As we’ve recently said in our blog posts, effective project managers and all those who work with them are accustomed to expecting the unexpected in the residential construction industry. We did not, however, expect events on the world stage to respond with a “Hold my beer. Check this out.”
Many contractors have no choice but to go 100% paperless just to prevent the spread of germs caused by papers that possibly touch every employees hands. We are now at a point when some businesses and communities around the world find themselves struggling to keep working while simultaneously trying to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of this writing, the U.S. federal government has not explicitly recognized construction as an essential industry. However, the Associated General Contractors of America has released best practices for construction job sites in the wake of COVID-19. Among other important points, these include:
- Don’t report to work if you’re sick, and don’t let those who work for you do so either.
- Remind employees and teams to use good hygiene including frequent hand-washing, covering coughs, and avoiding touching the face.
- Keep your staff and tradespeople informed of CDC recommendations via any means available.
- Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, and maintain a six-foot distance between individuals. Perform meetings online or via conference call whenever possible.
- Allow nonessential personnel to work from home whenever possible.
The good news is that today’s technology does make it much easier to stay connected to not only your employees, but your subcontractors, owners and builders. Strong connections mean more opportunities to keep working while appropriate safety precautions are observed. Here are our tips for maximizing your opportunities as a construction firm to allow everyone to work remotely and stay productive.
IT Infrastructure Needs
With so much of the world’s office activities available today through cloud computing (Google Docs, Dropbox or Microsoft Office 365, anyone?), chances are that you and your coworkers already have the basic tools needed to work from home: Solid internet service and a reasonably fast computer, as well as a mobile device like a smartphone. The first step toward working from home is to do a quick tech survey to make sure everyone is properly equipped and to identify any gaps in your IT infrastructure. For small businesses, this may be as simple as asking a question across the room. However, larger companies might want to consider using any of the free online survey tools to quickly send all their employees a standardized survey. Sites like SurveyMonkey also collate the results for you so you can instantly see who’s responded and what they said.
General Software Needs
The next question to be answered is which online office and/or productivity tools are best for your business. As mentioned above, you likely already have access to, or are actively using, a cloud solution like Dropbox or Office 365, so now it’s just a matter of accessing those applications from your home computers and mobile devices. In addition, plenty of reviewers have posted lists of the best productivity apps available (like this recent one), but only you can decide which app is most relevant to your business needs. For instance, Slack is a popular tool that facilitates communication among employees, either through instant messages or internet phone calls, and also facilitates quick and easy file transfers between employees. If you have videoconferencing needs, popular options include Zoom, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams (here’s a handy summary). No matter which solutions you choose, make sure that all team members (including you) make good use of each app’s tutorials and training to smooth and speed the transition as much as possible.
Take Care of Your People
While the bits-and-bytes part gets set up, don’t forget the human part of the “working from home” equation. You probably know your employees and teams pretty well, and you’ve likely noticed they’re feeling unsettled at best and downright fearful at worst. You likely feel the same so help calm these nerves by providing as much information to your team as you can. For instance, for those who have never worked from home, establish what parts of the normal office routine you expect them to maintain, such as the time they should be available online each morning, what schedule you expect to use for any video check-ins, what their deadlines will be, etc. On the other hand, also reassure them on the points where you’re going to be flexible, such as how to handle distractions like children being home from school, time away from their desks for medical appointments, etc.
Get Specific For Construction
No software can be everything to all businesses, so in addition to your general office tools, now is the time to seriously consider a construction-specific scheduling and project management tool. BOLT software is not only available through your desktop internet; it’s also 100-percent mobile and cloud-based. That means you get the same functionality and access no matter which device you use or where you are. And it works through both Android and iOS environments. In addition:
- Through BOLT software, all of your field managers are connected to your office in real time and through their mobile devices. They always have instant access to the latest information such as schedule availability, deadlines, hours spent, materials used, task lists, etc.
- As changes arise, BOLT software lets you reschedule jobs quickly, assign work to crews from your mobile device or computer, and document the reasons for the change.
- BOLT software lets you “push out” any updates to standard operating procedures, such as handwashing or social distancing guidelines, to all your work crews consistently and simultaneously. Any required recognition of receipt is automatically and instantly documented.
- At a time when it’s recommended to avoid handling paper in an effort to avoid the spread of any virus, BOLT software allows you to make every aspect of your residential construction business digital and paperless – bids, orders, timelines, project notes, photo documentation, permits, and more.
Keep Calm and…
We all have to take this one day at a time. So as you and your teams transition to working from home, do what contractors do best: stay calm, figure it out, and maintain your flexibility. If BOLT software can help smooth this transition and put your mind at ease about some of your new operational realities, contact a member of our knowledgeable team today.