Digital Transformation and Hybrid Work: How Covid-19 Changed the AEC Industry

Written by Jessa Tracy, Marketing Manager at Global eTraining

The Covid-19 pandemic changed nearly everything. 

From day-to-day things like contactless meal delivery and Netflix binge watching, to the way we celebrated birthdays and grocery shopped. And while in many ways, we found a new groove or ‘new normal’ as it’s so often put, these small changes have continued to shape our habits and perspectives well past the loosening of pandemic regulations and isolation measures.

And our work lives are no exception. 

AEC professionals have had to pivot dramatically over the last few years – attempting to maintain productivity, clear communication, and team morale across their organizations.

And now that we’ve seemed to settle into a ‘new normal’ as an industry – it’s become clear that a few of our pandemic-era shifts seem to be here to stay. 

Let’s get into it. 

    1. Virtual Communication Tools are More Critical than Ever

I think as AEC professionals, when we hear the term ‘Digital Transformation’ we often think of implementing BIM-centric strategies, new design softwares, or online training programs. 

But over the last few years, a new and extremely relevant part of the digital transformation has emerged as a key player in the industry, and proven to be equally as important as our everyday design softwares – virtual communication and meeting tools. 

According to recent stats, there’s been a near 500% increase in buyer activity of web and video conferencing services since the pandemic began. 

With information like this, it’s clear that whether you’re utilizing virtual meeting and communication tools like these or not, some of your clients, partners, or suppliers certainly will be. 

Being able to offer clear, effective communication tools that cater to your customer demographic is an absolute must – and based on recent stats, we think these virtual communication tools are here to stay.

With 79% of working professionals believing that virtual meetings are often even more productive than in-person meetings, and 55% of employers feeling that online meetings actually increase employee engagement, implementing and streamlining your virtual communication and meeting strategy is a must. 

    1. Hybrid Work Needs Tweaking

With recent stats reporting that in just six years, 73% of departments will employ remote workers, it’s pretty clear that remote (and even hybrid) work is here to stay.

According to recent studies, nearly all jobs in the United States that can be done via remote or hybrid work are being done this way. With 39% of remote-capable jobs being performed exclusively from home, 42% in a hybrid capacity, and only 19% being performed fully on-site in February of 2022 – with increased remote work stats also being reported across the globe. 

And with the lowered cost of overhead, continued – and sometimes even increased – productivity, and the general feeling of Covid safety when working from home – this makes sense.

It is becoming clear however,  that while our work environments have evolved, our management styles have not – resulting in gaps in team communication, support, and training. 

According to the APA in a recent Forbes article, “The majority of employees working from home say they experienced negative mental health impacts, including isolation, loneliness and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day.” (Forbes) 

In another recent article, it’s stated that “a third of respondents reported struggling to keep a clear separation between work and home life. The need for more well defined home offices with clear boundaries, physical or otherwise, is rising across the profession.” While the second most common issue is, “communication with colleagues, with 17.7% of respondents missing the benefits of in-person collaboration.”

While extensive research shows that remote and hybrid work is just as – if not more – effective than traditional in-office work environments, it’s clear that there are some hurdles that leadership teams need to overcome – namely, introducing measures to increase communication and socialization within their remote teams. 

And since it seems that remote and hybrid work are here for the long haul – it’s definitely worth the effort.

    1. Digital Transformation is No Longer Optional

Even in the few years prior to Covid-19, the architecture, engineering, and construction industries were in the midst of a slowly evolving digital transformation. But with the emergence of the pandemic, this transformation was shifted into high gear. 

Firms and organizations worldwide were forced to quickly learn and adopt new technologies, softwares, and strategies into their team’s everyday workflows. 

A recent study found that in the manufacturing sector alone, the industry’s digital transformation was valued at USD $263.93 billion in 2020, and is projected to reach USD $767.82 billion by 2026 at a growth rate of 19.48%.

The digital transformation is here, and as stated in one of the previous points, whether you choose to participate or not, it’s abundantly clear that many of your clients, partners, and suppliers will be. 

The BIMObject reported that in 2021, 48% of the industry would avoid working with organizations who aren’t proficient in BIM, with the 2022 stat most likely being even higher.

This opens the door to a variety of important considerations for AEC organizations – for example, how can you ensure that yourself, alongside colleagues, team members, and partners continue to be on the same page regarding BIM implementation, software knowledge, and general industry best practices?

With both the present and future being so clearly virtual, online training solutions like Global eTraining have become essential to the continued health and success of organizations through this industry-wide digital transformation. 

Studies show that adopting online training solutions as part of your digital transformation strategy will actually increase effectiveness of team training, with retention rates increasing from only 25% retention with in-person learning, to 60% retention with online training. 

If one thing is clear, it’s time to get on board with the latest in digital technologies, as it’s going to be the standard for many AEC partners and clients moving forward.

As a proud supporter and Corporate Sponsor of WiB, Global eTraining is excited to share our award-winning online training platform at a 20% discount for all Women in BIM members.

Click here to log into your WiB account to access this deal, or click here to learn more about Global eTraining.