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Covid caused 'permanent' digital shift, say top contractors

1 September 2020

The construction industry’s increased use of digital technology – in response to the challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic – may well become permanent, according to a report from Loughborough University backed by leading contractors.

Remote meetings were highlighted as a particular benefit. It was noted that in addition to reducing time needed for travel, remote meetings were seen as being more time efficient with less time wasted on chat, getting drinks and having toilet breaks.

Indeed, the contractors that the report’s authors interviewed noted there were fewer meetings overall, further saving time.

The report notes that in future it will be important to get the right balance between face-to-face and remote meetings. It will be necessary for companies to upskill their workforce to make sure they can make full use of the technology and are prepared to participate effectively.

The report also highlighted the increased use of camera and video techniques to share information, for example project progress updates for clients or training workers in new working methods.

Ultimately, the report warns that there is “a high potential for things to drift back towards business as usual as Covid-19 related constraints are relaxed and as commercial pressures once again come to the fore”. The report strongly recommends that “individual companies and projects conduct a ‘lessons learned’ review before long to capture the changes made and ensure that positive changes are captured and embedded”.

Loughborough University interviewed 33 representatives working on six different projects to provide a snapshot of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on construction.

The research was conducted in collaboration with several contractors: Balfour Beatty, GKR Scaffolding, Kier, Mace, Morgan Sindall and Skanska.

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