a growing number of industries “work as usual” continues during public holidays.
This applies to the construction business, too and unlike decades ago when construction sites were closed during public holidays, NJ Rebar steel fixers were working when the majority of people were busy eating Christmas treats. Volunteers for Christmas shifts are never easy to find but the work needed to be done. How did NJ Rebar optimize resources to meet the tight schedules?
According to NJ Rebar foreman Paweł Celiński the key priority is that “We keep our promise to our customer and deliver highest quality work on time”. NJ Rebar also highly values the wellbeing of its’ employees and holiday resourcing needs to be organized in a way that’s fair and motivating”.
With less manpower, in NJ Rebar at about 40 % of normal workforce during holiday time the pace is naturally quite fast. Employees also work in two shifts when needed and holiday rotations are scheduled to minimize interruptions.
"For Polish steel workers it is very important to go home during holidays, but they cannot all go at the same time. We have tried different rotations models, and it now seems that we have found a solution” Paweł tells.
“I have been involved in designing by the current rotation system, where two-week holidays are scheduled around Christmas and New Year. Rotation changes annually and those being on holiday during Christmas this year, will be having both Christmas and New Year off next year. The system is fair and transparent to employees, and most importantly, we can deliver uninterrupted service to our customers” Paweł explains.
Paweł is Polish and explained that in a Catholic country like Poland, Christmas is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Family values are important, and nearly all employees want to go home to their families during holidays.
This is the case for Paweł also, who has a wife and a 4-year-old daughter waiting for him in Poland. "Naturally I miss them a lot, but I still think that the current rotation system works well. This year I spent Christmas with them and came back to work on 26 December. Most likely next year I will be spending both Christmas and New Year with them”.
Even during holidays safety comes work and extra hours are avoided
At NJ Rebar an ordinary working day starts at 07 am and finishes at 5.30 pm at the latest. Of the 10-hour working day eight hours are “normal working hours” and two hours will go to so-called hour bank that build up holiday time. In this model each 8-week work period is followed by a two-week holiday. Some overtime work has taken place during Christmas when extremely tight schedules so demanded.
“Working overtime is however, very rare since safety is a priority for us and extra hours increase the possibility of unwanted risks. So rather than doing overtime, we have preferred working partly in two shifts during peak times. This increases the total daily working hours, but for the individual employee the hours are efficient and safe” Paweł explains.
Although the pace of work was very intense, Paweł thinks that the atmosphere at sites during the Christmas season was calm and almost mellow. There was Christmas decorations and music at the site canteen and even a Christmas tree to lift up the spirit. "Also, people's mood seemed to be very positive and happy – probably due to the upcoming holidays that people were waiting for" Paweł says.
Now it’s already year 2017 and the vacationers have returned to work. In addition to the old NJ Rebar employees there will be about 10 new comers joining the company in January and more recruitments to take place later on. What would Paweł, NJ Rebar employee since 2014 and management team member since 2016 like to say the new recruits? What would Paweł like to say to those starting their career in NJ Rebar?
"To me the most important thing is to be able to see the big picture and to understand that employees and the company share the same vision and goal. At NJ Rebar, everyone has a say and all employees are listened to. One example of this ability to influence is the vacation-rotation model, which we agreed and put in place together with the management”.
Development opportunities are also vast, and should be advantage of. “In the global construction business, the importance of language skills cannot be underestimated. There are also many other training opportunities in project management for example. The opportunities are the same for everyone, but it is up for the individuals to seize them” Paweł emphasizes.