How Construction Businesses Can Stay Afloat During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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The COVID-19 outbreak has caused many industries to come to a complete halt in recent weeks, but the home building sector continues to hammer on. While builders and construction companies continue to work hard to finish up their current projects, many of them are bracing for the aftermath of the outbreak – a drop in demand and a potential recession. Recent reports estimate that the construction industry will not only be hit with increased fears over employee health and safety, but also a delay in material and sudden inaccessibility to financing for clients or construction firms themselves. With this in mind, it is time that the owners of construction businesses, like many other business owners, begin making preparations to see their company through these turbulent times and avoid the financial pitfalls in business.

Identify Your Essential Business Functions, Equipment And Employees

With the closure of many businesses and industries, your supply chain and clientele may be affected. With this in mind, identifying your key business functions along with employees and equipment needed allows you to know where to direct your limited resources during this time. For construction companies, employee safety equipment such as manlifts or safety belt harnesses would be classed as essential in ensuring employee safety onsite. Strategies to protect your essential business functions will help to keep costs down in your construction business – essential in times of uncertainty. Pinpoint what aspects of your business will be impacted and alternative solutions. For example, closure of the administrative office may leave the company’s IT, accounting and administrative business functions at a standstill. However, with adequate notice, you can begin implementing a remote working policy for administrative and finance tasks.

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Alternatively, to cut costs, you can swap to an automated accounting software for payroll and purchases and fewer administrative employees. Similarly, if your raw materials delivery is delayed due to import barriers or your equipment leasing firm has closed its doors, you may be able to work out an ongoing rental plan or find alternative construction rentals to carry on current projects. Businesses should also consider their workers, keeping in-person teams to a minimum to prevent the spread of the virus amongst the business’ workforce.

Clarify The Rules On Onsite Employee Compensation And Leave

The sad reality is that you may need to downsize or send employees home during this time, either to cut costs or to protect employee health. This is because while construction workers are viewed as essential, not all construction projects will be classified the same way. While this is commendable, many construction workers admit they are worried about their compensation while working on site. As a construction business owner, there are several ways you can address this.

Firstly, begin with drafting an employee leave policy for an affected employee, including terms of payment while on leave and extension of coverage to immediate family members. Where employee pay is affected, check with your insurance and government organizations on the route for income support. With the nature of the construction industry requiring employees to be onsite, workers admit to fearing for their health. Therefore, employee training for supervisors and employees on recognizing the signs of COVID-19 is recommended. In addition, begin the routine of daily toolbox talks as recommended by the ABC Safety Committee. This allows job site leaders to check in with workers on how they are feeling whilst reminding them to maintain the appropriate personal space. You will also need to invest in personal protective equipment for each on-site employee you do choose to keep on staff during this pandemic, and insist it is not shared between employees.

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Begin Drafting A Business Continuity Plan

Finally, and more importantly, begin drafting a plan of response in the event of worker illness/absenteeism, disruptions to your supply chain, or other business interruptions. When creating a business continuity plan, be sure to establish a response team – i.e. dedicated personnel with clear roles in the event of any of the identified business interruptions. Your business continuity plan should also cover communication protocols between key stakeholders and employees for notices of job site changes.

Ensure your workforce contact information is up to date so that messages can be transmitted on time. Lastly, establish alternate protocols for operations disruptions such as supplier delays or inability to pay invoices on time. In this case, this would include switching to alternate suppliers/raw materials or seeking additional short term financing.

A final note for construction business owners: check your insurance coverage. With continuing business operations, you want to be sure of whether your business and your employees are covered and the process behind any claims. Otherwise, it may be time to upgrade your coverage. Take these steps, and your construction business will be in a much better place to withstand the outbreak.

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