Workplace Options (WPO) was engaged to assist a construction company in assessing the needs of workers in a challenging and extremely remote environment. Employing 1000+ workers for a 5-year period, the client was awarded a large-scale construction project located in the Yamal Peninsula of Russia at the top of the earth.
Specific challenges included:
– A workforce representing multiple nationalities, cultures, skill levels, and languages
– Communal living for weeks at a time
– Rotating schedules
– Extreme weather conditions in the Arctic tundra
– Limited mobility due to safety precautions of heavy equipment and animal life
Project work included assessing employee support needs, gathering information about the current environment at the construction site, and providing the necessary psychological support to help employees cope in such rigorous conditions.
WPO worked closely with an experienced service delivery partner in our network to assess and implement HR solutions. Two psychologists from Moscow with language skills in Russian, French, and English were selected to assist. To complete the assessment and training, WPO specialists lived on the construction site for periods of time to fully immerse themselves in the worker experience.
The overall project plan was divided into four phases spanning an 8-month period. An activity summary report was prepared at the conclusion of each phase and submitted to the Planning Team to confirm the project was on track and to allow for adjustment.
Phase 1: Planning WPO met with the management team to discuss and confirm the scope of the project, goals, timeline, milestones, and critical business requirements. The discussion involved unique worker challenges and rigorous environmental conditions. Additionally, budget, team roles, and scope of work were finalised.
Phase 2: On-Site Assessment Phase 2 implemented a comprehensive assessment consisting of focus groups and interviews Consultants visited the site for four days observing administrative offices, living facilities, common areas, and transport facilities to gain deeper understanding of complexities, job demands, and pressure related to the work. Specific Phase 2 initiatives included:
– Focus groups with all position levels and all shifts operating around the clock
– Thirty-five structured interviews with all position levels in Russian, French, and English
– Summary presented to the Planning Team
Phase 3: Online Work-Life Survey Based on the results from Phase 2 qualitative data, WPO developed relevant survey questions and launched an online survey that required 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Survey promotions were deployed to personnel through a variety of channels to encourage participation. Based on a 71% response rate, data provided insight into areas of the worker experience including: living conditions, work environment, quality of personal life, and desired support resources. Responses were inclusive of workforce demographics such as gender, nationality, work position, and length of employment. Overall, the results were statistically valid and reliable to use going forward with determining WPO’s recommendations for appropriate support.
Phase 4: Recommendations and Implementation Following the analysis of survey responses, WPO consultants recommended implementing a Psychological Support Programme targeted at providing consultation for the specific issues uncovered in the survey. The programme implemented voluntary individual consultations with employees, supervisors, and administrative personnel to address unique stressors related to the work assignment. In addition to individual sessions, workers had the opportunity to attend a series of wellness seminars discussing topics such as health, disease prevention, and stress management.
As a result of this project, the client has in-depth understanding of the factors that most impact the overall quality of the worker experience.
Respondents indicated that personal stress stems from issues including living conditions, isolation from the outside world, and the temporary nature of the work. Work satisfaction is impacted by the nature of the work and the timelines. Follow-up surveys indicated that half of workers expressed confidence in their own ability to cope with stress on their own and one-third of the workforce reported accepting help and appreciating support. Because of that, there is an ongoing plan to offer continued psychological support though educational sessions and counseling as implemented in Phase 4 of the project. Close to two-thirds of respondents reporting need for support indicated that group sessions and individual sessions are most valuable. Because the assessment was so comprehensive, the
organisation has data that will assist in supporting the workforce now and going forward with the project. The assessment also provides considerations for planned future projects of a similar nature.
This case story is based on a real-life situation, but some details have been modified to maintain confidentiality.