How to Improve Construction Labor Productivity - Firstbit Blog
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How to Improve Construction Labor Productivity
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How to Improve Construction Labor Productivity

Published 12 Apr 2024
Keeping your project on track will depend a lot on the labor productivity of your team. However, multiple factors can lower productivity. These factors can be general to any construction team, but there are also some factors specifically to the UAE that will have an impact on the overall productivity of your workers. That is why in this blog we’ll give you multiple strategies to keep your labor productivity high without exceeding budget estimations. Read on to learn more about:
What labor productivity is and how you can measure it
Challenges that construction companies have to face
Specific challenges for UAE-based companies
Strategies to improve overall productivity
How technology can help increase labor productivity

What is Labor Productivity in Construction?

Labor productivity is a way to see how productive a construction team is when working on a specific job. This can be measured in different periods. For example, you can measure productivity for a day, week, month, or whole construction phase.

How Can You Measure Labor Productivity in Construction?

To measure labor productivity in construction jobs, you will have to take the amount of hours and resources used and compare these to the budget and the amount of tasks finished.

To put it in simple terms, to calculate labor productivity in construction, you must divide the output by the input. In this case, the input would be the hours worked and the resources used. The output would be the amount of finished tasks within a defined period.

For example, if you as a project manager estimated a certain project phase to be done within 3 weeks by a team of 5 people without overtime, and it turns out that these 5 workers have charged a couple of hours of overtime each and not delivered the tasks that were due. This is an example of low productivity. A productive team will save you resources and keep your project on schedule and within budget. If you have a highly productive team, the tasks will be finished without any overtime, before the due dates, and within the budgets.

What Factors Do Have an Impact on Labor Productivity?

There are different factors affecting labor productivity in construction. Planning, the energy levels of the workers, and the quality of work these workers deliver are all different factors that need to be taken into account when measuring labor productivity. Using strategies to improve these factors will lead to higher labor productivity.
Planning is one of the most essential parts of construction being on time. As a construction manager, you must make a plan that has realistic expectations from workers. In this plan, you need to include what materials can be used and when the materials will be delivered.

For example, if a team of 10 workers shows up at the job site, and there are not enough materials available to finish the tasks, you will have delays in this phase and you will have to pay for the workers that couldn’t really do their job.
Fatigued Workers
Most project managers will put pressure on the workers as soon as a delay is imminent, making them work longer hours and expecting more work to get done. However, this will often have the opposite effect. If you have tired subcontractors, both the quality and the speed of their work will lower significantly.
Bad Quality Of Work
Whenever you hire construction workers or subcontractors to come to work for you at your job site, you must make sure that you hire a team that offers good quality. If workers cut corners to be done before a certain deadline, the quality of the performed tasks is often not up to standard. In the worst-case scenario, the bad quality can cause safety hazards in other parts of the project, forcing you to execute these tasks all over again.
Bad Communication
Communication is one of the most important elements in having a productive team and keeping a project on track. You must assign all tasks to specific people so that everyone knows what their responsibilities are and what is expected from them. If there are delays in tasks with dependencies, the other teams must be made aware of these. If you have bad communication, you run the risk of having more delays and paying workers who can’t do their tasks because they will not take on any responsibilities by themselves.

Specific Challenges that Impact Labor Productivity in the UAE

Due to the unique geographical position and complicated legal framework, project managers in the UAE will have to overcome difficult hurdles to keep their labor productivity high. Here are some examples.


The UAE has an arid desert climate which means that there is almost no rainfall throughout the year. This might sound beneficial for construction work, but it also means that on average the daily temperature will be higher than 25ºC and in the hottest months temperatures can reach up to +40ºC.

This not only causes hazardous work environments for the construction workers, who then run the risk of overheating or dehydration, but it also leads to the curing or drying of construction materials, which can affect the quality and durability of the building.
Did you know that during 7 months of the year, the temperatures in the UAE reach a daily average of more than 30ºC?

Working around UAE Construction Laws

In the UAE some strict laws are beneficial for the construction workers but might cause lower productivity on the job. Laws specifically state that construction companies must comply with the following rules:
Workers can work up to 9 hours a day, for a maximum of 54 hours per week.
Overtime gets paid with a minimum of 150% of the base salary.
The employer must provide transport to and from the job site.
As the employer you must pay end-of-service benefits if the construction worker decides to leave. The amount depends on the length of their service and their basic salary, though it should not exceed 2 years’ worth of salary. This has to be paid within 30 days.
These laws and potential extra costs will often make the project manager choose cheaper workers rather than the workers who are most fit for the job, resulting in lower overall labor productivity as well.

Low-skilled Workers

A study in 2017 by multiple universities in the UK found that the workers who work for construction companies in the UAE often lack the skills and expertise to deliver good quality work. [?] Companies often choose these workers since they’re cheap and are actively looking for work. This will result in increased amounts of working hours that are needed to get tasks done leading to lower labor productivity.

Even though there are not that many recent studies on this topic, the challenge still exists. A study in 2021 explained why hiring workers with certain certifications also became a problem since these certifications were obtained by following a course that took a few weeks. [?] This might have given the workers theoretical knowledge on how to do things, but no hand-on experience. These certified workers will cost more, but will not bring value that is equal to this cost to the project.

Health and Safety Regulations

Most construction companies in the UAE don’t take enough safety measures to keep their workers safe. This results in multiple accidents which takes the workers out of the workforce. Whenever someone falls out their colleagues will have to work harder or more hours to keep the project going.

Cities like Dubai are taking more measures to ensure the safety of the workers and make sure that the companies adhere to health and safety regulations. They will do this by implementing visits to more than 14.000 construction sites to ensure the rules are being followed and workers are being protected as much as possible.

Labor Shortage

A large portion of the population in the UAE are expatriates, and most of them work in construction. However, over time fewer expatriate workers are coming to the UAE leading to a shortage of skilled workers. This can cause delays in construction projects or it can cause higher costs to pay for the skilled workers that are available for projects.

How Can You Enhance Construction Labor productivity?

Having a low labor productivity can cause delays, overspending budgets, and waste of resources and materials. This is why you must try to enhance the labor productivity of your team as much as possible.

Strategies on How to Improve Productivity

There are some general strategies to improve the productivity of your construction team.
Clear Communications. Set up regular meetings in which you go over possible delays and finished tasks so you can keep your construction project plan up-to-date. In these meetings, you can also allocate new tasks and assign responsibilities.
Invest in skill development. If you have multiple construction workers with the same set of skills, they will be able to understand assigned tasks better and there will be more possibilities in collaboration between teams.
Hire the best talent. If you invest more in talented workers and people with a lot of experience instead of choosing a cheaper option, you will experience better construction productivity. An indirect result of this will be that the work is of higher quality and that it will be finished more efficiently, saving you money on resources and man hours.

Strategies for the UAE Specifically

Planning. High temperatures are one of the main challenges for construction productivity in the UAE. However, if you schedule the start of the project in the last month of the warm seasons, the temperatures will only lower making it easier to work.
Starting early in the day. If you start the work early in the morning, chances are that the temperatures have not reached the daily maximum. This gives the workers a more pleasant environment to work in and makes sure that they can work at a steady pace without lowering productivity.
Giving the workers longer breaks and less overtime. If you can afford to give your workers a break during the hottest part of the day and provide a space that shelters them from the heat, they will be less likely to lower their productivity. Working in the heat will be more exhaustive, so avoiding this time of day will keep the productivity and the work pace of your team high. Doing this will also result in tasks being finished on time, so your workers will not have to put in overtime which will keep your costs within budget.
Prioritize low-intensity tasks in warmer periods. If possible, you should try to prioritize the heavy and important tasks first thing in the morning. So when the temperature rises, you can focus on less intense tasks.
Get more expensive but more efficient workers. When hiring subcontractors, you should always make sure you hire skilled leaders who will be able to efficiently manage groups of lower-skilled workers. They might be more expensive, but you will save costs by not having to pay as much overtime to finish tasks.
When you apply these strategies to your construction projects in the UAE, you will notice an improvement in labor productivity.

What Role Does Technology Play in Labor Management?

There are a lot of different software solutions specifically developed to help construction project managers manage and streamline their projects. These software solutions will help keep track of expenses, deadlines, and the current progress of certain tasks. Some will even let you make changes to the building plan. These digital solutions often can be accessed on and off-site so that different parties of a construction team can have instant and efficient communication.

Often there are also benefits for HR that help them keep track of the worked hours for each employee. These programs will allow you to run payroll from anywhere, and help you pay your employees accurately and on time.

Workers who know that they will get paid on their usual payday and receive the correct amount, will have higher productivity than the people who have to wait for their money or have to argue to get the right amount.

Improve Construction Labor Productivity with First Bit ERP

With the First Bit ERP a project manager will be able to track important KPIs such as the finished tasks compared to the schedule. This is where the real-time labor tracking feature comes into play. With daily personal time cards, you get an instant overview of the labor and the tasks that have been finished.

However, with First Bit ERP you can also boost productivity by tracking what materials are on order, which ones are available, and what teams used certain materials all in one overview. This will make it a lot easier for you to make a schedule with realistic deadlines.

Another thing First Bit ERP can help with is providing faster communications about changes to the project. The built-in messenger will be very efficient for communications between parties that are on and off-site and you can set up special pop-ups or emails that get sent out whenever there are important changes to the project.
Want to learn how to boost construction productivity with First Bit ERP?

Everything you Need to Know to Enhance Productivity in Your Construction Projects

At the start of a project, the productivity of the construction workers is very high. However, throughout the project, different factors can have an impact on productivity. If you don’t adjust your schedule to the available materials or if there are changes to the project and they don’t get communicated clearly, productivity can lower significantly.
With a project task pipeline you can monitor the current status of tasks, controlling workflows on a construction project.

First Bit ERP will help you track all the important information about your workers, available materials, and expenses up until that point. Tracking weekly overtime hours enables companies to make schedule adjustments, thereby minimizing the requirement for expensive overtime compensation.
Select the relevant project, review the assigned tasks, and monitor the workforce allocation. Hourly details are accessible within the provided table.

Additionally, users have the option to generate or select project tasks and assign them to labor while populating the table with their work specifics. It will also give you a way to provide clear and fast communications from wherever you are.

Features like real-time labor tracking will not only help you track the productivity of the workers but also ensure that you are compliant with UAE Labor laws. The combination of these benefits will assist you in streamlining the different processes, and it will keep the productivity of the project high.
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Contributing Author
Imanu is a passionate content writer with a love for travel, dedicated to creating compelling and optimized content tailored for the construction industry.
Editor-in-Chief at First Bit
Alina is a journalist and editor with over five years of experience in content marketing. Staying mosly behing the scenes, she sometimes reports First Bit events and comes up with expert publications.
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