COVID-19 & Construction: How I WFH as a CM

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We at Fieldwire have heard from many of our users about how COVID-19 has impacted their work. This is what one of them is experiencing. Due to NDAs and other sensitivities, the author has asked to remain anonymous.

As unlikely as it may seem, I’m a construction professional accustomed to working remotely.

We have yet to understand how COVID-19 and its impact will fully play out, but one thing that has become clear is the increased need for flexibility in construction — for individuals as well as for companies. That means adjusted scheduling, additional means of communication, and, yes, more remote work.

For me, COVID-19 has forced me to do my work exclusively from home. As a construction manager, I’m currently busy trying to reschedule projects previously planned for spring now postponed due to COVID-19 measures.

As I work in heavy industrial, most of my time is spent traveling and working remotely. My typical day would begin with a 5 AM coffee from the hotel lobby. But as non-essential business trips have been canceled and projects rescheduled, I’ve had to change up my routine.

Now I spend my mornings working at my home office. Instead of spending my mornings drinking bad hotel coffee, I’m busy helping my daughter get ready to go to her grandparents.

As a remote worker, I’ve developed a routine with various check-ins with my co-workers. Every morning, I catch up on emails that came in overnight, say good morning to my coworkers via Microsoft Teams, and start on my to-do list for the day.

Before COVID-19, I spent my days quoting more work for spring and fall and checking in on jobsites around the country.

But when the number of COVID-19 cases started to rise in the Pacific Northwest, it was evident that the spring work season was going to face challenges. The spike in cases and the policies put into effect across the country paused work and left me scrambling to figure out how to make it through the next several months before some sort of normalcy could return.

The spike in COVID-19 cases and the policies put into effect across the country paused work and left me scrambling to figure out how to make it through the next several months

In industrial construction and maintenance, spring is a busy season when plants shut down for one-to-four weeks to perform annual equipment maintenance. But the pandemic hit just prior to the start of the spring season, so a lot of projects have been delayed until summer or fall.

Now I’m spending a large portion of my time coordinating the changes for when work will be rescheduled.

The construction boom of the past several years brought to light the massive labor shortage that exists in the industry. With projects being moved, there will be overlapping project schedules. Ensuring that the correct labor is available for each project will require a lot more coordination between owners and suppliers. As a CM, I’m trying to balance having enough work to keep everyone busy while not overcommitting, which could result in poorly executed projects.

I’m trying to be flexible. But making sure schedules work for customers and keeping purchase orders and revenues on the books for the later quarters is a tricky balance. Open lines of communication externally and internally are paramount. Without good, old-fashioned face-to-face meetings, I have to rely on Teams or Zoom to connect and to let customers know I am there for them and will do whatever is needed to support them.

Of course, I am also trying to support my family. I’ve found that it’s very easy to get wrapped up in work as a remote worker. I don’t have the same mind shift that comes with leaving an office at 5 PM or even leaving a jobsite to go to the hotel after a 12-hour workday. Now I’m taking a few minutes in the morning to kick the soccer ball with my daughter before she leaves for the day. It’s a good mental break from the stress and helps put my life into perspective.

As more companies are by necessity shifting from office buildings to home offices, WFH for construction seems on the verge of becoming normalized. While there will always need to be face-to-face meetings, work trips, and workers in an office and on-site, the benefits of working remote are becoming evident.

How are you weathering the COVID-19 storm? Tell us!

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