According to the CDC, there have been over 700,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 205,000 reported deaths.  California, Texas and Florida rank as having the highest number of cases.  New York has more than 30% fewer cases, but almost twice the death rate. If you or one of your loved ones or business associates had COVID-19, I am deeply sorry, especially if you have suffered any loss.

This weeks’ blog is meant to help those in construction have the facts and overcome any fears you or someone else you know may have in the workplace. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced last week Phase 3 openings for the state. Most states are following suit, and signs of social life returning are everywhere with theatres, restaurants and bars and gyms open again. In South Florida, we are seeing the car carriers dropping cars to the snowbirds heading our way. Our neighbors are having parties again, and we even received an invite to a wedding for November—yet employers are still implementing special provisions for some or all office staff.  Many candidates we speak with will remain unemployed or underemployed if by their choice they cannot work remotely indefinitely. According to state data, Florida had a 62% drop in COVID cases in September and continues to drop despite the openings.

Some construction industry companies moved support roles to remote states even before the pandemic, claiming it provides them with a larger pool of qualified candidates from which to hire.  That might be the case for auxiliary roles within the industry that do not need to visit a jobsite or touch or see something in person to verify its status. Project Managers might think that they fall in that category, yet often they are fooling themselves, as their teammates and supervisors see their distance as a deterrent more than not.  We like to say the best superintendents can be project managers and the best project managers can be superintendents; one just likes to kick the dirt more.

On average, 8000 people die in the United States per day from all causes.  Over 300 of those deaths on average are from influenza.  When COVID came along, it initially reminded me of the people I knew in years past who died from what they originally thought was the flu. One in particular I remember was in his forties. Our bodies are all different, and none of us know our ability to fight disease until we have to.  Our only certainties are death and taxes.  We just don’t know the time of the first, and the second might cause the first if we aren’t prepared to pay.

Some good things have come out of COVID, including self-awareness to illness symptoms and better hygiene practices. We have seen an increased acceptance in all towards technology, and bridges built between the generations relying on each other to guide them through.  We have also seen people taking time to get their houses in order, and building stronger bonds with family members.

Who seems to still have the greatest fear of COVID in the workplace?

  1. People who have lost loved ones during the pandemic

  2. People who are closer to retirement age

  3. People with other health conditions

  4. People who by nature prefer solace

  5. People who prefer to work alone with or without COVID

The first two on the above list may require someone to talk to calm your fears and help you through a grief process. If you fall under category three, then most likely the health condition existed before COVID, and will continue to exist throughout your life.  You will need to learn to manage your condition in both pandemic and non-pandemic times, evaluating your job and career as a whole may be necessary.

Numbers four and five on the list seem to be the category with which employers are struggling now -getting the employees back under one roof who really have no reason not to be except that remote employment “works for them”, even if not necessarily for everyone else.

Thinking your role at a construction company can be done 100% effectively 100% of the time while remote can very well be true for many who are not responsible for the building.  Despite that thought, your employer and associates are making special provisions for you and they may find more value in your work with the ability to get to better know the person who is behind the work. You may not think so, but you are easier to replace than other employees, as the “out of sight, out of mind” and “virtual reality is not reality” can very well at some point play itself out.

Remote, main office, jobsite or any combination thereof, moving into fourth quarter and then a new year, COVID will no longer be an excuse for lack of interface with others. Schools are opening up, and whatever commute you signed up for was there before COVID.  You chose that, not your employer.  COVID, or anything else, is never an excuse not to verify facts and data in the construction industry. Employers want their whole teams to own that fact.

May your “COVID Comeback” be “in reality to” what is virtually a smart move for your career.

Is it time to ask your employer what works for them?

To Your Career Success,

Suzanne Breistol

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