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How to Practice Project Flexibility in Uncertain Times

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iStock.com/Drazen Zigic

The coronavirus pandemic has turned plans for 2020 on their heads. In the construction industry, the pandemic led — and is still leading to — all sorts of delays. In some states, construction is considered non-essential, and companies had to shut down operations when state governments mandated lockdowns. In other regions, contracts are getting delayed or even canceled because of coronavirus restrictions. 

In these uncertain times, project flexibility is essential. How can construction companies practice the project flexibility necessary to thrive under these unprecedented circumstances? 

Utilize Flexible Contracts

The COVID-19 crisis has put many projects on hold or shut them down altogether, leaving contractors and business owners worried about breaches of contract and endlessly postponed deadlines. New contracts need to be more flexible than they might have been in the past, and existing ones may need to be renegotiated to allow companies to continue growing and thriving during this crisis. 

There are numerous ways to approach this option. Business owners should consult someone fluent in contract law to ensure they have all their Is dotted and Ts crossed, especially where existing contracts are concerned. 

Communicate Clearly and Proactively

Communication has always been an essential part of a successful construction company. Now, in these uncertain times, it’s more crucial than ever. Communicating clearly is of the utmost importance, whether that involves talking to contractors, customers or everyone in between. More importantly, business owners need to ensure that they’re communicating proactively. 

Don’t wait for things to happen — reacting instead of acting proactively will leave the company behind the curve. Instead, keep those lines of communication open, and don’t wait for things to go wrong before picking up the phone or sending an email. 

Cut Down on Hard Costs

Hard costs for delayed or canceled projects are likely cutting into everyone’s bottom line, making it difficult to keep their metaphorical heads above water. Cutting down on these hard costs can help business owners stretch things a little further while they ride out this crisis and provide more flexibility with labor, safety and scheduling.

This option might include opting for used equipment instead of buying new, which can increase the lifecycle value of investments without the high sticker price. Firms can also consider delaying the purchase of some construction materials until projects start returning to normal. The latter is a particularly good idea for things like landscaping materials. Plants and trees needed to landscape a new project will languish and die left in their pots, which will cost the company more in the long run.

Keep Schedules Flexible

This suggestion has two parts — flexibility and rotation. Scheduling flexibility is necessary to keep job sites functioning, especially when considering necessary social distancing requirements. With that in mind, supervisors should consider creating rotating schedules that will limit the number of people on the job site at any given time. 

This initiative will require some additional equipment, such as lighting, and may necessitate a pay raise or bonus for people choosing to work the overnight shift. However, it can be a great incentive that will keep people on the job through these uncertain times. 

Create Demobilization and Remobilization Plans

The climate surrounding the coronavirus pandemic is constantly changing. Some states are opening up while others are closing back down to try to slow the spread of the virus. Companies that are operating one day may be forced to shut their doors the next day if their local or state government decides to implement another lockdown. Instead of going into this situation blindly, take the time to create plans for demobilization if a lockdown comes down the pipe — plus remobilization when it’s safe to reopen. 

Recording these plans on paper removes all the guesswork and can keep things running smoothly. In these uncertain times, having a little certainty is a luxury and blessing for business owners and managers.

Prepare for the Future

Eventually, the scientists working tirelessly in labs around the world will create a cure or vaccine for this virus. In the meantime, companies across every industry will need to adapt to this new normal. Project flexibility is an essential tool to keep things moving forward even if global events feel like they’re spinning out of control. Something as simple as creating rotating or flexible schedules can make a world of difference in these uncertain times. 

Holly Welles is a writer specializing in construction and real estate. Learn more about her writing via her website, The Estate Update, or connect on LinkedIn for more information. 

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