Spring moves into summer and the construction industry starts its own new season as lockdown restrictions ease and we begin to come to terms with the “new normal”. What the “new normal” will be and how long it will last will unfold over the upcoming months, but with government guidance lacking clarity it will be up to us as an industry to make construction work safe and effective through collaboration on all sides.
The summer irises are in bloom. Representing hope, faith, wisdom and courage, irises are a symbol of what we must stand for in the post-Covid world.
We must have hope. Hope that construction sites will continue to reopen, hope that supply chains and manufacturing will remobilise and hope that our people will be confident that they can safely return to work.
There should be faith. Faith that all project team-members will work together, to resolve disputes and not push the burden of losses down the supply or employment chain; pain at the bottom will find its way to the top eventually.
The painful impacts of Covid-19 are shared and while the mantra of ‘know your contract’ holds true, the road to litigation and dispute resolution will not get us building again nor get the economy on its feet. Practical and transparent discussions are required to realistically plan for the upcoming months. We also need faith that whilst it will take longer to reach contract close or completion, works will need to be re-sequenced and productivity will be lower. We must use our creativity as an to industry to deliver .
From all these experiences, there is wisdom to be gained. We must have a period of reflection from this pandemic and learn lessons to make our organisations more robust for the future. The lessons of the 2009 credit crunch have not been learnt and the fragility of the cash position our industry holds has been exposed again. We will all be watching with interest as the furlough claims are reviewed, news of further redundancies emerge and whether, or how quickly, reduced salaries are returned to pre-Covid-19 levels. Actions by our industry leaders now will reveal more about their corporate culture than their inevitable media campaigns which will follow. The wisdom to prepare for the unexpected and to build in resilience must feature in all of our future business plans.
We hope for wisdom from clients that this will not be seen as an opportunity to accelerate the race to the bottom for tender prices and fees. If the price is too good to be true – it won’t be. Further losses will not speed recovery or construction programmes and we should seek opportunities for collaboration, partnership and improving efficiencies to build our way out of this slump. The last few months have been a period of change and the opportunity is there to maintain this momentum in all areas of project delivery.
It is important to learn from the positives of this situation, the improvements and growth of video conferencing as a networking and management tool, the reduction of travel and consequentially a lessened environmental impact. Many will incorporate these practices into our day-to-day lives, whilst being ever aware that they will not replace our basic human need for personal contact – the trust and bond that is formed with a handshake is unequivocal. The wisdom that is gained from overheard conversations in the office, ad-hoc collaboration and shadowing is needed to bring forth the next generation of our industry is why it is so important we do not push to make remote working the forever normal. Now is the time to make sure experienced resource is accessible and has available capacity not only to kick start projects but to train and develop.
Above all now is a time for courage. Not just the courage to get us all working again and to lead us away from recession, but the courage to build the wisdom we have learnt from this experience into our businesses going forward. Courage to support flexible working, reducing the skills shortage by empowering mothers to return to work part time, allow parents to share childcare, work part-time, flexi-time and remotely to maintain the balance between work and life. Courage to continue the life-work balance we have discovered from spending more time with our families and that single trip outdoors a day. With trust and courage we can empower our workforce to be more efficient and happier – improving productivity for all.
A global pandemic is not historically unprecedented. Our way of life and the way we do business has been challenged throughout history and as a global society we have bounced back; how we do this and how quickly is now the priority.
The power of hope, faith, wisdom and courage to drive collaboration and innovation a good values to bring us together and start making projects happen.