If there is one thing that the last four months has shown us, it’s that innovation not just arises but positively thrives in times of adversity.
As a sector that has continued to deliver throughout the recent crisis, there has been a need across construction to adapt and innovate; primarily to ensure that we could continue to operate safely and productively whilst maintaining people’s health and wellbeing.
Whilst we have had to devise new ways of working through necessity, a secondary (and perhaps unexpected) outcome is that it has also had a positive impact on productivity.
The clearest and most obvious impact of the last four months is the realisation for construction businesses, including our own, that a flexible approach to working does not mean less productivity. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth.
A prevailing industry culture of presenteeism, long hours and centralisation of resources is being replaced by flexibility, empowerment and trust, with workers responding accordingly.
It is hard to believe that we will ever go back to the traditional office environment when the benefits of a more flexible approach, from health & wellbeing to the financial bottom line are so clear.
For our business, innovation and productivity manifest themselves in many ways and what is so interesting about what has happened since the Covid-19 crisis began, is that this innovation is not just about new technology, but about new ways of thinking and behaving.
Innovation is as much a mindset as anything else and that is why it is so important that we use this experience to embed a culture of innovation within the business, with a continued focus on how we can improve productivity (and efficiency) going forward.
There is no doubt that technology has a crucial role in creating efficiency and collaboration, and we have discovered much about how to make this effective in the last few months, but what is evident is it is often the simplest of things, like saving on the commute or improving work-life balance, that can have the biggest impact on people’s productivity.
It may sound a little mundane, but consistently embracing efficient and effective best practice can be transformational. It is not necessarily about being at the ‘bleeding edge’; more a case of recognising what works well and then deploying it consistently.
What the lockdown has reinforced for me is that the key to our success is working smarter rather than simply working harder or longer, but that we also need to challenge long-held perceptions about the construction industry and shake off its slightly macho and long hours reputation.
If we can embed this culture and have an industry brand that is inherently innovative, then we have a fantastic opportunity to attract people with a range of different backgrounds, providing us with a richer pool of talent and experience to help drive our business and the industry forward.