As we transition into a new era of working, and living, CEO of the Institute of Roofing (IoR), Stuart Hicks, offers advice and guidance on how to manage the new changes.
Off-site and home working has become the new norm in the last few months, and it looks as though this will continue for many people as the construction sector begins to adapt to change following the Covid-19 outbreak.
However, research suggests we are actually the least prepared for it, with less than five per cent of the UK construction industry utilising ‘offsite techniques’ before the pandemic hit. So, for some, this is a real shift in working practices.
Managing this change effectively and modernising is crucial for the survival of our sector. Here we discuss some key areas to keep in mind during this vast period of change.
Avoid the Conflict
Remote working, loneliness, uncertainty, increased workloads and shifts in responsibility all play a part in any potential conflict not only with colleagues, but across the entire supply chain. Although these may seem like exceptional circumstances, cases of conflict have to be dealt with properly and in a timely way.
Between 2010 and 2014 for example, the financial costs of disputes in the UK construction industry increased from £4.6 billion to £17.6 billion. The length of time it takes to resolve disagreements through litigation is frequently measured in years, and implications on finances and other resources can be immense.
These figures are outlined within The Conflict Avoidance Pledge set up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICs) and endorsed by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC).
Unresolved conflict can escalate and become costly. In our current situation, it’s important we don’t put profit before people by making irrational decisions, but balance this by ensuring we are flexible with customers and suppliers so misunderstandings, delays or mistakes don’t cause any costly disputes.
Avoiding knee-jerk reactions and irrational decision-making by continuing payments and planning ahead will help side-step some potential conflict further down the line.
Communication is Key
Maintaining transparent and frequent communication with colleagues and clients who may still be working remotely is crucial. In a document developed by Build UK, named ‘Guidance on Contractual Issues Caused by Coronavirus’, it outlines how amidst the changes to working practices, “…parties should speak to each other as soon as its practical to find solutions. The entire industry is facing the same issues, so it is in everyone’s interests to do so.”
This outbreak is not an excuse to move away from best practice, and regular communication will be paramount to help make positive changes and seamless transitioning into our new ‘world’ of work.
Even if employees are working on-site, because of new restrictions, effective communication may go amiss, and potentially cause a health and safety risk as well as costly mistakes if effective plans aren’t in place.
The Government last month issued a guidance document, ‘Working safely during COVID-19 in construction and other outdoor work’ which incorporates an entire section on communication and training. It urges employers to provide, “…clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working.”
Train for Change
Many employees may still be on furlough, and job security is uncertain for some. Yet despite this, it’s important to ensure qualifications and your CV is up-to-date by upskilling and re-evaluating your training goals. There is plenty of free information and guidance out there from trusted sources like industry associations which can easily be accessed online, and training can offer many benefits to employees going through change.
As a sector, other organisations are also supporting this view. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) for example widened the scope of its Skills and Training Fund to provide more cash for contractors during the crisis.
Having a positive attitude towards training will mean the construction sector is equipped with the skills and resources it needs to help keep us building in the future.
For employers, it also makes more business sense to invest in employees through training. Well trained and knowledgeable teams reflect the business and can enhance the reputation of the company.
Free Advice & Training
Members and non-members of the IoR are encouraged to make the most of the guidance and training available to them.
Members of the IoR for example receive one free online learning course a year, and the Institute also has an online benefits portal of training and e-learning options with a huge range of free courses. We encourage members to share the information and knowledge using the tools from the portal with colleagues, family and friends. Some of these courses include Managing Project Risks and Changes, Managing Building Adaptation, Wellbeing and Resilience at Work and Influencing: Storytelling, Change Management and Governance Specialisation.
However, even if you’re not a member, anyone can sign-up and undertake our online courses from the IoR website.