COVID-19: The Potential New Normal For Construction
The last few months have seen a lot of change within all industries, including construction. Many of these changes have had to be quite drastic and executed very quickly. Although these changes have had to be made to help protect on-site staff during the outbreak, interestingly some have speculated that the changes made have improved both productivity and health and safety conditions within the usual working environment. With this in mind, some people believe these changes should remain in place even if not required due to COVID-19. Here we are going to look at two very big elements of the construction industry that have been changed by the pandemic and what could become ‘the new normal’.
More Through Planning Has Lead To Improvements
As mentioned adjustments have been made that have seen improvements, One of the reasons for these positive results is likely due to the increased time that teams have been spending on planning work as well as the actual task executions. More detail and time has been going into the planning and in most places that have been monitored, it was found that this increased worker effectiveness and also site tidiness, likely a result of a better organisation before the projects start.
The reason for the more through planning was because sites had to take into account new rules. For example, only a certain amount of workers have been allowed in each area. It seems that this has encouraged sites to make extra effort insuring other details are correct, resulting in better and more detailed planning for specific tasks. This is an area of improvement that should form part of ‘the new normal’.
How has productivity improved and what can be done going forward to maintain these improvements?
Of course, due to lockdown and other repercussions of the pandemic, delays in projects were inevitable.
However, in general, it seems productivity also improved after a period of uncertainty thanks to more thorough planning. Whilst a lot of tasks took longer than normal due to the reduced amount of people allowed on-site, and because of social distancing rules and a shortage of required materials, measures were implemented to prevent productivity from faltering too much.
For example, many sites have been staggering shifts so that fewer people are working at the same time, whilst other projects rescheduled tasks to ensure that they made use of the staff that was on the rota for a given period, regarding their skill sets.
Another method employed by some was to use offsite manufactures as a way to reduce the need for workers making close contact. These steps revealed an overall increase in productivity, showing what can be done with more limited resources going forward.
Further to this, like other industries, in construction, it became apparent that a certain section of staff could work from home, for example, those taking care of the admin, and so in doing so numbers on-site were lowered even further. Other areas of the industry that could be completed from home include the project planning process and other parts relating to the organisation of the job in hand. Most, if not all, of these tasks, were found to be workable from home as long as the staff member had the correct equipment available to them. This is something that the employers could provide if not.
Improvements In Health And Saftey
This was likely a natural result in many respects but as a consequence of the increased need fo strengthen health and safety regulations in light of the outbreak, on-sites standards, in many ways, has become the safest working environment they have been in some time, again showcasing positive changes that should be considered as mainstays going forward. Staff are required to operate their machinery or use chemical substances with more careful planning, with less staff ‘hanging around’ reducing the risk of illness or injury. As there are fewer people about, there is less chance of anyone getting involved in a mishap on-site.
To add a few closing thoughts, it is hard to deny that the construction industry has not only managed to adapt to the changing landscape caused by COVID-19 it has offered up some measures that would do well to remain in place, regardless of the COVID-19 situation. The pandemic has caused a shake-up that has revealed ways in which the sector can operate well with previously unforeseen limitations, and perhaps come out the other side even better for it, with a refreshed understanding of how to utilise the resources available in the best possible way.