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COVID-19 has hit the construction industry hard—not just in the United States, but worldwide. Anxiety and tensions are heightened regarding where the industry is going as far away as Australia, where construction workers recently had violent clashes with police over vaccine mandates. 

It’s a turbulent time for sure, but there are ways to strike a delicate balance that keeps employees safe while allowing them to do their jobs in ways that work for them, help businesses prosper and move construction into the future. It can, however, sometimes get difficult to spot solutions through the noise.

Talent at Stake

One very common theme for construction leaders has emerged of late: the scarcity of talent. The construction industry is not immune to overwhelming industry shifts in talent, and 2021-2022 certainly qualifies.

Retaining talented people and keeping “A-player” teams together is a massive challenge. The Great Resignation is real, as workers evaluate their options. Tack on the issues construction has with people aging out of the industry without equivalent numbers being trained up, and the industry could see some very real and painful worker shortages.

To make matters worse, construction is notoriously a “field-first” industry, and for good reason—because that’s where the work happens. COVID-19 has threatened that environment, whether by limiting the number of people onsite to accommodate social distancing or because of the disparity of feelings toward vaccines that can influence workers’ decisions on where they will work or who they will work with/for.

These factors combine to suggest that flexibility will be paramount for contractors for the sake of maximizing employee retention, but they will still need help.

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

One way construction companies can keep employees safe from the virus while allowing more flexible and attractive working conditions is by introducing tools that enable remote site management to maintain social distancing and reduce the number of in-person interactions on the jobsite while still getting the job done. A wide variety of technology solutions exist in the market that combine reality capture data, like 360° photos and videos, with computer vision-based tracking solutions that quantify and track the work happening onsite to make that information available to people off-site. 

Within an immersive virtual environment, off-site employees can quickly understand what’s happening onsite and allocate resources to keep the project moving ahead as quickly as possible. This translates to empowering employees to work in environments that are comfortable for them—environments that leverage their skills while making their jobs easier and keeping projects on track.

Here are just a few examples of powerful technology solutions worth looking into:

  • For capturing a bird’s-eye view of excavation, exterior facade work and overall site logistics planning: American-made drone providers such as Skydio, software companies such as DroneDeploy and drone service companies such as DroneBase offer robust solutions. 
  • For complete interior documentation: Contractors are seeing a lot of success through automation powered by computer vision to capture the site. Such software also layers in the ability to track the status of work complete. StructionSite is one example.
  • For measuring and advancing construction processes: Versatile’s multisensor, “Internet of Things” system helps project teams learn from and optimize their projects from the perspective of the crane. Both capturing imagery from above and measuring crane utilization makes it uniquely well suited for both onsite and remote management.
  • For overall site logistics and building envelope or structural progress tracking: Exterior site cameras from companies such as Truelook and OxBlue offer highly integrated solutions that provide easy remote viewing for the entire project team.
  • Integrated solutions: Advanced companies are taking captured data and looking to extract more value; they’re plugging data from exterior drone solutions, webcams and 360° photos into a software such as Newmetrix (formerly Smartvid.io) to deliver safety insights at scale across all projects. This is the ultimate “two-fer,” getting double the value from the data being collected, which not only helps with remote management but opens the door to lower insurance costs.
Moving Forward

One construction executive recently stated that the single most important thing he sees as likely to limit his company’s growth over the next 5-10 years will be attracting and retaining talent—not just craft labor, but project management talent as well. Many executives are exploring ways to attract people with diverse backgrounds unrelated to construction into the industry. Those builders who are rapidly finding ways to make their construction company more flexible by providing advanced tools for productivity are going to be the ones winning the war for talent and bringing in new people from outside the industry.

Simultaneously, the world is still in a pandemic where safety is undeniably important. Fortunately, the industry can meet the moment with the adaptability and attractiveness of a hybrid remote working environment. Smart contractors are deploying various forms of reality capture and intelligent project tracking solutions to walk the fine line between losing talent and attracting and nurturing it without compromising their businesses. 

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