While the current COVID-19 pandemic presents many challenges, it is also driving best practices in the construction industry. Companies have responded quickly to adapt and adopt new protocols to comply with provincial health and safety regulations to ensure jobsites stay operational.
Smaller groups on site, adjusted schedules, signage, hand sanitizing and other strategies have been implemented by the industry to maintain productivity on projects while respecting physical distancing. Technology and virtual platforms have become key to keeping teams connected and informed.
For example, CANNEPP introduced weekly virtual “water cooler” sessions via Google Hangouts. With most of the staff working remotely, it was an effective way for the company to ensure team members could still connect with one another.
At BCCA Employees Trust, chief executive officer Arthur Chung says with their operations very much linked to the healthcare sector, they reacted quickly to the global pandemic and moved staff to their homes with weekly virtual team meetings.
“To keep the team linked, we introduced a weekly Zoom call every Friday afternoon, to catch up on what we were working on and more importantly, how we were all doing and encouraged everyone to share things that were more personal,” says Chung.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, so do the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Many employers are responding by supporting their employees and boosting morale through different initiatives.
For Pitt Meadows Plumbing, it was important to find creative ways to show appreciation for their employees’ hard work and dedication. Staff enjoyed a Blueberry Picking Family event, a Thanksgiving lunch and a COVID appreciation bonus.
Bonuses have always been an effective business tool to incentivize and reward good performance. Recognizing the many challenges workers are facing with the pandemic, Pitt Meadows provided full time employees $1,000 and part time employees $500 as a one-time bonus.
“At Pitt Meadows Plumbing it is always important to us to show our appreciation to everyone that works here because our ability to serve our clients is dependent upon our amazing team. We are proud of what they contribute to our projects each and every day,” says James Zelinski, chief administrative officer. “However, like many other organizations, we had to pivot quickly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic because the things that we would normally do to show our appreciation, we simply couldn’t do.”
Olympic International in North Vancouver introduced a 30 day fitness challenge as well as a “12 Days of Christmas” where each day was designated with a fun activity or event such as Starbucks gift cards, food bank donations and gingerbread decorations.
“We did the 12 days of Christmas to try to connect in different ways and over a period of time with the idea that over the whole thing maybe everyone will be touched in some way,” says Olympic president Dana Merritt. “As we are all distributed these days it is easy to lose track of people and the time that goes by. Christmas especially is a time when we come together and a time for celebration. It is during those times we are reminded how our relationships are what makes us human. Our company is made up of relationships and we care deeply about our people. This year’s celebration was very limited and it required a need to be creative.”
Control Solutions also put a special focus on staff during the holidays. In lieu of the annual Christmas party, the company provided raffles, daily prize giveaways and gift cards in December to keep morale high. Account executive J.J. King notes their social committee also introduced a video submission contest (prize of $500) where staff was encouraged to submit a short video offering a “cheers” to everyone.
“We had a few funny videos and the top video included one of our departments all offering cheers including past employees who now live abroad… very well done,” says King, adding employees all received an extra paid day off on December 24th.
The crisis has forced the construction industry to change the way they work and to accelerate the adoption of technology like never before. It is also a reminder that the most valuable company asset is the people, which can make the difference between surviving and thriving.
Cheryl Mah is managing editor of Construction Business.