By Katie Mientka

You cannot turn on the TV, scroll through social media, or go to the grocery store without hearing “coronavirus” at every turn. As the outbreak escalates, so, too, do worries about health, school closures, personal finances, the economy, and even toilet paper supplies! There is a great deal of panic and misinformation swelling. Fight back: arm yourself with facts, remain calm, and take proactive steps to protect your family, your employees, your customers – and your business.

“Business As Usual” – for Now

Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist, Dr. Manisha Juthani, says, “It can be very scary to watch thenews and see the death toll rise from the coronavirus overseas. But we now know that most cases of coronavirus in China [where it originated] have been mild” and there is a low fatality rate. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the vast majority (81%) of those with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have had mild symptoms, while 14% were severe and only 5% critical. [1]

Temper fear with facts. Yes, coronavirus can be dangerous, particularly for the elderly and those with existing health issues. But the majority of those who have contracted the illness worldwide have already recovered. Keep this in mind.

Now, in the US, many contractors are reporting that they’re taking a “business as usual” approach. At least for now. Even in Seattle, which has been hardest hit by the outbreak, no members of the Associated General Contractors of Washington have stopped working. Like all of us, they’re keeping an eye on the news, but they’re still on the job.

Experts expect that the construction and design industries will weather the storm – and in much better shape than retail and hospitality.

But, like all of us, you want to prepare.

Is Your Business Coronavirus Ready?

Put contingency plans in motion now so your business is coronavirus ready.

Certain employees – construction workers, fabricators, electricians, etc. – can’t work remotely. If you can figure out how to install doors and windows or put in that great new kitchen range via iPhone, feel free to share with the rest of us. However, some simple workplace guidelines can help prevent the spread of illness – and relieve fear and anxiety:



The CDC recommends that you:

● Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. If they have a fever and/or symptoms of respiratory illness, they are doing everyone a favor by curling up on their couch and avoiding the rest of you.

You may have to revisit your sick leave policies – do not penalize people who call in sick or who have to take care of a sick child/family member!

● Send people home if they show up to work with symptoms. Separate them from other employees and encourage them to self-isolate.

● Encourage proper hygiene practices. Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue or your upper sleeve, don’t touch your face, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use hand sanitizer.

● Provide hand sanitizer for employees who work in the field. If they don’t have access to running water and soap, they can still practice good hygiene.

● Make sure your workplace is clean and sanitary: wipe down frequently touched surfaces, like doorknobs, workstations, and counters. Have employees in the field wipe down the surfaces of their phones/tablets regularly.

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*Remind your employees that they should not wear a mask if they are not sick. They are not effective in preventing illness. At this point, it is far more important that your employees and subs have N95 respirator masks to protect them from job hazards.

You know the drill: these are basic cold-and-flu season precautions, which we go through every year. COVID-19 is a “novel” illness; we’ve not seen it in humans before. But we do know that the same steps that protect us from colds and flu work here too.

Do You Really Need an In-Person Meeting?

As concerns ramp up, the best course of action is to make solid decisions. One of these may become: do I really need to meet in-person? Can it be handled with a phone or video call? The reality is that, yes, most issues can be dealt with via technology.

If you determine it is essential that you meet, take simple safety precautions like those we mentioned above. Also:

● Forego handshakes.
● Make sure your meeting space is open and well-ventilated.
● Do not serve or share food.
● Wipe down frequently touched surfaces before and after your meeting.
● Only invite essential participants.
● Postpone or cancel if you experience symptoms. Be sure to explore digital/virtual options.

You’ve heard the saying: “This meeting could’ve been an email.” Well, it’s a good time to send that email or make that phone call rather than holding an in-person meeting, if only to set people at ease.

Remote Teams During Coronavirus

Even if you plan to stay open, remember that with school and daycare closings, as well as shutdowns in other sectors, your employees and customers may not be able to conduct business as usual.

If closure becomes necessary, you’re ready.

Zoom: Zoom offers easy-to-use video conferencing and chat across any device. You can set up conferences, keep on top of trainings, communicate with coworkers, customers, and partners, and run interactive, secure meetings.

Facetime. This is a proprietary standard available to iPhone, iPad, and iPod users. It allows you to make video and audio calls from your Apple device. Now… some of us use Androids! Not to worry, you can take advantage of solutions like:

Google Hangouts: (Low cost video conferencing/collaboration solutions, integrates with other Google platforms, such as Docs, Sheets, Calendar, etc.)
Skype: (free video calling when both parties use Skype, premium features available)
Google Duo: (free video calls, available for both Android and iOS devices)
Facebook Messenger: (free audio and video calls, offers secure end-to-end encryption with Secret Conversations)
Viper: (free and secure calls and messages)corona virus

CamToPlan. This app is an augmented reality tape measure for your phone that allows you to measure, distances, surfaces and draw your plans in seconds. You or your client can take measurements using the video on a cellphone or tablet effortlessly: baseboards, walls, furniture dimensions, carpet … There is no need to kneel on the ground to take measurements. Even simpler than a ruler or a laser rangefinder!

CamToPlan instantly calculates the area (in square meters or square feet) and draws the plan of the room with all measured dimensions. One click is all it takes to share that plan by email, message or on social media. CamToPlan is available on both iPhone and Google Play Store for Android.

magicplan: magicplan helps overcome barriers when you, employees, or clients cannot meet in person. For example, you can scan a room, and the app captures accurate dimensions of the space. You can draw and export floor plans, take and annotate photos, add photos to your floor plan, generate virtual tours, and more.

If you are building a custom home, for example, you can install magicplan, scan rooms, and communicate with clients via technology. If you are working on a design for a home renovation, and are not able to be there physically, your client can download the free app, scan a room, and let you take it from there. A lot of possibilities here!

BuilderTrend: This is a great tool to use anytime, but with recent events, offering a secure, web-based way for clients to access project information is even more important. BuilderTrend lets people access their building schedule, see current project status, receive updates, view and share photos of their project progress, track spending, categorize expenses, view and approve change orders, and contact your team anytime, anywhere.

Your Website/Social Media Profiles/Newsletters: Use these platforms to proactively communicate with your clients/customers about the steps you are taking to stay safe and keep business moving forward. Send out video messages, a special newsletter, blog, and/or social posts regarding the precautions you are taking. If you need help crafting your message or creating a video, contact Haven Media!

You can be hands-on without literally being hands-on. Make sure your people have access to and familiarity with the tools they need to be effective from home or remote locations. Fortunately, many are ultra-intuitive, so the learning curve is short or nonexistent.

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Surviving Coronavirus: The Prognosis is Good for Your Business

Will you take a hit as we deal with the coronavirus outbreak? It is certainly possible. You may see delays in the delivery of materials and supplies. You may have employees who must take time off because their children’s school or daycare closes. You may have clients who fear infection and are self-isolating. You may have to push deadlines back.

What you will also see is a rebound: the construction and design industry outlook remains strong.

We’ve been through tough times before. What we have found is that we are tougher. Continue to make sound decisions based on data and facts, not fear and panic. Protect your workers and clients with information, hygiene practices, and flexible leave policies. Implement remote options that allow you to move forward. Prepare today, and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.