Here's How PROS Reacted to COVID 19
Canadian Contractors Have Drawn on Reserves of Innovation and Resilience
Tough times, for sure. While we are relatively fortunate in the construction industry to have been able to operate at some level in most areas, the COVID-19 lockdown has depressed activity, created uncertainty and generally slowed work to a crawl everywhere. It's a challenge no one saw coming and that no one has faced before. Surviving it is going to take some real creativity and community spirit. Thankfully, Canadian contractors seem to have ample reserves of both.
One immediate challenge has been the need to offer hot and cold running water for hand washing on job sites. Instagram has been full of the novel designs that work crews have come up with for these. There are units you can buy or rent to do this, of course, but why do that when a re-purposed construction heater, a couple laundry tubs and a garden hose get the job done? Plus, it is way more fun to invent and build it yourself. Designing and building plexiglass barriers for stores and service windows has become another fun hobby for builders.
Maintaining social distancing on the job site has spurred a number of
creative ideas. Organizing workers to have one person on each floor of a
building at a time has been one approach. Keeping workers outside as
much as possible on renovations, when they might have spent more time
inside the client's home, is another. Shifts that used to overlap so
workers could tell the next crew what progress had been made are now
spaced with a gap between so one group can clear the site before the
Providing personal protective equipment has required bursts of
innovation at times, most especially for masks. There's another space
where Instagram has had fun with the creative designs workers have come
up with when purpose-made PPE isn't available. Less fun is constantly
wiping down tools, vehicles and equipment after use – many companies
have been sending duplicate sets of equipment to sites to limit this
A small silver lining in the pandemic is the time it has made for the
things you know are important but never seem to get done. Training, for
example. Some contractors have taken advantage of the slow time to send
workers for updates to their certifications – things like
working-at-heights training and machinery operation. Others are finding
opportunities to expand the skills of their workforce with courses in
reading drawings and secondary trades. Managers are getting a chance to
work on the business instead of in the business by doing things like
developing performance enhancement procedures, standardizing their
construction details and organizing the workflow for when things come
back. Offices tend to be quieter with only the bosses in there, so it's
easier to think.
Contractors have had to limit the amount of equipment sharing that goes on, and disinfect whenever it changes hands.
Communication skills are suddenly more important for contractors than
ever before. Since supplies have to be ordered ahead, understanding what
you're ordering and being able to write a clear email takes on an added
importance. But as people are finding even in their personal lives,
something is lost when you can't get together physically. Contractors
are making extra efforts to achieve "soft contact" with clients,
suppliers, employees and subcontractors. Everyone has become very
comfortable with online video conferencing.
But there's no way to video conference a load of drywall to your site.
Contractors have had to get more organized than ever in making sure
supplies are ordered well ahead of time and scheduled for delivery
properly. Curbside pickup is inevitably slower than running into a store
and grabbing the item yourself, so we've had to make sure to limit the
number of visits needed. Stores and rental houses have helped by waiving
requirements for signatures on paper and allowing emailed documents or
providing e-signature apps. Many contractors have had to quickly get up
to speed with enabling electronic payments in their businesses as well.
And then there's been the hundreds of examples from all over the country
of contractors stepping up to help out their communities however they
can. Like parking an RV outside a jobsite to cook food and distribute it
to neighbours. Like collecting PPE to donate to hospitals and
front-line workers. Like building emergency shelters and servicing
hospital buildings for free. Using idled vehicles to deliver groceries
and medicine. Maybe not innovative in the sense we usually think of, but
showing a great instinct for keeping people together and their spirits
up in these difficult days.