As we all adjust to a new normal of remote working and social distancing with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for at least the next few months, there are many different industries being impacted, including the environmental consulting industry.
At Scout Environmental, our monthly blog articles are focused on providing value to you as clients and teaming partners. Focused on making complex environmental issues simple. Focused on guiding you through environmental challenges to help you win the day.
But winning the day with this crisis has changed for a lot of people. Many of you are just trying to win the day by juggling working from home, becoming teachers to your children (!), taking care of loved ones, and figuring out how to keep your projects on track.
For Scout, we’re making those same adjustments as well; here are some lessons we’ve learned to guide you through some of the environmental consulting challenges.
1. Field and Site Visits: Are they a go?
- Check with the customer to determine whether the project is defined as “mission-essential” or “critical.”
- Consider whether the field visit is to assess “normal” (pre-lockdown) site conditions. If so, recognize that there may be reduced traffic and noise due to travel restrictions that may not reflect normal site conditions.
- Provide clear guidance on health and safety protocol to team members (e.g., only 1 passenger per vehicle, ensure a distance of at least 6 feet from other individuals, ensure no sharing of equipment and/or protocol to sanitize equipment).
- Consider whether drone video footage would be an alternative to a multi-person team visit.
- Identify other parts of the project that can move forward if a field or site visit isn’t feasible at the time.
- Identify upcoming field delays and work-arounds to keep projects moving forward. For example, we’re managing an Environmental Assessment that is requiring field surveys for an Air Force Base in a community that doesn’t have lodging available to field teams due to COVID-19 restrictions. We’re keeping the project going to analyze other resource areas despite the surveys being postponed.
2. Video conferencing, next best thing to face-to-face.
There are many video conferencing options which not only help to put a face to a name but also offer the option to share your screen to view/mark up documents in real time while maintaining safe social distancing. Consider this also as an alternate tool for public outreach meetings that ordinarily take place in person.
- Test the video conference with a team member in case there are any difficulties accessing the site. For example, some federal government computers have limitations with certain sites.
- Check if the video conference has a limit to the number of callers or has a time limit to the video conference.
- Double-check that the topic for discussion does not have any security concerns using web conferencing. For example, SpaceX recently banned the use of Zoom calls due to security concerns.
- Just like on teleconference calls, make sure everyone is on mute except for the people expected to speak.
- Choose a video conference that offers a call-in number as well as a web link. Because of all the remote workers in an area, wi-fi connections can be an issue. Dialing in for the audio and using the computer to share screens provides the most secure connection.
3. Over-communication is key.
- Frequently refer to (and update) your project schedule so the team can quickly see which parts of the project may be impacted due to changes to survey data availability.
- Some client servers are having a hard time processing emails in a timely manner to remote locations, so if an email is critical, follow-up with a phone call or text to make sure it got there.
- Check in with team members frequently for support, compassion and perhaps a good laugh.
At the end of the day, it’s about finding a balance between moving forward on projects AND taking care of each other as a team.
Contact me to hear more about how we can help you—that’s why we’re here! firstname.lastname@example.org