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Last week we wrote about the lessons that the construction industry learned from the lockdowns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we all know, there may be light appearing at the end of the tunnel, but there is no guarantee that this will be the last of the lockdowns, with government and health officials warning that there may be further spikes in coronavirus cases throughout 2021.
We want to follow up last week’s post with five pieces of advice to consider in case of another lockdown emerging later in the year, so that whether on a construction site or in the office, your business can be best prepared for any future coronavirus shutdown that may occur.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the world were caught off guard and had to very quickly adapt to remote working situations when it became clear that a lockdown was impending. That element of surprise is no longer a factor after a full year of lockdowns and remote working.
For any role that isn’t based on-site, and isn’t absolutely necessary to be based at the workplace, your business should remain prepared to return to remote working at any moment’s notice. Whilst it may be a frustration to move back and forward between the office, flexible working is going to be an ever increasing part of business life in the coming years, and growing comfortable with it now will only be a positive in the long-term.
The ability to work from home will also have the added benefit of keeping staff safer from the possibility of contracting COVID-19, and thus missing work through illness at a later date. It would also reduce crowding on public transport and ease pressure on the emergency services at a time when COVID-19 cases would presumably be on the rise again.
For any role that is based on-site, ensure that any necessary social distancing measures are in place. Have you considered adaptations to on-site working that may produce benefits that were previously unthought of before the pandemic? Our Strategic Consultant Damon Schünmann recently spoke to Oliver Rogan, Managing Director at Metek, who explained how measures that they were forced to implement due to social distancing measures have ended up improving on-site productivity in the long run.
As it has now been over a year since the pandemic hit our shores, it would be a good idea to let your clients know that any further coronavirus lockdown is something that you have been able to prepare for.
If you are in a position where a lockdown won’t affect your business at all, then it is vital that you pass on that confidence to your customers, to keep them secure in the fact that your level of service will remain the same.
If there will be a knock-on effect to your business then let you clients know the details of what might be effected and how you are working to ensure business runs as smoothly as possible. Keeping communication channels open will show confidence and security in what you are doing to keep their experience the best that it can be.
Use the same communication channels that you normally would for client updates, so that customers are kept calm and felt taken care of. If you would usually send mass emails then consider a wide message from your Managing Director, or equivalent. If you have staff who speak to clients directly then make sure those staff are making the calls and sending the emails to update their customers. Ensure that all staff who are customer-facing have the same messaging about your position as a business, so that there is a clear and consistent tone coming from your brand. Likewise, make sure that your website and social media channels are constantly refreshed with your latest updates. A huge amount of passing traffic can see these messages of reassurance and can spread the word that your business is functioning amidst a lockdown.
As has happened previously, the nation may end up with different lockdown rules across different regions. This is worth bearing in mind as a business, especially if you are a national brand who works across the country. Some important factors to consider in this regard are:
Taking into account the full picture of what may be possible across the country can only be of benefit to you to be best prepared for whatever situation may befall your branches or partners across the nation.
As an industry we are admittedly probably more used to being at odds with one another than we are used to working together. However, if the past year has shown us anything, it’s that we are stronger together as an industry. Bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) have put together resources to try and combat the effects of the pandemic on the industry together, rather than each individual business attempting to fend for themselves. There may be advice or help being given out by these bodies that suits your business. This could also be a great opportunity to build relationships with future partners or find new clients
Keep your eyes on the news and follow fellow businesses and government bodies on social media to be kept up to date with any business aid schemes you may not be aware of. Building up a wide social media network can be great to find out this information, as there are always those in the industry who want to use their platform to highlight things that others can benefit from.
Barbour ABI will continue to work at full strength during any lockdown and produce the same level of output that we would when the country is fully functioning. Keep up to date with our reporting on how the industry is faring to keep yourself in the best position possible to thrive.
Download our Snap Analysis each month to discover how the levels of contract awards, planning approvals and planning applications are being affected across each region and sector of U.K. construction as the year progresses.
Our sister brand AMA Research is also constantly producing reports on sectors throughout construction, as well as providing bespoke reporting options and forecasting reports. They also have a COVID Impact Report that details the effects that the pandemic has had on the industry throughout the past year.
And finally, make sure that you keep up to date with government announcements as they happen so that you always know the exact rules and regulations within your region and industry.
Due to the construction industry being considered an essential service, it is unlikely that any future lockdown will have the same impact that the very first one did on the industry. Whilst there will undoubtedly be an impact on the industry from any further lockdown, we would not anticipate the levels of site closures and projects on hold occurring again that we saw occur in the early weeks of the pandemic hitting the U.K.
Whilst the rollout of the vaccination programme appears to be having a positive impact on coronavirus case numbers throughout the U.K., we cannot speculate on what the future may hold in terms of case numbers and government lockdowns. We recommend that you keep up to date with government data and advice and remain prepared for changes to lockdown status at all times.