With the recent economic recession, industries that operate from remote locations are now under pressure to create workplace housing that is not only worker-friendly, but affordable as well. The question every company must now answer is: how do you construct cost-effective housing for your workers? Well, to answer that question it’s important to look at the current state of workplace housing and what the future promises in this sector.
The Reality of Working at a Camp Based Operation
According to a recent report by the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, working on long, hard, and rotating shifts can have a detrimental effect on the human body. The report found that shift work disrupts sleeping patterns and causes stomach as well as heart problems. Unfortunately, shift work is the sad reality of many camp-based operations.
Workers work put in 12-hour shifts for four straight days. In the first two days, they work during the day while in the remaining two days, they work at night. They then have four days off after which the pattern resumes again. This so called "four-on-four-off" shift pattern is strenuous on workers.
So, to make workers as comfortable as possible as they push themselves to the limit, companies are focusing on workforce housing. For instance, ATCO, an electricity and natural gas company, intends to house 1,600 employees in its Site C Clean Energy Project in British Columbia. The facility has a movie theater, gymnasium, athletics track, and multi-faith chapel.
This is in stark contrast to previous housing schemes of the 1980s, which Arthur Winn, founder of WinnCompanies, compared to barracks meant to "warehouse the poor". He also stressed the importance of building workforce housing that works with the worker in mind first and foremost.
Current Housing Projects
Current workforce housing seeks to make the worker as comfortable as possible. Take the Jackfish Lodge in Alberta that was built by Britco, a modular construction company, for Devon Energy employees. The complex has 10 dorm wings and 880 rooms. Each dorm has private bedrooms and bathrooms that feature hotel-quality finishes. In addition, there is a recreational area, gym, and two squash courts. According to Britco, the idea behind the project was to make workers feel like they are in a home away from home.
Another housing facility worthy of mention is Sunday Creek. It was built by Black Diamond, an oil and gas exploration company, and closely mirrors Jackfish Lodge in size and construction style. Sunday Creek is also built in a hotel style. What sets it apart, however, is the inclusion of an on-site water treatment plant. According to Black Diamond, the plant has cut the cost of maintaining the facility by half a million dollars.
Future Housing Projects
Jackfish Lodge and Sunday Creek hint at what is in store for future workforce housing projects. First, they will use modular construction methods to allow for fast installation and dismantling. Second, worker's housing will offer hotel like accommodation, finishes, and food.
Third, like Sunday Creek, facilities will use natural resources in a sustainable manner. For that reason also, expect to see use of renewable energy such as solar. Fourth, these facilities will be fully automated. The goal of these four principles is to transform what were formerly worker's camps into sustainable communities.
In the past few years, worker's housing has changed greatly and we’re seeing more and more industries trying to accommodate their workers with more than mere barracks. The future seems to be heading towards more comfortable housing for employees, which should improve recruitment, reduce employee turnover and improve performance.