The business of conducting an offsite work project can be very complicated. Unlike working in your normal headquarters, you don’t maintain full control that you’re used to. Whether you own or rent your space, within the confines of your office, you have the final say. In an offsite location, your sphere of influence can potentially diminish substantially.
That’s why it’s so critical that you conduct thorough planning prior to launching any offsite project. Since there’s much more that may be beyond your control, you need to ensure that what you can control operates smoothly and efficiently. It will make any setbacks you encounter easier to bear.
Study the following four aspects that you absolutely have to account for in planning an offsite project carefully. Ensure you develop both primary and alternate plans for each aspect so that your next offsite project goes as smoothly as possible.
Communications will be the most critical function that you’ll need to address for an offsite project. Not only will you need to receive regular updates on the project’s progression, but you’ll need to be able to coordinate any emergency efforts that arise as well. We’ve all gotten relatively spoiled with the prominence of wireless coverage, so we often forget to consider how we’ll talk when there’s no signal.
You’ve got several options you can use. The one you select will depend on your coverage needs, the degree of separation between your headquarters and the project site, and your budget.
- Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots
- Walkie Talkies
- Satellite relays
- Long-range radios
2. Supply and Logistics
In your normal office setting, supply and logistics may not be much fun, but at least they’re fairly easy to manage. If you need to know many reams of printer paper you have, you just walk to the supply closet, take a count, and record the results. In an offsite project, both can become much more complicated.
The first critical aspect of supply and logistics you need to address is inventory. You need to determine how many of which items you’re going to need to see a project through to its end.
The Wall Street Journal reported that businesses set a new record on shipping costs in 2017, to the tune of $1.5 trillion dollars. With the rising costs associated with shipping, you can’t afford to get this wrong.
Depending on where your offsite project is being conducted, you may have limited ability to restock what you need, when you need it. Some projects can take place in such remote areas that you’ll only be able to work with whatever you bring onsite at the beginning.
My recommendation is to determine the amount you’ll think you need, and increase that total by 10%. That way, you’re hitting your minimums but have a small surplus to draw from without adding excessive cost.
Once you’ve figured out how to procure and deliver your supply stock, you need to address how you’ll store it. Unlike an office setting, where you mostly control the environment, an offsite work area has several unique factors you have to address. These include:
- The shelf life of perishables
- Any required heating or refrigeration
- Controlled access to your supply depot
- Additional security measures needed
- Separate storage for any hazardous and toxic materials
One of the biggest headaches of offsite projects is transportation. Unlike the office setting, you’re used to, relying on your employees’ normal modes of transportation (i.e. their personal vehicle) may not be practical. You have to consider any unique requirements you’ll need to get people and equipment to and from your worksite.
Your project site may be in a more remote location, with few or no improved roads to use. You may also be dealing with terrain that’s just too arduous for normal vehicles to handle without extensive damage. It can be a challenge to procure enough vehicles that are large enough and durable enough to handle the terrain and transport your people and supply stock comfortably. Longer drives and more rugged terrain can also accelerate your fuel consumption, which you’ll need to account for as well.
The more difficult the terrain is to navigate, the more wear and tear your vehicles will experience. This will lead to an accelerated need for maintenance. You’ll need to determine what specific vehicle service functions are needed, how you’ll deal with emergency repairs, and whether you want to conduct maintenance at the work site or somewhere else.
You need to address your current level of coverage and determine if it’s enough to suit your needs. Often times, you’ll find that you need to take out additional coverage in order to ensure that you’re adequately insured against damage and injury.
With all of these factors in play, it’s inevitable that an offsite project is going to result in at least some increased costs to you. Depending on the scope of your project, buying the number of vehicles you need will likely lead to an expense that severely undermines your bottom line.
My suggestion to offset this is to look at outsourcing your transportation needs, rather than buying. That way, you get both the number and type of vehicles you need, have your maintenance covered, and curtail the need for additional insurance. You’ll be able to substantially reduce costs and ensure your transportation needs are met at the same time.
4. Personnel Matters
One thing you don’t normally worry about in your normal office environment is housing. But for an offsite project, you’re going to have to plan for housing, feeding, and sheltering your workforce.
Housing and Shelter
The first obvious aspect you’ll need to address is where your people will be staying. Most offsite projects don’t require any additional housing; they’re close enough that your employees can go home at the end of the day. But if you’re in a remote location, you’re going to have to determine where they’ll be sleeping. This could mean either booking hotels or setting up tents.
Whether they’ll be sleeping onsite or not, you do have to provide some form of protection from the elements. The environment you work in could be very cold or hot or experience heavy rainfall, snow, dust storms, tornadoes, or other natural phenomena.
Food and Sanitation
For projects in isolated locations, providing food and keeping the environment sanitary can become a challenge. Often, your best bet is to pay a small additional stipend to your employees and let them eat on the economy. Otherwise, you’ll need to provide meals on a regular basis.
Along with food, you’re going to have to provide sanitation and waste disposal for your employees. If your project will last for months on end, these are some of the aspects that you may need to address:
- Restroom facilities
- Garbage and waste disposal
- Laundry services
- Cleaning for sleeping and common areas
One critical aspect you absolutely must address is onsite medical care. You may be far removed from the nearest medical facility. You’ll need to address how you’ll handle injuries and illnesses until help can arrive.
My recommendation would be to certify some of your onsite employees in both first aid and CPR prior to the start of your project. A good ratio would be at least one for every 20 persons be certified.