Our company’s roadway discipline manager and chief roadway engineer shares how Hanson’s roadway team is adapting to serve clients during the pandemic
By David McDonald Jr., P.E., PTOE, Ph.D.
We have seen very little change in project work from our public agency clients because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are fortunate. Those that perform more work for the private sector may have seen projects put on hold as the owners evaluate their cash flows. We have a significant presence of roadway staff in Illinois, and Illinois was the second state to issue a stay-at-home order, which took effect March 21, followed by many more states issuing similar orders.
With Hanson’s project work proceeding across the country, we needed to meet social and physical distancing and stay-at-home orders issued by state governments, which would affect where our employees and clients lived and worked and influence how we would accomplish our work and keep our clients’ projects moving ahead. Working closely with our company’s information technology staff, our roadway team dispersed and began working from home.
Hanson has provided monitors, computers and other technologies for our new telecommuting staff. By March 25, nearly 70% of our Illinois-based roadway team was able to work from home (note: in Illinois, our staff was considered “essential” employees by the state, so we were not all required to work from home, and some continued to work from our offices). By April, over 92% of the roadway team was working from home, regardless of state. From my observations, we reacted quickly compared to others in our industry.
Just because someone has a computer at home doesn’t mean working remotely will be a success. Fortunately, at Hanson, we are accustomed to sharing work, and this prepared us for this type of setup. Such sharing allowed engineers, designers, technicians and supervisory staff to be comfortable working remotely.
We have had large projects that have required 50 or more people working on the project simultaneously, with only a quarter of them working from the local office. Such sharing has allowed us to serve clients in many locations without having all our project staff in one place. This provides opportunities to tap into our most experienced and available staff wherever they reside, which allows us to offer better solutions to our clients. This also provides unique project opportunities for our employees — regardless of their location — that may not be possible locally. That leads to satisfied employees and clients.
Our project teams know the importance of good communication, and we have stepped it up with our remote work efforts. Hanson’s production staff participates on daily calls and meetings regarding assignments to keep projects progressing.
Through all of this, we want to be sure that we all still feel connected to our colleagues and clients, even if we are not physically in the same place. All of our check-ins and video calls help, but we are missing some of the non-work-related socializing that happens when we are together.
To help us learn a bit more about our co-workers during this time, we have implemented a weekly fun poll. We have learned things from our Hanson teammates, such as our favorite cities, what makes a city great, who is the most famous person they have met and their favorite 80s band. A little fun is good for us, especially during these uncertain and challenging times.
We also recognize the need to keep sharp and obtain our professional development hours. Our monthly internal roadway lunch-and-learn sessions are now video-based. They have become more popular, with attendance up by over 50%! Hanson also offers employees access to on-demand online classes.
Our roadway team continues to adapt to learn, stay productive and serve our clients while staying safe at home. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or another member of Hanson’s roadway team if we can help you in any way.