Man camps in the oil and gas, mining, construction, mineral exploration, natural resources, and research industries rely on skilled crews to run their operations, but the very nature of man camps makes it difficult to attract and retain such workers: man camps tend to be in the middle of nowhere, feature harsh climates and working conditions, and require laborers to spend weeks at a time away from their families.
Essentially, a man camp can be a trial to endure for many residents — but it can also be an oasis in unforgiving conditions compared to other accommodation options. It just depends on how you set it up.
While man camps originally served as bare-bones sleeping quarters for remote workers, man camp directors have realized that more desirable accommodations are necessary to attract and retain skilled workers, boost worker productivity, and keep morale high. As a result, man camps have evolved to include facilities that promote worker safety, comfort, and entertainment and to become much more positive environments.
Setting Expectations and Creating a Safe Space
Man camps often get a bad wrap as a sort of “Wild West” environment because of their remote locations and all- or mostly-male populations, but the truth is that most man camps operate under strict regulations. Alcohol, drugs, and weapons are usually forbidden, and women aren’t permitted within the dormitories.
Rules like these are essential for the health and safety of the workers, who need to be clear-headed to operate potentially dangerous equipment. And while such rigid control may be considered another deterrent for workers who are on the fence about leaving everything behind, they actually help them avoid burnout and focus on what they came here to do: make money.
When creating a man camp or reassessing your current man camp systems, outlining expectations for your crew is a great place to start.
Comfortable Accommodations for Man Camps
Workers at remote work sites without dedicated accommodations often end up sleeping in their cars or tents, so any man camp that offers them a comfortable place to lay their heads has an immediate advantage.
State regulations may specify a minimum amount of space that each man camp resident is entitled to, but in general options range from bunkhouses to one- or two-person sleepers with private bathrooms. Private quarters where workers can relax at the end of the day are obviously preferred to shared ones.
For example, Alaska Structures’ SQX Series of quonset huts work well for bunkers, whereas the Denali Building System™ can be configured to offer comfortable and private accommodations. For even more privacy, smaller structures such as the XT Series or XPL Series can be configured to sleep one to three people. Some remote camps opt for multiple types of structures to create different levels of accommodations for laborers, managers, supervisors, and directors.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the quality of the mattresses you provide — after all, when life consists of a work-sleep-repeat routine, the quality of that sleep is crucial. Another major attraction for potential workers is WiFi; it has become more of a necessity than a luxury, and being able to chat with loved ones back home or watch movies on their laptops is a great comfort.
Temperature Control for Man Camps
Many man camps are located in remote locations with extreme climates, such as the North Slope of Alaska or the deserts of Africa. But even if it’s not a question of freezing or sweating to death, man camps should be designed to keep residents comfortable.
For more mild climates, structures with energy-efficient design may suffice. Fabric buildings from Alaska Structures, for instance, maintain interior temperatures that are usually cooler than exterior temperatures in the summer and warmer in the winter. Let in natural light with skylights to create a bright and inviting interior, as well as to lower energy usage during the day.
You can save even more energy (and money) by adding insulation to your structure. Like with traditional wood, brick-and-mortar, and metal buildings, you can add any R-value of insulation to fabric structures; and Alaska Structures offers several proprietary insulation options.
For harsher climates, the government in your area may require man camps to have heating or cooling systems in place (DEC regulations require man camps in Alaska to be able to maintain at least 70 degrees F). Options include heaters, HVAC systems, and environmental control units (ECUs), all of which are available with Alaska Structures building solutions.
Man Camp Dining Facilities
It’s in the site directors’ best interests to provide food for their crews, as workers won’t have time (or energy) to cook before or after work, and would likely settle for easy, less than healthy options if forced to. When you’re working 12-plus-hour days, junk food won’t cut it — workers need healthy, balanced meals to fuel their long shifts.
Of course, food is one of the few comforts man camp residents enjoy, so giving them something to look forward to at the end of the day is the least you can do. Meals don’t have to be complicated, but they should be tasty.
Successful man camps tend to keep a cook on-site to prepare hot breakfasts and dinners for workers, as well as sack lunches. This requires space to cook, serve, and consume the meals.
Your dining facilities probably don’t need to be able to accommodate your entire man camp, as workers’ schedules tend to vary, but should be able to comfortably seat however many people you expect to eat at a given time. Fabric buildings from Alaska Structures come in widths of up to 150 feet, making them a great dining facility option whether you need to accomodate a few people or hundreds.
Man Camp Hygiene Facilities
Being able to take a hot shower at the end of a long workday does wonders for morale.
In industries where workers get extremely dirty, mine dry facilities allow them to get clean before returning to their living quarters. Mine dry facilities from Alaska Structures include either private or communal showers, toilets and urinals, lockers, laundry equipment, and drying racks — everything workers need to transition from working to relaxing.
However, the most attractive man camps offer bathrooms that are private or shared with just one other person. Having your own bathroom creates a sense of normalcy, and workers appreciate the convenience and privacy.
Recreational Facilities for Man Camps
Remote camps are often located in extreme climates that make outdoor recreation unappealing. Recreational facilities take remote camps one step past comfort to provide a space for workers to relax, exercise, and generally enjoy themselves at the end of the day.
Multipurpose indoor sports facilities provide a great outlet for workers to unwind after a long shift, and can include gym equipment as well as sports courts. Some man camps even have indoor swimming pools.
Additional ideas for remote camp recreational facilities include:
- Multimedia rooms with WiFi and television
- Libraries and community rooms for activities
- Massage therapy
- Quiet space for meditation
When considering which recreational facilities to include in your remote camp, consider the duration of the project, the size of your crew, and specific worker interests.
Man Camp Worship Facilities
For long-term remote projects, including worship facilities in your man camp is the ultimate way to show your workers that you appreciate — and want to lessen — their sacrifice. Options range from small, quiet spaces for prayer to full church buildings.
Whatever type of facility your remote camp is able to supply, workers will appreciate the thought and the ability to continue their regular worship routines while away from home.
Create a Home Away From Home With Alaska Structures
When it comes down to it, the best way to attract and retain skilled workers for your man camp is to create a place where they’re safe, comfortable, and entertained — a home away from home. Of course, the challenge for site directors is finding a way to do so while staying within budget and creating facilities that are incredibly durable.
Alaska Structures® has been providing remote camp systems to a broad range of industries for over 45 years. Our clients rely on our structures’ ability to endure any climate, provide hotel-level accommodations, be configured to meet any need, and move and adapt with them as those needs change. Whether your project requires 15 people or 1,500, Alaska Structures can provide all the facilities you need to create a positive culture in your man camp.
If you would like more information or to discuss your remote man camp and workforce housing needs, we recommend contacting Alaska Structures today to speak to one of our knowledgeable building specialists.
Or use our online contact form and submit your request.