While almost every industry has been affected by COVID-19, the challenges experienced by contractors have been especially daunting.
COVID-19 has forced contractors throughout the world to make significant changes to the ways they work and implement them virtually overnight. And while almost every industry has been affected, the challenges experienced by contractors have been especially daunting.
In just a few short months, the impact of the coronavirus has called for extensive changes in construction work, many of which are expected to remain in place even after the pandemic regresses.
No matter what the future may hold, contractors must now confront the challenging task of trying to complete current jobs while simultaneously ensuring the safety of their staff and conforming to new government regulations. And like so many other industries, supply chain interruptions continue to present a major obstacle for growth. The good news, however, is that contractors have proven adept at making the required modifications to bounce back and thrive as they take on new projects.
As restrictions in the construction industry are slowly beginning to lift, there is an overwhelming consensus that work policies and procedures will not be the same as they were before the pandemic. However, by better understanding and addressing the changes ahead, contractors will be greater prepared to overcome the various, new challenges they can expect to encounter.
Here are five ways COVID-19 has and will continue to change the way jobs are performed in the construction industry.
No doubt the pandemic has stressed the significance of worker safety and health. To continue working on construction sites, contractors responded by executing new jobsite policies for controlling the virus, such as staggered shifts, controlled access to worksites, employee temperature checks, and frequent disinfection of surfaces, tools and machinery. In addition to all this, clear guidelines for virus outbreaks and response plans have also been implemented to help keep all those on the jobsite safe and healthy.
As with many other often-crowded workplaces, social distancing is a top priority at construction worksites, and the current distancing policies will most likely remain in effect even after the pandemic subsides. Smaller gatherings and more clearly defined procedures for a variety of tasks are some things construction workers can expect to see more of in the months ahead.
This demand for social distancing has also altered the ways in which contractors work with project teams and communicate with customers. Implementing technology such as video conferencing has allowed project members to participate in meetings remotely, which can be highly advantageous to contractors responsible for multiple projects during the same period. Some remote technology methods are even enabling regulators building departments to perform remote inspections, which can help minimize delays and improve contractors’ ability to complete projects on time.
Here in the United States, construction companies were hit especially hard by global supply chain disruptions brought on by COVID-19. During the first months of the pandemic, contractors had an extremely difficult time sourcing large quantities of basic building materials such as bricks, cement and sand due to the virus outbreak in China— the source of about 30% of U.S. building materials last year.
Building materials normally sourced from overseas, especially China, are now more than ever prone to delays and higher costs. To overcome these hurdles, many contractors are looking closer to home, in places such as Mexico and the U.S. to find new suppliers from which to purchase their materials.
Because these supply chain issues remain a concern, contractors will continue looking toward permanent regional suppliers for their material needs. They will also strive toward maintaining larger inventories of essential materials to protect against future supply chain disruptions and associated delays.
Unfortunately, a dearth of qualified workers will continue to plague the construction industry for the near future. With workers unable to perform their jobs due to the implemented quarantines and travel restrictions, many contractors will continue to scramble to get their worksites fully staffed.
In an effort to employ skilled construction workers who will remain in high demand, and to sustain long-term productivity, contractors will need to take steps to educate workers on how to best guard against on-site health risks, provide ample safety measures, and provide more flexible sick policies.
Construction site safety changes in addition to the increased worker and supply chain demands will undoubtedly add to the amount of time it will take to finish projects. Procedures like staggering work shifts, suiting up with PPE, and only allowing a single trade on a site at a time will significantly reduce the speed at which jobs are completed. It would behoove contractors to keep these added time constraints in mind when bidding out new jobs to ensure a realistic schedule is implemented.
Even with the greater efficiencies offered by new technologies, the fast tracking of jobs will be virtually non-existent in the foreseeable future. Simply put, contractors will need to establish longer project timeframes, and all members of the project team, including architects, owners, subcontractors and other consultants, must embrace the reality that projects will simply take more time than they did in the past.