COVID-19’s impact on construction resource management

COVID-19’s impact on construction resource management


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The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt worldwide. What started as a concern that felt like it was half a world away, quickly became a global issue that has significantly changed how business is done in different countries and industries. The North American construction industry is no exception. COVID and construction have not mixed well, with general contractors now finding themselves in a position where they have the difficult task of balancing their team’s safety while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, as the world tries to navigate its way through the pandemic.

While the effects of construction during coronavirus can be felt on a national level, the nature of those effects are dependent, in large part, on the location of both the respective general contractor and its projects. The direct impact on construction has varied from a slowdown of available goods, building materials, and labor to the suspension, or termination, of entire construction projects. While construction has picked up again in some states, the construction industry still continues to fluctuate in some states depending on whether or not construction projects are classified as “essential.”

A study by the US Chamber of Commerce revealed a significant drop in contractors (16%) expressing confidence in the market’s ability to provide new projects in the next year (down from 54% in the previous quarter). The study also revealed a spike in the percentage of contractors (21%) expecting to see decreased revenues (up from 2% in the previous quarter. The news isn’t all bad, though. The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the construction industry has forced general contractors to re-evaluate their core processes and improve their operational efficiencies. Chris Griffin, CEO of USG Corporation, also indicated that construction being deemed an essential service during the pandemic has helped the construction industry build momentum in a reduced labor market which hopefully results in more skilled workers being attracted to the construction industry.

The important thing to remember is that the industry will survive this pandemic, and there will be a resurgence once the crisis is over with a pent-up demand that will need to be addressed as contractors make their way back to pre-pandemic levels of staff and supplies.

COVID and construction: How the pandemic has shaped life on the job site


How the COVID Pandemic Has Changed Operations on Construction Sites.jpg

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One of the biggest areas of impact related to construction and coronavirus has been the job sites themselves. As previously mentioned, contractors are being tasked with balancing the existing health and safety concerns with a wealth of new complications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. General contractors are having to reduce their on-site teams to allow for physical distancing, and the pace of construction has slowed as organizations use rotating teams to help minimize the amount of team members that are in contact with one another.

Contractors are needing to comply with new regulations not only from the OSHA, CDC, and Department of Health and Human Services, but are also required to adopt and implement regulations and workplace safety orders that are issued by state, local, and municipal government agencies.

The coronavirus is also having a significant impact on the mental health of construction workers. In a recent survey done by Construction Dive, it was indicated that 70% of respondents indicated that “employee anxiety” was their top current concern, coming in higher than material shortages and even the prospect of further government shutdowns.

Some of the changes to the way construction job sites are being handled during the COVID-19 pandemic include developing, updating, and implementing new safety procedures including:

  • Providing respirators and face masks

  • Disinfecting and sanitizing workplaces

  • New personal protective equipment

  • Hand washing and hand cleansers

  • Physical distancing

  • Properly communicating potential hazards

  • Creating job site best practices and working through risk exposure

  • Documenting all allocation and contact management

Analysis of resource management in construction during coronavirus

As the leading resource management and workforce planning solution for the construction industry, one of the best ways to identify the impact of COVID-19 on resource management is to take a deep dive into Bridgit Bench’s client usage during the outbreak. Aside from new fields clients have created to track the impact of COVID-19 on their workforce strategy, Bridgit Bench has also seen a significant increase in the usage of our solution as general contractors adjust their workforce strategy to maintain profitability, and most importantly, worker safety. The increase in resource management includes:

  • People being allocated to projects has increased by 40.71%

  • Updating employee profiles has increased by 100.42%

  • Shifting project dates has increased by 51.62%

  • Deleting project allocations has increased by 42.86%

  • Updating project dates has decreased by 15.86%

  • Allocations updated has increased 142.48%

  • Updating roles on a project increased 25.11%

As previously mentioned, a number of clients began creating custom fields to better track the impact of COVID-19 on specific job sites. Some of these custom fields include:

For people

  • Tracking COVID close contact/quarantine

  • Quarantine

  • COVID-19 positive

  • Symptomatic

  • Furlough

  • Childcare due to COVID-19

  • Travel history

For projects

  • COVID positive job sites

  • Essential vs. non-essential

The future of construction and COVID-19

Without a doubt, the construction industry has greatly suffered from the impact of the coronavirus. A reduction in economic activity means less demand for new construction projects. The loss of income and increased economic uncertainty also negatively impact the demand for housing and renovations. On the flipside, public-relief packages could help to support a speedy recovery and also be followed by public investment programs. McKinsey and Company, through a survey of more than 400 ECB executives, has outlined some of the long- and short-term trends that contractors can expect as new ways of working become standard. Their list of short-term trends related to construction and COVID-19 include:

Increased digitization

General contractors are making the shift to more remote-friendly ways of working. This includes building-information modeling, 4D and 5D simulations to replan projects, and looking to cloud-based tools and online channels to closely monitor their resources more accurately and maintain cash flow.

Rebalanced supply chains towards resilience instead of efficiency

General contractors are building their inventory, securing materials, and identifying new suppliers.

Their long term trends include:

Further investments in technology or digitization

With new physical-distancing measures and restrictions on cross-border movement of labor, expect skilled labor shortages to become even more critical to company success. The use of digital tools that help to increase productivity like digital workflow management, real-time progress tracking, and optimized capacity planning will become the new norm as organizations look to increase productivity and profitability.

Increased off-site construction

Expect to see more contractors building in controlled environments as a direct result of having to manage the movement and interactions of teams and individuals. Executives that were surveyed expect to see contractors gradually push their fabrication offsite to not only deal with COVID-19, but also to increase speed and quality of builds.

Increased competition

The demand for certain types of projects has dropped dramatically (retail buildings, hotels, restaurants, etc) while others have increased (roads, highways, bridges). These fluctuations and uncertainty are forcing general contractors to adjust their bidding and procurement strategies. Contractors with a specific focus will need to broaden their preferences which will lead to increased competition as contractors are bidding on fewer projects.

McKinsey and Company have also outlined some actions that general contractors should take as the industry rebounds from the impact of COVID-19. These actions include:

  • Accelerate the rollout and adoption of digital solutions

  • Invest in the skills needed to operate in the “new normal”

  • Identify opportunities to shift work off-site

  • Centralize resource allocations

Read this guide for more information about construction resource allocations.

Construction and Coronavirus

This year has certainly been one that none of us expected. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the world for a loop and the construction industry is no exception. While we may still be a ways away from the light at the end of the tunnel, with proper adjustments and planning, the construction industry will come out of this more resilient than it’s ever been.



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Lauren Lake

Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.


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