Chris Veneklasen recently spoke with Metal Construction News about the impact of the pandemic on our business and the new lessons we've learned. While this was an incredibly challenging time for our company, industry, and community, we successfully adapted and found new ways of serving our customers and team members that have become an ongoing part of our operation.   

Excerpts from Metal Construction News. Article by Mark Robbins

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global disruption to companies and livelihoods, creating upheaval for businesses and employees. It spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. While the COVID-19 crisis turned the working world upside-down, employers demonstrated remarkable resilience. As businesses re-enter the market and vaccinations increase, we look at how construction companies adapted, what they learned, and what policies and procedures they’ll take with them into the future.

Pandemic Adaptation

How did companies adapt to the unprecedented changes that COVID-19 brought? Grand Rapids, Mich.-based a.j. Veneklasen Inc. adapted rapidly to the changing guidelines and policies set forth by the state of Michigan and the federal government. Its president, Chris Veneklasen, says, “Our executive team met daily and many times hourly to assess risks and keep open communication with our entire AJV team, clients, and trade partners. This communication allowed us to also confirm our team members were following proper protocols and performing their jobs in a safe manner.”

Lessons Learned

A common lesson learned from the impact of the pandemic on construction is how to best implement and use remote communication. “Our best lesson though COVID was to communicate quickly, honestly, and often,” Veneklasen says. “Many members of our team expressed appreciation for our ramped-up communication efforts. Moving forward, video communication is by far our most notable efficiency improvement. While we strongly value face-to-face engagement with our team members and our clients, the rapid adoption and acceptance of video communication has made quick, informal meetings much easier to schedule and execute.”

Aftermath and the New Normal

Remote work and video communication are the most prevalent changes enacted within a.j. Veneklasen’s organization. “They clearly go together which has proven to have great benefits,” Veneklasen says. “Video has also proven to be a great asset for our field communications since it saves time traveling to a single location and allows us to dive deeper into topics through screen sharing beyond just a bulleted PowerPoint. Through the use of Microsoft Teams, we were also able to quickly organize a face-to-face conversation or group chat that would have normally taken hours or days to coordinate.” Is Veneklasen going to keep allowing employees to work from home? Our culture is everything to us and face-to-face interaction and relationships are extremely important to our brand,” Veneklasen says. “Like most everyone, we were forced to very quickly learn how to work remotely which challenged our cultural ideals. Ultimately, we are happy to be back in our office environment, but we did see the benefits of remote work. It provides opportunities for increased work efficiency, the ability to work around scheduling conflicts, and further work-life balance. With these and other benefits in mind, we have woven remote work options into the fabric of our company, which is yielding good results for our team.”    

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