Covid-19 Taught Us the Value of Resilience and Flexibility, Let’s Make Sure We Remember

The Theory of Evolution tells us that the most adaptable survive. Museums are full of fossilised remains of creatures that either couldn’t adapt to new conditions or were slower to adapt than other species. That lesson probably applies to businesses in the wake of Covid-19.

Covid-19 has given construction firms very different conditions in which to operate. The pandemic isn’t like the familiar peaks and troughs of economic cycles that we’ve learned to manage. It’s likely that the pandemic has led to further-reaching structural changes that will affect how projects are delivered and potentially what types of projects are needed.

There is still a great deal of uncertainty in the sector, whether that’s from future waves of Covid-19, new types of pandemic or, of course, the end of the Brexit transition period in January. The next few years are likely to be a bumpy ride, even with the Government’s commitment to ‘Build, Build, Build.’

How to Build Resilience

Resilience kept Osborne going through the Covid crisis. This was partly down to the grit, determination and flexibility of our teams. It also owed a lot to the secure finances of the business. This is due, in part, to resisting low-cost pitches to win business. If we want to retain and build resilience across the industry then sustainable economic models have to become the norm. Procurement solely on price and pitching with wafer-thin margins are the enemies of resilience.

Social distancing is something we will have to continue to manage for the foreseeable future. We have to consider the building methods we use and the way we plan projects to minimise the impact of distancing and the risks to our staff and subcontractors. Some project stages will inevitably take longer because we cannot physically have the same density of people in key areas of the site.

It’s not an acceptable answer to say that future projects will just have to take longer. We have to look aggressively at the stages less affected by distancing and trim whatever time we can from those.

More than ever, we have to make certain that everything is done correctly at the first attempt. Eliminating the need for reworks and snagging can be a major time saver. At the same time we eliminate unnecessary tasks where social distancing and infection control need to be managed.

The world has changed. With it has changed many assumptions and norms. The successful businesses will be the ones that can adapt most quickly to that new reality.