The 2020 global health pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in so much of what we consider normal.
For the thousands of workplace sites that are now starting to reopen, their workers will be returning to some very different ways of working as many contractors and developers scrabble to redefine their processes and project performance to ensure they are Covid-safe.
Site safety has improved
Social distancing has created the need for new ways of working, many of which are leading to a much safer working environment. Gangs of trades can no longer work on top of each other and so greater planning and thought are being given to how trades can work safely but efficiently alongside each other with the right amount of space to get the job done.
Comprehensive hygiene policies have been implemented for both people and equipment with more focus than ever on washing, sanitising and cleaning which is going to offer long-term benefits to overall health and wellbeing. In addition, site access has been redefined; greater controls are in place to make sure those entering sites are fit and well to do so which is decreasing the spread of unwanted bugs whilst those in the supply chain are implementing contactless deliveries or as a minimum, greater control around site access at peak times and minimising face to face contact.
Technology is being embraced
Fitting-out is a very physical job that necessarily requires onsite physical presence but in times of social distancing, the industry has had to embrace a more remote way of working. As a result, it is being much more receptive to technology to help where it can. From web-based meetings bringing together the right people regardless of location through to virtual tours to conduct inspections, technology-based solutions are ensuring that work can carry on regardless.
This is also extending to on-site safety, with software and kit that helps monitor the health of staff, including measuring and recording temperatures and logging wellness data for business-led reporting and even tech-infused PPE is emerging that signals if someone is breaching social distancing measures.
There’s greater flexibility with project planning
The availability of time is becoming an influencing factor in project timelines as the need to work at a different, and often slower, pace is having a significant impact on timelines. There are typically fewer workers on-site at any one time which, coupled with increased cleaning procedures and longer lead times for materials and PPE, means that project timelines are having to be re-worked over a longer time period.
Innovation is reigning
Keeping the fit-out industry moving is the job of the leaders within it, but they are increasingly looking to their front-line workers to help understand what needs to be improved/different/better to help get the job done as quickly and safely as possible. From new product design to reporting interfaces, process enhancements to cultural nudges, now more than ever entire workforces feel they are involved in the longer-term success of the projects they are working on because they have a chance to influence then.
Across all industries, there is a sense of increased trust that employers will do the right thing by their workers to ensure that when they return to the workplace, they will be safe from harm. In a sector such as construction, this is ever more critical. Whether reactive or not, any additional safety measures that can be put in place to ensure this industry can continue to thrive alongside committing to the wellbeing of their workers has to be applauded and hopefully, adopted for the long-term.
A number of very innovative technology advances will impact the construction industry in the coming future. In this insight, we focus on the construction trends which we think will take centre stage, including wearable technology, exoskeleton vests, new BIM technology and drone advances.