Locked down — life in a bubble
I’m writing this article from my dining room on Day 10 of the Alert Level 4 lockdown — as we are adjusting to the new norm for the immediate future, and wondering what the long-term outlook will be for our businesses and the industry as a whole. There are so many questions that we in the construction industry will be asking:
What happens to my project being out in the weather?
What if lockdown is longer than four weeks?
Will I get paid by my client?
How do I deal with my subbies?
What about my staff? And many, many more.
With all this information and uncertainty around, I have been doing a lot of thinking, learning, planning and keeping in touch with people.
Without the pressure of site works happening I have found more time to work on the business. There is plenty of business information out there, including the Elevate Education series for members on the Registered Master Builders web site.
There are more than 160 short videos tailored for construction businesses, so it’s a great place to refresh, learn and grow your knowledge. Try a Stop, Start, Keep survey with your team — ask them what should we stop doing, what should we start doing, and what should we keep doing. We did this recently, and it gave me great feedback on how we are going, and also paved the way to do things in a far better way than we were. Once you have the feedback in, put it all in one document as it is written, and then share it with your team.
Then you can organise a video meeting to discuss the survey and agree to some changes. From that, we started a project called Trigg 2021, where we are planning for our next big project and how we will better manage it — with better systems, processes and comms.
But be careful not to complicate things — our overarching theme is “keep it simple”.
Follow Covid-19 advice
There is plenty of advice and commentary, and I am trying to make myself as familiar as possible with all of it. We are staying home and only going out for exercise and food, and we have applied for the wage subsidy and been paid out. There are numerous sites that are issuing daily updates, and there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to manage the return to work. Registered Master Builders are flat out working with the Government to ensure builders are in the best shape possible to return to work.
They have also developed a Covid-19 resources section on their web site, which is updated on a daily basis. This has relevant information for the building sector. I have also subscribed to the Government’s daily update newsletter on the Covid-19 website: https://covid19.govt.nz/latest-updates/ daily-newsletter/.
I encourage you to look at the information that interests you and learn from it, as it will help you plan for life after lockdown.
Keep in touch
I think the most important advice I have been given is to keep in touch with your building team. Keep in regular contact with them, even if you form a Messenger or WhatsApp group where you can have a video catch-up with them. Help them understand what you are going through, and what you are doing about planning for the return to work. I guarantee they will all be very interested because their livelihoods depend on it! Keep in contact with your subcontractors — call them as they will have costs too, and will potentially be looking to invoice you for the lockdown period.
Work with ‘good intent’
It is important that we all approach this suspension of work with “good intent”, as we all have costs and will look to recover as much as we can. I suggest you also contact your clients and keep them up to date with your planning, and help them understand what you are planning for the return to work on their project. They will be extremely grateful to hear that you are looking out for their best interests. I think the reality with this suspension of works is we are all going to suffer a bit of hurt. But constant “good intent” communication will minimise that damage.
Look after yourself Our psychological well-being is of the utmost importance during this period, and to aid us during the return to work. I encourage you to exercise regularly, share any issues you have with someone you trust, do some gardening, and do those things you said would have to wait until you weren’t so busy. Now is that time!
Stay safe and see you on the other side.
Written by RMBA president Darrell Trigg and originally published in the Building Today Magazine