Communication

How Has COVID-19 Affected Communication in the Construction Industry?

It’s not all doom and gloom. Although COVID-19 and Brexit have created plenty of challenges for the construction industry, it would be misleading to suggest work has dried up altogether. Yes, labour shortages, rising material costs, and other mitigating factors have led to projects being cancelled. But by adapting their communication strategies, forward-thinking firms have been able to reduce risk to their employees, share information faster, and identify problems before they become serious issues.

So how has the construction industry adapted to meet the demands of an economic landscape altered by Brexit and COVID-19? Just as importantly, how successful have these communication strategies been?

An essential industry

The construction sector delivers essential services to businesses and organisations throughout the UK. That’s why, in spite of the pandemic, constructors had to carry on in spite of a depleted workforce, supply chain issues, and more stringent on-site health and safety protocols. To weather this storm, construction companies had to rapidly locate new ways of working.

Here are five actions the sector can take to remain agile in the face of great adversity.

 

1. Keep the communication flowing

Consistency is key. During difficult times, it’s easy to fall into the trap of fire-fighting instead of taking a preventative stance. And yet, by keeping the wheels of communication moving, important information can be shared quickly – leading to greater insight and better strategic decisions being made.

Construction firms that have created – and stuck to – a regular communication schedule have been able to effectively coordinate activities with their stakeholders and provide real-time data about policies, what decisions are being made, and by whom.

 

2. Make key people responsible for communication

A communication strategy will only succeed if key members of a business are responsible for sharing and maintaining key project information. 

These people will be responsible for:

  • Keeping all constructors safe. For example, they might encourage certain employees to work remotely from home to minimise risk to the business and maintain operational efficiency. 
  • Developing a contingency plan. What steps should be taken in the event of another lockdown or if supply levels continue to drop? Anticipating such problems and ways to solve them will help ensure business continuity – whatever the challenge might be.

 

3. Roll out a retention strategy too

The construction industry has been hit hard twice: first by COVID-19, then Britain exiting the European Union. Delays to – or cancellation of – projects have led to a mass migration of sorts, with qualified tradespeople switching to other more profitable and sustainable sectors. 

Retaining qualified tradespeople should be a high priority for any construction firm serious about weathering the recent crises which have beleaguered the sector. Incentivising employees to stay and showcasing those rewards should be part and parcel of their communications strategy.

Of course, incentives alone won’t be enough to retain team members anxious about risks posed to their health or job security. So any schemes rolled out should be supported by transparent, sympathetic, and continuous messages designed to allay employees’ fears and shoot down any myths or scaremongering that might otherwise unsettle them.

 

4. Make your working environments safer

COVID-19 still presents a threat to the construction industry. Although workers are no longer being pinged, they will still need to isolate in the event of a positive test. And so it’s important to take preemptive steps to minimise the chances of an outbreak.

Consultation & assessment

These risks will have been identified and assessed through direct consultation with workers and by undertaking a health and safety risk assessment. The steps involved might include installing hand sanitisers at entry and exit points, making available PPE, and increasing cleaning schedules to ensure equipment and touchpoints are properly sanitised. 

Use all media at your disposal

Agreeing and implementing these steps won’t be enough on its own. Emails, notice boards, intranets, and team plenums should be utilised as far as possible to explain what measures have been taken, who they apply to, and the rationale for implementing them in the first place. 

 

5. The importance of documentation

Legality and accountability

The important role documentation plays in construction cannot be underestimated. From both a legal and safety perspective constructors must document everything – including contracts, building plans, and health and safety. 

The health and safety file is arguably the most important document. If there is an incident at work, an employer will be able to refer to the file to show what measures were taken to protect staff on site.

Speed and efficiency 

Integrated systems are fast becoming the norm within construction. Having oversight of all data in one place allows constructors to spot problems or trends faster and react to them immediately. This isn’t possible with manual or disconnected systems which slow down the decision-making process.

During this uncertain period, agility is vital. To combat the threats posed by Brexit and COVID-19, constructors must invest in modern technology. But which tech is best? Cloud-based software is the system of choice because it’s inexpensive, secure, highly scalable, and allows businesses to retrieve data in the event of a crisis.

Create files from day one

Time is of the essence. That’s why it makes sense to create files at the start otherwise, locating information later for a client in response to a critical problem will take much longer (and could even put the project in jeopardy).

Will investing in a digital-based system like Dokkit solve problems caused by COVID-19 and Brexit? Absolutely not. But it will help constructors respond to – and solve –  issues in a timely and more efficient manner.

 

Conclusion

Issues caused by recent events have roused the construction industry – giving it an electric shock of sorts. This wake-up call has given rise to better communication measurable in terms of volume, frequency, speed, and innovation. 

Although not all firms have responded proactively to the recent spate of issues plaguing the construction sector, the vast majority have. And it’s this uncanny ability to react and adapt that should give those working in the industry hope for the future.

 

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