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Let’s start with the Fag Breaks. Generally speaking they are actually an unexpected benefit resulting from the politically-correct anti-smoking pogrom for construction productivity! In days gone by everyone who smoked just smoked as they worked. Times changed and construction workers started having to do the same as office workers – go outside to have a puff! PC or not, construction workers who smoke, smoke!

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Now, on site, the site and project managers are very snooty people wandering around, wearing suits and picking holes in peoples’ work.

Outside, having a smoke, those barriers begin to break down! They become one of us; or rather we become one of them! 

Conversations start and can develop into very detailed and trusting explanations of different problems that are being faced by client, consultants, main contractor, sub-contractors and trades – everyone involved! Hence Construction communication is solved!

My best example of this, from my own project turnaround experience, was an office fit-out in a high-rise block. The project was well behind programme and most of the businesses involved looked as if they were going to be losing money on it big style!

Upstairs the general atmosphere was one of mutual hatred and communication was non-existent!

But once I started joining them outside, we found communication barriers breaking down and real co-operation and co-ordination began! Everyone gelled together as a Team and time was rapidly made up. What little Delay there was got lumbered on the Consultants!

Similarly with Tea Breaks. This example was a civils job that I was on from the start. It was in the middle of winter and was very cold and muddy. My site kettle packed up on me! In desperation I wandered into the Welfare canteen.

Everyone went silent and cowered away from me wondering what kind of a nuisance I was going to make of myself in their refuge!

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After two or three days they cottoned on that all I was after was a brew and to get warm! After three or four days I started getting included in the conversations. Within a week I was getting forewarned of every looming problem long before I would have found out otherwise. It also meant we found better, faster, cheaper ways of proceeding than those on the Programme!

That job actually finished three weeks early, for which the lads loved me! It meant they had an extra three weeks that year to earn more on price work. Family holidays paid for!

Those are the benefits I’ve seen from Fag and Tea Breaks. Used correctly and sensitively by management they cease to be a waste of working time. They can be turned into powerful project control and acceleration tools! Far better than official Meetings! On top of which it is a good way to make friends! But of course…Smoking is bad! 🙂