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What has COVID-19 taught construction?

Posted on 31/01/2022 at 2:32 PM by in Blog

The last 2 years have been some of the hardest in recent memory, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it is still having to this day…

From lockdowns to social distancing to wearing masks, our “normal” way of life has been thrown aside in order to protect people and prioritise health and safety. Luckily in 2022, we have vaccines to help reduce the effects of the virus, but we’re not in the clear just yet.

One of the sectors to be hit the hardest by the pandemic is construction, with everything coming to a complete standstill in March of 2020. The construction industry has had to adapt and adjust in order to accommodate the tidal wave of problems that have arisen since, and it’s still an on-going process.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at some of the lessons that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught the UK construction industry.

Prioritising health & safety

COVID-19 is a disease that is highly contagious, and from the beginning we were encouraged not to get within close proximity of each other where possible, especially not in large groups. But in an industry where there is usually lots of workers on-site, this became an issue very quickly.

After sites began to open up again after the initial shutdown, companies were forced to adapt around the latest restrictions and had to adjust accordingly.

On top of social distancing (where physically possible) and the use of masks, staggering arrival times for on-site workers to reduce public transport crowding was trialled, and keeping workers in specific bubbles on-site to reduce the mixing of households was also implemented.

Office workers had it slightly easier as they were able to work remotely, mostly from home, and travelling to client meetings become a thing of the past thanks to online video conferencing – but more on that later.

With almost every restriction going against how construction usually operates, the industry was able to push through and find new ways to safely continue on – and some of them have stuck around for good.

Managing materials shortages

Cast your mind back to the beginning on the pandemic and you’ll remember that some of the biggest news stories included a shortage of toilet paper, with people stockpiling the sanitary products and leaving shelves bare.

The same thing happened in construction, only instead of paper towels, it was bricks and other essential materials.

This can be attributed to a few reasons, with manufacturers and merchants shutting doors and creating backlogs, which created a snowball effect across the supply chain, as well as the Brexit situation that just so happened to occur at the start of all of this.

Now that the days of material hoarding seem to be behind us, there is hope that the industry has gained a level of patience and understanding when it comes to ordering exactly what they need for projects and not holding anyone else up in the process.

Improved communication

As touched on earlier, communication has become more important than ever in the last 2 years.

With site visits restricted to essential personnel only and face-to-face sales meetings a pipe dream, construction had to embrace the digital age and take things online.

Meetings through communication software such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, and others became a daily occurrence, trading long boardroom meetings for quick and to the point catch-ups from the comforts of home.

Training has become easier in many ways, allowing new members of staff to learn from home and the ability to record meetings for later use.

For salespeople in particular this shift to video calls has proven hugely beneficial, spending more time in meetings and less driving up and down UK roads.

While the phrases “Is my camera on?” and “Can you hear me?” have been used more than we’d like to admit, the introduction of a remote option is definitely a welcome one.

Focus on mental health & wellbeing

Mental health has been a topic that has needed to be addressed for a long time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated that need for conversation.

We’ve spoken about mental health in construction in previous articles, but construction has unfortunately got a history of high levels of depression and even suicide among workers, and the last 2 years can’t have helped in that regard.

Luckily regular mental health check-ins have become more common among construction companies, with better support systems in place for anyone struggling.

In an industry that can be perceived as “masculine”, it’s been great to see more men specifically talking about their feelings and reaching out for help.

The introduction of flexible working and working from home as an option has also proven to be very beneficial to worker mental health, allowing a better work/life balance and higher productivity levels in many cases.

Overall, putting workers first is only going to be a positive for everyone involved, and we hope to see this continue.

Working together

At the beginning of all this, despite the lack of knowledge about what was going on and how long it would last, there was a sense of togetherness among everyone.

From clapping for NHS workers to virtual pub quizzes, this idea of solidarity was inspiring – and construction benefitted from this as well.

We’ve seen countless examples of important figures and bodies in construction coming together to help, and more resources than ever before available for everyone to use.

Health & safety is in the spotlight, with everyone working together to keep each other safe and ensure a standard for safety across the board.

The last 2 years have been some of the most challenging in recent memory, but through innovations and perseverance, the construction industry will come out of this better for it.

If COVID-19 has taught construction anything, it’s that we’re better together than we are apart – and looking after each other can only be a good thing.

Want to get involved in the conversation? Feel free to tweet us @utilitysearches and let us know your thoughts.

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