Where Is Construction Today as a Result of COVID-19?

by Tom Harrison

Over the course of the last five months, paramount shifts have been made by many industries around the globe in response to the pandemic. These modifications are likely to remain in place even after the virus subsides, especially for the construction industry. As leaders begin to re-evaluate their current organizational processes — including technology implementation for projects, hiring practices and unionized labor — many leaders have been tasked with confronting and addressing challenges that have presented themselves amid the pandemic.

The presence of COVID-19 has only amplified many of the industry’s existing issues, forcing businesses to quickly make changes to their internal and external processes to account for today’s new circumstances. So, what exactly has changed and how will this affect construction moving forward?

Safer and Sanitized Job Sites

Prompted by the coronavirus, transitions made to corporate and organizational protocol will have long-lasting effects on the ways in which businesses respond to crises and fluctuations in their industries. The importance of job safety and employee health has been at the forefront of many businesses during the pandemic, and within the construction industry new policies are being put into place. From employee temperature checks before shifts to staggered shifts and new equipment sanitation requirements, it is unlikely to see these modifications go, even as the pandemic passes.

Union Opinion Will Be Impactful

Many construction companies rely on the presence of union workers to complete projects, and with working conditions being adjusted to meet the new safety standards presented amid the pandemic, predicting how union workers will respond is uncertain. Despite the rapid decline of memberships in recent years, the pandemic has offered an opportunity for trade unions to reestablish their influence. As the construction industry continues to accommodate the pandemic by considering employee health, safety and wages, this period offers an opportunity for many businesses to demonstrate a commitment to their employees.

Increased Technology and Automation

With technology enhancing distanced working capabilities, the implementation of video conferencing will become more prominent to facilitate stages of project management across teams. Not only will this new technology function to help the flow of communication, it may also become a necessary tool for the hiring process. For companies that are still hiring amid the pandemic, virtual interviews are a great way to conduct socially distanced meetings while still considering and accommodating peoples’ safety.

In addition to the increase of technology being used by internal employees, digitized tools, such as Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), have become a prominent part of external processes, such as presenting designs to clients and purchasing materials, all online.

What Does This Mean Moving Forward?

Although the pandemic has brought forward some overdue yet positive changes within the construction field, industry leaders expect these changes to stick around long-term. Technological tools will likely be picked up quickly, and businesses may be less timid to incorporate digital tools into their daily practices. Not only will the use of technology continue to expand, new approaches to employee health and safety will continue to adapt and change. Greater consideration to the voices within the construction community offering alternative approaches to employee well-being may also arise. With all the changes that have been made, it’s clear that these advancements will have a lasting impact far beyond the current pandemic.

Tom Harrison is the VP and managing partner of Johnson Carlier. He has more than 20 years of business development and construction management in Arizona. Aggressive and meticulous, Harrison has managed more than $1.2 billion of projects within a variety of delivery methods that include Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) and Design-Build.

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