During the pandemic, the construction industry has been hit hard. For many projects, they weren’t deemed to be essential, and in turn halted due to budgetary and safety reasons. Architecture, engineering, and construction as a whole, often known as AEC, saw huge spikes in layoffs. Those companies that were able to keep going with limited access to physical jobsites were the ones comfortable with remote technology and video conferencing.
Since March of 2020, many construction companies have turned to remote tech with great success.
The CDC and OSHA offered guidelines and recommendations, encouraging a slow return to building and engineering projects. These recommendations included things like social distancing, limited on-site personnel, reducing meeting sizes, and using remote technology to keep projects going from a distance.
As companies begin to return to jobsites, construction has a new face and functions differently than before. Last year, the standard of practice for project update meetings was to hold them in person, frequently. Quick “in-person check-ins,” as it turns out, create a lot more considerations when they suddenly need to become virtual.
Construction teams then had to think through:
Let’s run through the top four considerations for construction teams going online.
The CDC issued recommendations for construction workers to maintain safety, including limiting physical contact, wearing face coverings, and having anyone who can work from home do so.
Include signage and other visual cues reminding team members to maintain six feet of distance. Implement a reduced schedule and use virtual technology (more on that later) to include project leaders from home.
The CDC recommends limiting shared tools when possible, using social distancing, screening employees for symptoms, and using cloth face coverings on the jobsite. Supply cleaning products and instructions on disinfecting tools between uses. Make sure your staff has the right gear to stay safe.
Taking an entire industry online isn’t going to happen overnight. With recent guidelines for construction projects to limit in-person jobsite presence and meeting capacity, many teams have turned to virtual meetings on Zoom and other document management software to go paperless and maintain communication on the cloud.
Construction companies are taking communication online by using email, collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, and construction document management software. By moving paperwork that used to be online to the cloud, anyone can access project updates from home and these tools are a huge timesaver. With project managers running on limited budgets, any cost and time-saving initiative has a big impact.
Part of your new digital communication strategy should include virtual meetings. Using video conferencing software like Zoom or Cisco WebEx, you can connect team members who are home, on-site, or both. Pair your video meeting app with a video conferencing camera or a laptop/desktop with a webcam.
Pro tip: For meetings with some members in-person and socially distanced, try a 360-degree camera like the Meeting Owl Pro to capture everyone’s face and voice where they’re sitting. Those tuning in from home can also clearly see whiteboards and plans displayed in the room.
With a great remote communication plan comes a great remote, cloud-based project management plan. Construction teams are moving to the cloud and using project management software along with creative solutions like digital twins, virtual replicas of a given construction site hosted online.
Construction project management software like Procore and Jonas Construction give construction teams the power to:
Project management software helps projects save money and work more efficiently.
Digital twins are 3D replications of physical buildings that construction teams can use to collaborate with remote stakeholders. A fairly new niche, companies like Cityzenith are offering unique solutions during COVID-19 and helping construction firms create the buildings of the future with innovative building planning. Using digital twins, companies are planning and building newly designed facilities with IoT integrations and safety measurements.
The architecture, engineering, and construction industries (AEC) are known for having a large generational gap among employees. Due to the varying levels of comfort with technology and remote tools, there may be a learning curve when it comes to learning Zoom or Procore. Make sure you have the required resources and training for your employees and they feel comfortable asking for help during ramp up. Identify a few “super users” as someone to call with questions, or use your preferred product’s customer support service.
Remember that not everyone has a desktop with a webcam, laptop with a webcam, or the required device for certain software. Do a quick audit of the team before you implement any virtual communication plan to ensure everyone can participate.
As with any industry adapting to the changing guidelines and recommendations, safety is the biggest priority when returning to work. Use digital technology to keep team members safe and save your budget, all while documenting everything for ease of communication and tracking.