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The coronavirus pandemic has turned the whole world on its head.

A great many aspects of our everyday lives have changed and it seems that we will have to get used to the current state of affairs because COVID-19 will be with us for a long time.

We had to adapt quickly and look for new solutions to replace the old ways of doing things. But at the same time, these solutions had to be innovative, functional and effective.

The crisis caused by the pandemic can be turned to our advantage.

Wojciech Domaszczynski

Consultant, designer
MEP BIM expert
Owner of Domaszczynski & TEAM

In the course of a short period of time, everything has changed. Children and young people started learning remotely, the catering, fitness and leisure industries closed down, and lots of people started working from home. Many people struggled to adapt to such changes because they had not developed the soft skills that were required.

What is the current situation for construction workers, architects and engineers? These are professions whose representatives cannot simply switch to remote working, they need to be present on-site, as often as possible.

Situation of managers

A good manager is someone who not only manages his team but also supervises the progress of the work and reports to the investor. This is a person who must know their stuff, have theoretical and practical knowledge, because otherwise, they are at best a controller. With the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns that have swept through virtually every sphere of life, managers in the construction industry have been deprived of free access to their colleagues overnight. Once smoothly functioning teams have been split by the pandemic. Some have contracted the coronavirus, others have had to go into forced quarantine, still, others have been placed under epidemiological surveillance – this is the pessimistic option. In the optimistic variant, we have a team with which the manager communicates remotely. The investor equips employees with laptops, tablets to discuss everything on-the-fly. It is also possible to create a special file available online for everyone to access, where – remotely – the architect makes corrections, explains any uncertainties to the rest of the team, and the whole project is updated in real-time. A solution which hardly anyone thought of, even just a year ago, has suddenly found its application and – most importantly, of course – it works in practice.

Situation of designers

A designer should have 2-3 assistants under him/her. Only then can such teamwork efficiently and effectively. Of course, this is assuming that reporting goes smoothly and that the designer informs his subordinates of all his decisions. But even the best working team, when the coronavirus stands in its way, will encounter problems in functioning. Not only will you find that you can’t work efficiently, but the designer won’t be able to seamlessly transfer his knowledge to his assistants, so they won’t be able to further develop their skills. Of course, some design data can be transferred remotely via video conferencing and desktop sharing, but working around a table, being with each other for a certain number of hours a day is something that no home office can offer. Designers should create design models that can be used by assistants not only on-site in the design office, but also remotely. A clear design for 3D processing, updated in real-time and with room for questions, is very useful for everyone. In addition, an assistant who works remotely, and not under the supervision of the designer, is deprived of his control and may make several mistakes due to a lack of appropriate and specialized knowledge; after all, the assistant is constantly learning. There may be a risk of a certain amount of arbitrariness here, where the assistant works on something alone and thinks he or she is doing everything right. By working remotely on the model, the designer will be able to see what the assistant is doing at all times – this will minimise the risk of any problems occurring.

The interns in a pandemic

The next group to be affected by the pandemic are interns, who have been cut off from the knowledge that more experienced colleagues may have passed on to them. By definition, an intern is someone who has the energy and desire to learn new things in, for example, a design office, to get the necessary practise supported by theory under the guidance of professionals. And then they get a job in their chosen institution, all the while learning under the guidance of someone more experienced. During pandemics and prevailing restrictions, it can be very difficult for an intern to work remotely. Of course, it is possible to listen to the advice in the form of an online lecture, but daily contact with the project, making comments and absorbing knowledge – this cannot be replaced by the home office. Here, in addition to some remote models, on which you will be able to work on an ongoing basis, you can apply a swinging, alternating schedule of coming to the office. For example, a different trainee every day while the rest work from home. Also keep in mind the new office sanitation regime: disinfectant fluid and measuring the temperature with a laser thermometer, frequent hand washing, and not coming to work if you feel unwell – and informing your supervisor. It’s worth organising everything in such a way that you lose as little as possible due to the pandemic.

Remote working

Remote working for people in an example design office will not be a dream option for everyone. Let’s assume that from a technical point of view everything works as it should: the online 3D models work, everyone is in front of their computers at home, but still, something is not working properly. So it’s worth considering this eventuality when some of your colleagues – it could be anyone from a designer to an assistant – don’t have very well-developed soft skills. This means they are reluctant to join video calls, don’t have a burning sense of urgency to answer the phone in an emergency, and just work in their own field without interacting with others. On the one hand, this shouldn’t surprise anyone – engineers and those aspiring to that title in this industry are quite commonly known for their lack of soft skills. The coronavirus pandemic, as I’ve written before, brings with it a rearrangement of many of our habits, so the engineering industry’s development of soft skills will also have to take place. In order to make this operation as accurate and painless as possible, a specific time can be set for a daily video conference, so that everyone can report briefly on the progress of their work. Reporting will take place smoothly, and the project manager will immediately realise who is lazy in the home office and who needs to be frequently monitored, and who has easily found his place in this new reality. 

At Domaszczyński & Team, we adapted quickly and took concrete steps to set ourselves up in the best possible way during these uncertain and challenging times. Apart from the online file I mentioned above, to which everyone has open access, an indispensable element of good cooperation is also the use of the spiral communication model. This means that all aspects of a project are discussed, debated and outlined before work starts. This obviously minimises mistakes resulting from possible communication problems between individual employees.

If you need stable, reliable and well-organised cooperation with a subcontractor, or short project support or consulting – we will help you find the right solution. Call us.

Wojciech Domaszczyński, MBA. Expert in construction, solving problems at the design stage so that they don’t occur during construction. #BIM

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