“I’ve spent extra time with any team member who is worried or needs some extra guidance or reassurance. I have focused on listening to their concerns and addressing them however I can. To do that, I’ve remained flexible and supportive and it seems to be working.”
Are the number of workers on your projects holding steady or have there been changes?
It’s important to remember that we’re on the cost side of things, but we’re surprised at how little the volume of work has changed so far. The MEP cost team has only seen two projects to date that have been postponed or cancelled, and we work on roughly 50 projects a month. However, we are prepared for and expect additional cancellations.
Have your projects experienced any supply chain issues? If so, how are you dealing with those?
We’re not aware of any yet, but we’re preparing for it down the road. We’ve been through this before, to a lesser extent, with things like the Great Recession, El Niño, the recent tariffs, etc. None of those situations were as dramatic as what we’re dealing with now, but they conditioned us to know what to expect, which is higher bids and supply chain disruptions going forward. I would urge project owners to be careful of companies trying to take advantage of this situation to raise prices when maybe they don’t actually have to, or raising them more than is necessary. This happened with the tariffs – there was some genuine impact to pricing, but some companies were using the situation as an instrument to raise prices more than appropriate. Conversely, if more projects are cancelled or postponed, we envision costs dropping significantly based on supply and demand.
How is morale on your projects? Any insight into how to maintain team member morale during a time like this?
It’s kind of interesting. On my team, it seems to differ depending on the experience level of the team member. The more seasoned team members seem less affected on average, maybe because they’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. The less experienced team members are showing a little more concern and anxiety, which is understandable. I’ve spent extra time with any team member who is worried or needs some extra guidance or reassurance. I have focused on listening to their concerns and addressing them however I can. To do that, I’ve remained flexible and supportive and it seems to be working. Everyone is staying busy, everyone is healthy, and we’ll make it through. I believe the most important message in this unprecedented moment is that it will certainly pass.
Have your projects’ risk factors changed in type or magnitude? If so, how are those factors being mitigated?
We’ve paid more attention to pricing and we expect things to get more dynamic. We expect contractor bids to go up, some of which will be justified and some of which won’t, and so we’re attuned and ready for that, and we’ll push back when we need to. We need to keep things honest and make sure everyone is working together toward the same goal. Otherwise, the main thing we see is that there will be less work if there are more postponements or cancellations — this isn’t a physical construction risk, but there’s a real risk to employment that we’re concerned with. My gut is telling me we’re in the calm before the storm. I hope I’m wrong.
Are there any particular people or companies you feel deserve a shout-out due to their extraordinary efforts in navigating this situation?
Facebook has taken some great steps in how they’ve handled their workforce and project teams. They’ve balanced keeping people healthy and safe while at the same time keeping their projects running. They’ve really embraced remote working — they were quick to send everyone home, much earlier than many other organizations, and that made a big difference. But at the same time, they are keeping their construction projects moving forward in an efficient manner. Facebook is a major client so that was a relief, honestly, and I thought they showed a lot of leadership there.