Lessons learnt during COVID-19 pandemic leave lasting legacy

A new report published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) suggests the pandemic has left some positive legacies for UK construction industry.

The report, Learning lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic to strengthen the construction industry, looks at how adaptations in the sector throughout the pandemic have helped improve long standing issues including collaboration and communication between contractors and clients, and flexible working patterns along with payment processes and worker wellbeing.

It cites the construction of Nightingale hospitals as an example of how better flexible working, collaboration and communication on a scale not typically associated with the construction sector, led to projects being completed in just nine days. The CIOB says lessons learnt from such projects must continue to strengthen the construction industry, not only for those working within it, but also for those they build for. 

Daisie Rees-Evans, Policy and Public Affairs Officer at CIOB, said: "Covid-19 had a monumental impact on people's lives and livelihoods with businesses needing to adapt how they operate to keep their workers safe while staying financially afloat. Since the outbreak of the virus in the UK, we have seen a shift in business practices with construction seeing large improvements in supply-chain collaboration, access to hygiene facilities and provision for worker wellbeing.

"Our report reflects on the progress that's already been made and what further opportunities can be harnessed to deliver change that positively impacts construction businesses, workers and the communities they build for. With the UK Government committing to procuring for social value, the publication of our report is timely in its approach to seek true cultural change."

Of 1,400 construction SMEs the CIOB spoke to, more than half said they have experienced improvements to payment times, hygiene facilities and mental health support since the pandemic struck, with temporary measures introduced as a necessity to keep the sector operating safely during lockdown, having become business as usual. 

In total, 52% of survey respondents said they've seen an improvement in the time it takes to get paid by clients since the pandemic, with more than half also saying they now receive payments in 40 days or less.

CIOB says this is encouraging but more work was needed to get all payments made within 30 days, which is a "priority" for SMEs, and that the Government's voluntary Prompt Payment Code with just 3,500 signatories needed revisiting. 

Commercial director Paul Singh, at project and programme management consultancy EEDN, said: “The pandemic has definitely increased collaboration and empathy within the industry from clients to consultants and contractors, opening up dialogue and reducing the adversarial approach.

“Construction has really taken note of the need to prioritise mental health and wellbeing. Projects are now defined with a new, hybrid way of working in mind and spaces have wellbeing built right into them.

“We have also seen greater proactivity when it comes to invoicing and payments, with invoices often being settled before the payment period is up. There is undoubtedly still a lot of work to be done but the signs are certainly encouraging.”

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