Spring 2020 hit the construction industry hard. COVID threw a wrench into much of the year, upturning nearly every industry, sending workers home and shutting down much of the world. As fall arrives, the COVID pandemic has turned into a patchwork of outbreaks and controlled instances. Some places are seeing only a few cases with certain businesses opening and gatherings allowed.
Others are still seeing upticks in cases with social distancing and limits on social gatherings still in place. Almost everywhere, face mask and covering rules as well as hand washing and extra sanitization efforts are in place.
Much of the conversation around COVID is now shifting toward the future. What’s to come? A second wave is on the minds of many people, with some wondering whether we will actually see a second wave or if a continued surge will simply push case numbers higher and higher. No matter what happens, it’s clear that businesses need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Whether a second wave comes or we see a second surge in COVID-19 cases, it’s clear that businesses – construction companies in particular – need to be prepared for it. Construction was lucky in being deemed an essential service during the first round of shutdowns. This meant that many companies were able to keep projects going. There were still many things that we learned in the spring of 2020 that can help you prepare your business, no matter what comes.
It’s easy to forget that much of the construction industry isn’t on the job site. Payroll, HR, site planners, managers and equipment renters are just a few of the roles that may be on-site part-time or not at all.
Whether your physical office has opened back up to employees or if they’re still working remotely, it’s important to check in now and see what they need to work from home comfortably. Many office suppliers ran out of desks and chairs with the sudden increase of people working remotely. If you want to provide your employees with what they need to work from home more long-term, it’s important to source these materials now. A second wave could put even more pressure on the home office industry and supplies may be even more scarce than before.
Another part of these pain points may be access to information and digital resources. Maybe COVID was the turning point to encourage you to go paperless or to digitize your paperwork system. If it was something you’ve been thinking about doing since COVID it may be worth investing in now before a second wave comes.
What were the struggles that your employees faced during the changes? Employees will most likely have some insight into what’s been working or was helpful when the pandemic began. Those who work on-site and those in the office space will have specific insights about their experience. Whether you feel your business adapted well to the pandemic or not it is helpful to get the employee perspective.
This is also a great time to survey employees about how they are feeling about current safety plans and measures both on and off-site. As a business leader or owner, it’s good to check that how you feel about your COVID procedures are in line with how your employees feel.
Check out the end of this article for some sample questions you can include in a COVID-19 Employee survey.
Very few – if any – businesses had a pandemic plan in place before COVID happened. We were all blindsided by the quick progression of a few COVID cases to full national and state-wide shutdowns. If it happens again, how will you communicate with employees? Were communication lines open and clear in the spring or can they be improved?
Not only should you reflect on your communication process and establish some sort of plan for employees, but make sure to communicate that to them. Whether it’s setting a standard that an email will be sent or for employees to expect a call, everyone should know what will happen if a second wave does come.
While employee safety is a big part of this plan there were other ways that the pandemic has impacted businesses which should be included. One of the biggest ways construction was challenged this year was by the disruption of supply chains. While large national lockdowns may not happen in the event of a second wave, disruptions can still occur. If your business was impacted by these disruptions it’s a great time now to weigh your options. Sourcing a backup, and even a backup to your backup, for a local company to source materials will help you
This is relevant for employees both on-site and off-site. A lot of changes have happened in the health and safety standards in place for the construction industry. The key to these standards are to keep them going during every up and down of the virus. For it to be a true second wave, cases must dip down to low numbers or almost disappear completely. Numbers drop and it may seem like the virus is fading away. That is not the time to feel like you’re out of the woods.
Continues to meet any new standards and encourages employees to comply with regulations. Continue with other standards you have in place as well such as staggered start times and breaks. Enforce the wearing masks on-site and continue to supply proper washroom facilities and hand washing and sanitizing stations. Allow office employees to continue to work from home. The biggest part of this is sick days.
The industry runs on people who “push through” sick days and work extended hours. It is a challenge to the culture of construction to stay home whenever you’re feeling under the weather. However, this may be the most important health and safety change in the industry.
Encourage employees to stay home when they’re sick. Work to establish a new workplace culture that does not punish those who do take sick days. It’s important to ensure that employees understand this and support each other through this time.
Whether or not a second wave of COVID happens, these tips will ultimately help you identify pain points in your company and help connect with employees. COVID has challenged many business owners both in construction and outside of it. Most notably it has pushed the fast-forward button on the integration of technology and construction.
By looking for take-a-ways and learnings from the first half of 2020 we can come out of this year made stronger by the challenges the industry has faced.
Whether you already have some questions in mind or don’t know where to start these questions can help you get a sense of how your employees feel about your response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The answers will help you make any necessary changes and to prepare should a second wave or secondary surge of COVID cases hit.
There are many free survey platforms available including Survey Monkey and Google Forms.
It is recommended that surveys are anonymous to encourage honest answers. However, that is up to you and your company.
Are you happy with the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes/No with a “Why/Why not?” text box.
Is there anything you would like to be done differently in the event of a second wave?
Are there any ways you think we can improve our standards for COVID prevention?
We are challenging the “work through it” attitude and encouraging employees to call in sick when they are not feeling well. Do you feel comfortable calling in sick?
Yes/No answer with a possible box for “Why?/Why not?”
Do you currently have any concerns or would like to see anything be done differently in regards to the company's COVID-19 response?