If the term ‘job creep’ sounds unpleasant, that’s because it is. Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll recognise the signs. When your project scope keeps widening, it’s time to take a step back.
In the construction business, it tends to happen gradually or ‘creep’ up on you, hence the name. Your working hours slowly start to seep into your home life and before you know it, you’re dealing with stress and burnout.
Let’s look at a few important tips on how to handle job creep and keep it firmly in check. If you are a self-employed tradesperson trying to keep on top of a hefty workload, it’s essential that the limits of your projects are accurately outlined.
1. Define detail
It is crucial that you agree the project details in advance. Once these terms have been locked down, it is more difficult for a client to demand things that were not included. Any changes can be discussed and included if mutually agreed. Breach of contract can occur if changes are not accounted for.
2. Communicate clearly
Project managers should communicate regularly and clearly with the client. Quotations or estimates should be detailed leaving no room for misunderstanding, and all major points need to be agreed before work starts. On a daily basis, keep track of all requests if you think they will affect costings. Back up phone calls with emails to keep a record.
3. Know what the client wants
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know what’s required and providing something outside of the client’s remit. Make sure you understand what the client needs and wants so you can focus on the correct result. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver and keep in contact with the client throughout.
4. Be clear about your costings and estimates
You don’t need to tell the client how you intend to achieve the result he wants; just tell him what it will cost and what is included. This way, if a naive client asks for major changes midway, you can simply point out that such changes were not included and will cost extra. As well as outlining the work to be done, list material costs. Include VAT in the total to avoid confusion over net and gross invoice totals. Clients are less likely to demand extra work if they appreciate that it will cost them more.
A detailed project plan is a must, particularly where other tradespeople are concerned. Use software designed to help with project management; this will help reduce your workload. Good tools and apps should help with keeping track of materials, meeting deadlines and hitting targets.
6. Don’t let technology intrude
Job creep is not a new phenomenon but it is being exacerbated by the intrusion of technology into our leisure time. The mobile phone, in particular, has allowed job creep to spread; how often do you find yourself sitting at home replying to work-related email?
Managers should be on the lookout for dips in productivity that may be the result of overwork. If you are your own boss, pay attention too if you’re feeling unusually weary. Additional work can be divided among several people rather than just one, and improved systems can automate processes that have previously taken a lot of time.
By making tasks more manageable, job creep can be kept under control. The risk of turning a blind eye may result in skilled workers looking elsewhere for employment. Managers who foist job creep on workers often find themselves faced with low morale, and once good workers are lost, they are not easy to replace.
The construction industry may not be the easiest when it comes to efficiency, but you owe it to yourself to keep job creep at bay. It has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it so be vigilant and ready to respond swiftly where necessary.