This week, the UK will be put into a second national lockdown. Unlike the first, which was announced back in March, the construction industry has been encouraged to continue working on site. However, not all workers in the industry are site based. Many continue to adopt new working practices as the Government urges those who can work from home, to work from home. Now more than ever, technology is proving vital to the steady recovery of the construction industry.
At one point, it seemed a far fetched idea to see site managers and construction staff working from home. The industry has long been known for its hands-on and long hours culture. However, with Covid-19 dictating who is able to physically be in the office, many have embraced remote working.
As a hands on and long-hours profession, the construction industry tends to lack the experience of remote working. Further complicating matters, the construction industry really relies on face-to-face interaction and communication to complete tasks both on and off site. Remote working proves challenging as companies must adapt practices to keep employees safe while maintaining business operations.
The key to remote working in the construction industry lies in the wide variety of technology available. Technology aimed for both the average consumer and specifically for the construction industry has played a vital role in remote working within the industry. Many are using video conferencing software such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams to keep connected with both those working on site and others working from home.
With the industry looking to keep employees safe, businesses have seen the amount of workers on any given site cut. However, companies are still keen to keep sites operating. Here we see the industry’s adoption of digital tools on job-sites. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, the industry had been seeing a shift towards digital technology use on worksites. Perhaps now the uptake will increase as companies look for ways to increase jobsite productivity under these difficult circumstances.
Companies supplying remote working solutions, such as San Francisco based OpenSpace, have seen an uptake in users over the past few months. OpenSpace uses AI to digitally capture and map a jobsite, allowing those working off site to view a site in a Google Maps Street View style experience. The system uses an app available on Apple and Android phones to capture a photo every half-second while the operator walks around a job site. These photos are automatically tied to project plans to allow project managers, clients and inspectors to view the maps and compare job progress remotely.
Apps such as OpenSpace are likely to see further increase in use as the construction industry shifts to a more digital method of working. However, it will be a while until we see fully digitised job sites. Construction remains, at it’s heart, a thoroughly ‘people focussed’ industry.
Entering into a second lockdown remains a highly stressful and anxious time for some. If you are feeling worried, anxious or stressed, talk to a friend or a manager. If you need mental health support, please call the Construction Industry Helpline for confidential 24/7 support on 0345 605 1956 (UK) or 1800 939 122