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Construction Industry Trends: March 2020 Roundup
March 2020 will forever be known as the month the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our focus on a scale we’ve never seen before. While the full extent of the Coronavirus impact is unknown, there are clear signs the economy is shifting downward. Many in construction have questions, which is why we’ve focused our March roundup on articles related to the impact of Coronavirus in our industry.
COVID-19 Makes an Impact on the Construction Industry
The construction industry is not immune to a global pandemic. In the article 6 Ways the Coronavirus Outbreak will Affect Construction, Construction Dive outlines what the situation currently means to contractors and what the future may hold. Employee well-being is rightfully top of mind for many firms, as managers shift safety requirements on jobsites and closely monitor mental health of employees. In some communities, “stay at home” orders have been mandated, closing all nonessential businesses, including many construction companies. Some construction companies have received “essential” status – largely in the transportation, healthcare and specialty services like HVAC and electrical. In other communities, the level of restrictions is mixed. Companies unable to follow CDC Guidelines for health and safety, however, are being forced to adapt or close their doors. Construction Dive noted that the smaller the contractor, the more susceptible they were to impacts from COVID-19. This is leading to a lack of available specialty contractors and many workers out of the job. The increased price of material goods coming from China will also likely impact contractors hard.
The Takeaway: This, coupled with a likely increase in cancelled jobs due to economic uncertainty, highlight the necessity for contractors to have a business continuity plan in place. Firms should check contracts and become familiar with force majeure provisions that allow work to be terminated due to extenuating circumstances – this could make or break the business. The overall impact of the Coronavirus on the construction industry is still unclear, but a wave of change has clearly already begun. The unpredictability makes it difficult to know exactly what the next steps are, but having solid business continuity plans in place will help ensure construction firms are in good financial shape to ride out the wave.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The economic impact of the Coronavirus outbreak also trickles down to companies’ most important asset: their employees. That is why in mid-March congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Effective April 1, the act requires companies (generally with fewer than 500 employees) to provide up to 12 weeks of protected paid leave for employees who miss work for reasons related to Covid-19. What does that mean for small and mid-sized firms? Human Resources staff needs to be well versed on these changes. Construction Dive has compiled a list of 5 Things to Know about the New Coronavirus Paid Leave Law from its sister publication HR Dive. Firms need to know what they pay out-of-pocket, what the act means for part-time employees, which companies are exempt and how it relates to current FMLA requirements. The provision requires employers to post notice of the provision for employees and the US Department of Labor has put together a poster outlining employee rights.
The Takeaway: Contractors — especially small- to mid-sized construction firms — need should take steps to get out ahead of this new law to understand the changes and make adjustments to their current payroll set-ups. Companies need to ensure they are in compliance with both the FFCRA and state unemployment guidelines. Viewpoint has provided an informational blog post as well as documentation on how to set up FFRCA changes and track FFRCA-related responsibilities in our construction ERP solutions, Vista, Spectrumand ProContractor.
Cloud Infrastructure: The Key to Staying Afloat Through the Outbreak?
Viewpoint has often touted the benefits of cloud-hosted construction solutions, including maintaining business continuity during challenging times. ENR explains how utilizing a cloud infrastructure is keeping firms in business and thriving during the pandemic. Imagine being unable to access important data because it lives on servers, inaccessible during a time of crisis. Luckily, once the virus lock-down started, engineering firm Mead & Hunt from Wisconsin was able to get its entire team in 38 offices across the country up and working remotely in a short period of time thanks to hosting their data on the cloud. The firm’s work did not stop with COVID-19 and every employee is able to work at the same level they would have in the office. The company’s CIO, Andy Knauf, said he knows of a Pennsylvania-based company who cannot operate because their servers are locked in their offices, so he is relieved his company made the switch to the cloud when they did. Meanwhile, MEP specialty contractor Southland Industries is also benefiting from a switch to the cloud. Director of Infrastructure Israel Sumano said, “It has definitely put our company in a good position. Other MEP subcontractors are struggling right now.” Southland has benefited as they are ready to keep working on projects.
The Takeaway: Shifting to a cloud-based environment has clearly been a lifesaver for those who made the switch before COVID-19 hit. But that doesn’t mean that contractors that haven’t yet modernized their operations don’t still have viable paths forward. Many contractors use business downturns to evaluate their own technology resources and look for solutions that can better prepare them to manage work and growth when business returns. Consider using this time to connect with leading vendors to see how they can scale their operations through cloud-based solutions. Not sure where to start? Here’s an informative buyer’s guide to selecting construction software, complete with a checklist of things to look for.
Despite recent changes and a shift to a remote workforce, Viewpoint remains open for business and available to provide support and sales opportunities. Our goal is to help your business do the same. We’ve put together a COVID-19 Contractor Resources page that is continuously updated with industry articles to help you stay on top of the crisis. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our support teams.