The work of construction site managers: problematizing perceptions of embodied work practices
Over the past few decades, scholars have paid increasing attention to work of site managers in the construction industry. In particular, the work situations of site managers have been increasingly depicted as demanding and stressful. The reasons for these situations have been explained as arising from macro-level characteristics of the industry itself. This includes, for instance, the influence of structure (loose coupling) and culture (masculinity and paternalism) that is suggested to promote a particularly demanding work situations characterized by overwork, stress, fragmentation and pressure to be in control of all activities on site.
This thesis takes a critical perspective on the assumption that the everyday work practices of site managers can be explained as causally derived from macro-level characteristics of the industry. Instead, a need to take into account the managers experiences, meaning-making and responses is called for. The aim of the thesis is to explore practical manifestations of site managers’ everyday work and how they experience and cope with their work life situations. For this aim, a case study design with an exploratory and interpretative approach has been chosen.
The thesis discusses findings based on three appended papers. By applying an everyday practice lens on the managers work, the discussion highlights the emergence of four separate yet interrelated empirical phenomena that warrant further research. These are reproduction, normalization, autonomy and resistance. These phenomena are discussed in order to highlight nuances, complexities and paradoxes underlying site managers work and to conceptualize new understandings of work in the construction industry. Instead of viewing site managers work as derived from macro-level characteristics, the thesis argues for a need to increasingly consider how issues of overwork and workaholism become reproduced and resisted in context where these tendencies seem to be normalized. The thesis concludes by emphasizing the need for future research on site managers work situations to critically elaborate on the relationship between, on one hand masculine culture and identities vis-à-vis practices of (over)work, and on the other hand autonomy and resistance vis-à-vis control.