COVID-19 has turned many people’s lives upside down in recent weeks, and many are stuck wondering what to do next. The situation surrounding Coronavirus in construction is something that very few of us have ever experienced. Keep in mind that these circumstances are new to everyone and that most of the events occurring are out of our control. All we can do is prepare as best we can, and keep up with the latest news. In the webinar, How Contractors Survive Coronavirus, eSUB and Levelset team up to provide your business with some tips on how you and your team can overcome COVID-19.
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In everyday life and the workplace, it’s essential to maintain leadership for others to model their behavior after. Jeff Sample, eSUB’s Director of Strategic Accounts, says, “Leadership is not a title, it is a way you act.” Many friends, family, coworkers, or employees are worried and anxious about the drastic change that is happening in the world and the workforce. It is crucial to be a leader in these times and to keep people employed and productive as best as you can. Acting as a leader and staying calm in a turbulent time is essential to keeping your employees, as well as others around you calm and collected.
Decisive action will reduce some fears over uncertainty and will give people answers to the questions they may be asking. Many people are feeling upset and disappointed because opportunities that existed before may not exist anymore. Trips, jobs, graduations, weddings, sporting events; all these events that people were looking forward to or have put in hours of work have been canceled or postponed. It is essential to let people feel upset or angry about these circumstances.
With everything going on in the world right now, it’s reasonable to be stressed out. Unfortunately, being stressed makes you more likely to get sick. It is crucial to maintain a healthy environment while staying home and keeping a social distance. The reason that social distancing and staying home is so essential is to flatten the curve of the virus. Try not to let this social isolation keep you from being social with coworkers, friends, or employees. Staying connected with your employees is simple enough with social tools such as Zoom, or Facetime. Having the same level of interaction virtually is key to maintaining a sense of normalcy.
Job Site Safety
It is only a matter of time until COVID-19 affects the entire construction industry, so it is crucial to be prepared and know how to act when it does. We’ve already seen an impact on the construction industry just due to social distancing and people staying home. Employees are sick, or many of them are afraid to go to work in case they, too, become ill. Boston has already shut down all construction projects for two weeks to follow social distancing in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
If it is still safe to continue work on your construction site, it is crucial to practice healthy habits. Wear eye protection and gloves while working, and don’t touch your eyes or face at all, even while wearing gloves. These safety measures are to protect you from the spread of the virus. Wipe down tools and equipment regularly and maintain a social distance from other workers on the job site as well.
A significant way to maintain safe habits is by fixing your sick leave policies. In a time like this, it is crucial to stay home if you are feeling the slightest bit ill. Making sure that sick leave policies are adequate will keep your employees at home when they are sick. If employees feel obligated to come into work even when sick, that means that they do not think they can take time off to recover. Keep everyone safe by being more lenient and letting sick employees stay home. Another way to take the pressure off your sick employees is by telling them that they still have a job once they recover. Having that peace of mind will allow them to recover fully and be ready to come back into work, ready to go.
COVID-19 is also affecting the supply chain of materials. China is already being affected by the delay due to Coronavirus in construction, and we already see the effects. China represents 1/3 of global manufacturing, so delays in the material needed for jobs are going to happen. This means increased material costs, delays in sourcing materials, and a chain reaction of potential problems. It is a good idea to take inventory of the supplies currently being used, and work with what you have. Jobs will get delayed if the materials are late, and so communicating with your employees as well as the client is crucial.
Documentation and open communication are vital in making it through the quarantine. Document “work in place” with photos and videos, keeping a record of all work that’s been completed thus far. Taking notes as well to give the pictures and videos context can also be helpful. You must have all this information for the insurance and to ensure payment.
Keeping up with real-time information and staying informed of what is going on will better prepare you to make business decisions. Government orders and policies change quickly with COVID-19 and Coronavirus in construction. Staying updated on what you can and cannot do will keep you prepared.
Understanding what options you have as a contractor when it comes to legal or payment issues can drastically change your outcome. Below are some issues to consider dealing with ahead of time.
Delays are coming, there is no way to avoid that, and so it is critical to give notices to all delays that you become aware of as soon as possible. Many of your contracts require notice shortly after you learn of any potential delay. It is crucial to get notices prepared for any jobs that are delayed due to a shortage of labor, delayed materials, or any other aspect affected by Coronavirus in construction.
Disagreements are going to occur, and so staying ahead of these potential issues will save you time and legal trouble. Communicate with the client and agree on new terms that take the current pandemic into account.
Look over all contracts and check to see if they are void or can be voided. Frequently, a contract will have a force majeure provision which deals with “acts of God.” Identify if there is this provision and if your contract is void or can be voided. Understanding this provision will keep you prepared and informed of these circumstances.
Keeping a Cash Cushion
In times of uncertainty, maintaining a cash cushion can make or break your business. There are a few steps you can take to increase your cash. Buying materials with longer payment terms will help your cash outflow to be minimized, keeping more cash on hand for you. Change out your slow-paying jobs for “cash now” so you aren’t waiting for payment. For contractors affected by COVID-19, SBA is prepping loans so that you can get cash for your business.