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Time poor, digital dependencies, and cyber risks: Challenges facing tradies in 2022

In Australia, the construction industry has played a vital role in growing and sustaining the economy. At the centre of this critical industry are the tradies, many of whom own and operate their own small businesses.

Over the past two years, tradies have faced many challenges, and those challenges don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. 

After two years of heightened uncertainty and job losses caused by the pandemic, the sector is now suffering from labour shortages and supply chain issues. These challenges have forced some large and well-known construction companies across the country to close shop, with the New South Wales Government even considering bailouts and rescue packages for the industry.

Research from the 2022 State of the Tradies survey has uncovered what tradies have during these challenging times, how they are holding up and what role technology has to play in helping tradies weather the current economic storm. 

Time Poor Tradies 

While the research conducted shows that most tradies are quite optimistic about the rest of 2022, many have raised concerns about the impact of changing economic conditions, supply chain issues, rising fuel costs, underpayment, and job security as the top worries for tradies across Australia. 

But beyond financial pressures caused by economic uncertainty, the most challenging issue for Australian tradies and construction business owners is the lack of time to maintain a healthy work-life balance and run their business efficiently. Many tradies have told Optus Business that they consider their work/life balance to be ‘bad’ or ‘very bad. This is directly connected to the fact that over 65 per cent say they spend fewer than 20 hours with their friends and family each week.

Admin is the Achilles Heel

One thing that stands out is that tradies are often using their precious time struggling to connect and coordinate with colleagues and clients while on the go, or in the case of business owners time wasted on all the admin from running a business instead of nurturing leads and finding new prospects or unwinding with family and friends.

Across the board, we’re seeing that both workers and business owners are challenged by balancing their billable time – or time looking for new opportunities – with the time needed to relax and recharge. 

Connectivity and technology challenges

With tradies often travelling from job to job, they also rely heavily on technology to conduct daily work tasks and stay connected to their communities. Nearly everyone surveyed – an overwhelming 91 per cent – saw mobile connectivity as a priority. 

Workers in the industry are extremely reliant on their smartphones, but the nature of their work means that devices break more than in other industries, leading many not to want to invest in the latest technology.

While having access to the right technology could help tradies and business owners do their job and run their business more efficiently – as well as stay connected to their friends and family – the challenge is that technology is not their area of expertise nor their priority. 

What often gets overlooked is that by not making technology a priority, productivity, the ability to stay connected, and overall business performance are negatively impacted. Tools like the Call Notes feature on the Optus Living Network demonstrate how technology can alleviate some of the admin stresses that tradies suffer from. 

Looking ahead: economic and technical support needed 

It is promising to see that tradies are overall feeling quite optimistic about 2022, considering that the past two years have been filled with lockdowns and natural disasters. However, the fact that many tradies and small business owners continue to struggle is something that’s unacceptable in such a critical industry. 

Tradies and small business owners in the construction industry need to have access to the economic support and technology tools required to stay optimistic throughout 2022, priority should be put on helping them balance their work and personal lives, as well as navigate the current economic situation that has created unique challenges.

Tradies need more support to boost productivity and improve work/life balance

While tradies and the wider construction industry continue to play a critical role in the Australian economy, the industry is less stable than ever before. Research shows that 40% of tradies are working more than 50 hours a week, missing out on valuable time with friends and family as a result.

In the current environment, tradies are facing long, stressful working environments due in large part to market uncertainty and a large amount of admin required of tradies and small business owners. These challenges in the construction industry can best be overcome with technology that can give time back to tradies and simplify some of the admin associated with the job.  

Increase productivity and running a business more efficiently: getting some time back in the day 

A major challenge is a time spent on doing things that aren’t generating revenue or contributing to helping generate new leads. 

For tradies, commute time is a big issue and unfortunately something that can’t be alleviated. But what can be optimised is their time while out at jobs or on the way to jobs. Whether it is improving communication and collaboration with colleagues, client communication processes, or just facilitating work and life admin, these are areas where significant time can be saved if the right support is available. 

Tools like Call Notes and Call Translate, available on the Optus Living Network, are two tools that can allow small businesses to better communicate with customers and colleagues while on their daily commute or when on a job site. Call Notes allows tradies to transcribe calls with customers notating all the essential information then and there, meaning tradies don’t need to follow up once they are home for specific details. For business owners and sole traders, the reduction of admin-like following-up leads is a massive time saver.

Using technology to support the mundane admin side of the business will enable workers and business owners to spend more quality time with their family and friends, and less time on the books following up on customers’ needs.

Connectivity and digital solutions are key

The same research revealed that 91% of Australian tradies see mobile connectivity as important to do their job as well as stay connected to their communities. Connectivity and technology will play a critical role in solving solutions to the challenges tradies are facing, particularly when it comes to improving productivity and running a business more efficiently. 

Most tradies, sole traders and small business owners in the construction industry are always on the go. They need strong connectivity so they can speak to prospects, customers, and staff, allowing them to nurture business opportunities.

Other areas that construction business owners have shared needing help with are handling large volumes of data securely and affordably and ensuring data privacy for the business through protecting financial and personal information. 

Now, the problem is that most tradies aren’t tech experts and tend not to see technology as something they should prioritise. This means that more support is needed in making technology more accessible, and simple to use. Digital solutions should be used to support mobility and increase the ease of doing business, not add more complexity. 

Ultimately, it’s all about helping tradies and business owners gain time back in their day, so they can both focus on what matters the most to their business and have more time to spend time with their friends and family, which will improve their overall work/life balance. 

Five technology areas that can improve their lives 

On one hand, the wake of uncertain work due to supply chain issues is impacting tradies’ mental wellbeing and on the other hand, some tradies are so busy working to deliver projects within unreasonable budgets.

While supply chain concerns and the rising costs of raw materials will continue to prove a challenge for the construction industry, investment in technology will be a critical enabler to reducing admin and giving time back to the tradies who desperately need it. 

Below are five areas of technology that can help provide support to tradies. 

Facilitating admin 

Admin is invariably called out as one of the areas that are most time-consuming for tradies and small business owners’ time. 

Instead of focusing on their trade, or on generating new leads, many end up spending hours at night or over the weekend dealing with paperwork and balancing books. 

In particular, construction workers and business owners across Australia report needing better solutions for invoicing, logistics, banking and operations

Enabling business transactions

Being able to access apps and phone software that enable business transactions was also cited as a key area where more support is needed. 

A first step toward facilitating business transactions is to choose a payment device that is reliable. 

Fortunately, technology advancements have made it easy to set up a mobile phone or a tablet as a payment device accepting the same methods of payment that an eftpos machine would. 

Then, identify a mobile-first software or app that seamlessly integrates into a device, so there’s no need to worry about constantly switching from one device to another, or having to reconcile data from the payment device later on. 

Making data management and cybersecurity a priority

Gone are the days when only large corporations were targeted in cyber-attacks. Now, even the smallest business or sole trader has become a prime target and is often used as a gateway to larger companies. That’s because today most work is done on mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops. Businesses are also more reliant on digital services such as cloud-based software and mobile apps that hold professional and personal information. 

The construction industry still has a very low adoption rate when it comes to cybersecurity solutions, causing a major problem as more and more workers and business owners are moving their day-to-day business operations to the digital world.

Removing unnecessary double-ups
Often when moving admin, payment and other processes to a digital platform, users are left with the accumulation of separate devices and services that don’t talk to each other and are in the end making things more complex and time-consuming than it needs to be.

Construction workers and business owners need to consider streamlining their digital solutions so they can stop paying for unnecessary double-ups.

Connectivity is key!  

Having secure and reliable high bandwidth connections is absolutely essential in construction, not just for supporting day-to-day operations, but also for moving the massive data files that define construction processes and keep the business running smoothly while workers are on the go or on job sites. Overall, it’s all about finding the right technology partners that can help tradies and small business owners in the construction industry choose the technology solutions that are right for them based on their unique situations and needs.

Connectivity and the ability to access digital tools that are easy to use and affordable have the power to help tradies and construction business owners achieve their goals, do more with less and ultimately gain time back in their day so they can improve their work/life balance. 

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Sean Casey

Sean Casey

Sean Casey is the Head of Sales and Customer Care at Optus Business. His areas of expertise include Retail Management, Channel Management (Consumer and Business) Telecommunications, and Customer Engagement.

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