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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 other arrives.

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 time-consuming behaviour.

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. ​