Features - Business

What’s Next For the Construction Sector

Paul Israel is Director at Simply, discusses what the pandemic has meant for businesses and how the construction and waste management sectors will play an integral role in the UK’s recovery plan.

The past year has brought about many trials and tribulations that none of us could have ever prepared for. As we mark the first anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown, it is a poignant moment to look back and reflect on the changes and challenges this has presented for businesses.

No matter the sector that you work in, sadly we have all seen the job losses and the companies struggling to stay afloat and there are many sectors which unfortunately may take a while to recover.

On a human level, we also need to consider those who may have lost a loved one, lost a job or have been impacted personally because this has also had a damaging effect on mental health.

The need to adapt has been vital.

The construction industry has predominantly maintained a strong working presence throughout the pandemic and three lockdowns, something that we at Simply are incredibly grateful for. You only have to look at the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ plans to see how important the sector is in regenerating the country’s economy and being part of the UK’s recovery strategy.

As a leading environmental services specialist, operating within the construction, waste management and events sectors, we have seen first-hand how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the day to day running of a business with companies changing inventory needs and requirements to readjust to such abnormal times. Over the past year we have often found ourselves working at a higher capacity than ever before as our services have remained essential to ease the pressure on our clients, including NHS COVID-19 testing sites. This is something we have also seen with the majority of our construction clients.

The construction industry saw a [1]record monthly growth in June last year with its [2]total activity index performing consistently above 50 ever since. This attainment could not have been achieved without the need to adapt quickly in times of need.

COVID-19 brought in new measures to wash our hands regularly, adhere to social distancing rules, wear masks and PPE equipment whilst avoiding contact with others. In light of this, there became a heightened focus on hygiene which was once often a tick box exercise within the construction sector. Site Managers, whose responsibility it is to organise hygiene facilities, as well as other individuals were and still are committed towards protecting the health and safety of employees and this level of sanitation is something I believe is here to stay for the foreseeable.

To meet the changing guidelines from the Government and The Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures, Simply, alongside many other businesses and suppliers within the construction, environmental and waste management sectors, delivered a consistent and efficient service to meet our client’s needs. We had an increase in orders for portable toilets and welfare units, as well as requests for hot hand wash stations, anti-bacterial gel stands and more frequent cleaning. This marks a significant improvement in hygiene practices across the industry.

The increased workload during the pandemic was something that we could have never expected but Simply showed its resilience when it came to providing essential and emergency services across London and the South East. Being able to work during the pandemic had such a positive impact on the wellbeing of our team, not only did it provide a sense of job security but it also brought each member closer together. We were also incredibly fortunate to be able to grow our team during this time, creating more job opportunities for local people when many were being furloughed, highlighting how the sector can provide a relatively stable career.

The sense of teamwork really shone through and this is something I am incredibly proud of.

Employee wellbeing has been a major focus over the past year and rightly so. With Simply being a Mindful Employer, it has always been important for us to support and safeguard the mental health of our team which is why we have invested in an on-site company gym and break out room which offers our team members space to relax and unwind. We also provide mentoring and have a range of policies in place which put wellbeing at the forefront.

The global pandemic has provided us with the opportunity to work towards ending the stigma around mental health, especially within the construction industry. I believe that moving forward, there will be more of a push to create an open workplace where team members feel heard and valued and it is important for me, as a Director, that my team feel they can come to me at any time to voice worries or concerns. I urge other Managers and Directors to take on the same stance.

As restrictions are beginning to ease from our third national lockdown, it is fair to say that many businesses will continue evolving and adapting to what is known as the ‘new’ normal. What is apparent though, is the importance around being able to acclimatise to changing situations to protect a company and its employees. Flexibility is here to stay.

If you would like to read more stories like this, then please click here

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/constructionindustry/bulletins/constructionoutputingreatbritain/august2020

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/nov/05/rise-uk-construction-sector-economic-builders-contraction-lockdown