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Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

10.21.21  |  By Lee J. Sacket

The COVID Pandemic challenged businesses like never before.  Faced with unprecedented uncertainty, businesses had no game plan in place to navigate an economic shutdown and many were simply fighting for survival.  The construction industry was no exception.  Readily available vaccinations and advances in the understanding of the virus brought optimism that the Pandemic was nearing an end.  Projects resumed and many companies started to cautiously bring employees back into the office, while others were scheduled to do so in the coming months.  Unfortunately, that optimism that the Pandemic was nearing an end has faded into a stark reality.  The Pandemic is not over and this alternative work and economic universe continues to challenge our industry and businesses.   While we desperately want to put the Pandemic in the rear-view mirror, there have been important lessons learned, which should prepare our industry and businesses for not only future shutdowns, but to run more efficiently into the future.

  • Remote Working: While “work from home” is common in some industries, it was not readily accepted, or acceptable, in most.  However, many businesses and industries were pleasantly surprised by the ability to not only conduct business remotely but do so in a productive and efficient manner.  Remote working, including the ability to conduct virtual meetings, has and will change the way we do business.   To effectively incorporate remote working into a business plan, companies must consider investing, or increasing their investment in technology and virtual infrastructure, which necessarily includes appropriate security measures (which is typically required anyway for public and municipal clients, financial institutions, insurance companies and heath care and education providers). The ability and flexibility to perform business remotely may provide your business with advantages to hire better talent, while lowering certain overhead costs (more on that below). 
  • Updated Contracts: Every business and industry should be reviewing its contracts and any contract forms, armed with an updated perspective.  Provisions and issues that naturally come to mind include, but are not limited to, delay, force majeure, government shutdowns and costs for health and safety equipment to comply with the ever-changing personal protective equipment requirements.     
  • Office Administration: Government requirements resulting from the Pandemic have created new responsibilities for Human Resources and Office Administrators.  Not surprisingly, these new challenges have prompted the creation of new and useful apps.  Companies should consider using apps for attendance, contact tracing and daily health disclosures.  Many payroll companies are already providing tools for these services through their websites.
  • Marketing Plans:  In-person meetings, conferences and entertainment have largely been minimized due to the Pandemic.  Businesses must consider broader marketing strategies to address circumstances when in-person activities are limited. 
  • Accounts Receivable:  While this may seem obvious, when COVID hit, cash dried up almost instantly.  Clients stopped paying bills and put future work on hold.  Consider having a credit line, and for those that have one, refrain from overusing it so it is available when truly needed.
  • Real Estate and Leases:   As noted above, the Pandemic has driven significant portions of the workforce into remote working situations, which not only provides the worker with flexibility, but also, the business. If you are utilizing remote working, consider what your real needs are for a physical footprint.  Consider shorter lease terms for any physical space.  While longer terms provide more stability for long term planning, this recent experience should cause companies to at least reconsider those strategies.  Try to negotiate rent relief terms into a lease if the building cannot provide access due to state or federal shutdowns. 

We cannot predict when the next pandemic will occur or foresee the next major obstacle.  Rather than wipe our memory clean of this troubling time, as much as we want to, we should review and evaluate our decisions and businesses and consider embracing some of the changes which ultimately may benefit our companies and workers and prepare our companies and industry for a potentially different looking future.   

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