Lessons Learned from COVID-19 – The American Surveyor


4 surveying and mapping colleagues share their expertise working by the outbreak

Ed, Board Member and Head of Discipline Surveys & Mapping Division

Like most Individuals, I seen COVID-19 as a distant risk till individuals began hoarding bathroom paper. My spouse and I stocked up too. Then colleges closed, and plenty of colleagues wanted to homeschool quick.

With 4 workplaces and 223 staff in 2 totally different states, J.D. Consulting primarily consists of Civil Engineers, Planners and Land Surveyors. My Surveying Division consists of 5 discipline crews and eight workplace employees. Some workforce members are higher than others, however I run a stable division.

Beginning as a chainman and dealing my method up, I’ve been with J.D. since 1978. I regarded ahead to retiring on the finish of this 12 months till COVID-19 hit. Now, I could must work one other 12 months to shore up funds since my spouse misplaced her job, and which means yet one more 12 months earlier than our Alaska cruise.

For J.D., most of our giant price initiatives are main subdivisions and industrial websites. A part of our Enterprise Plan re-boot sought to focus extra on Public Works initiatives and add extra millennials to our work drive. I by no means needed to keep away from “set off” phrases earlier than, however I recruit with guarantees of free snacks, drip espresso and a ping pong table.

Final 12 months, we tallied our highest billings because the 2008 recession, and even turned down work. For 2020, we anticipated much less progress, however forecast a great 12 months.

As a enterprise unit, my Surveying Division must be extra worthwhile. Our CEO and CFO remind me each board assembly. I blame our inefficiencies on dangerous communication. Most days you may hear a pin drop in our a part of the constructing. Engineers and Surveyors are good at math, not speaking. If my employees engaged extra, they’d higher perceive their goal and we’d be extra worthwhile.

Pre and Put up Covid activity assignments, transitioning from paper to digital test lists.

At J.D., we take satisfaction in utilizing new know-how. In 2019, we began shifting recordsdata to the cloud. The agency transitioned to Home windows 10, Workplace 365 and Civil3D, which was an enormous enterprise by our IT division. It practically gave me a coronary heart assault.

Though these of us on the Board of Administrators have used Distant Desktops for the previous 10 years or so, I discouraged my employees from working from house previous to COVID-19. Face-to-face communication at all times labored best for me.

After the outbreak, IT arrange Distant Desktops for all staff. At house, most individuals solely have laptops. At work, every worker makes use of twin displays, so switching to a laptop computer display screen proved inefficient and practically unattainable with AutoCAD and different software program. Following many complaints, we allowed staff to take house one monitor, however not their entire workstation for safety causes.

I’ve a few younger bucks in my division, however most of us are silver foxes. Everybody stunned me by rapidly adapting to the “new regular.” After week two, their manufacturing from house practically matched workplace ranges. Some proved extra environment friendly of their billable hours.

Sadly, as financial uncertainty elevated and our workload regressed, we needed to reduce hours and lay off one worker in Mapping. Two discipline surveyors stop as a result of misplaced hours, however we survived. Regardless of the staffing losses, we stayed environment friendly by using new know-how and software program I by no means knew about. Plus, the scenario pressured us to speak otherwise. My workforce talked extra over the telephone than they ever did in particular person.

Earlier than COVID-19, once I wanted something, I might shout at Annette, one in all my Challenge Managers, throughout the room or stroll over to her dice to level one thing out on her laptop display screen. I checked in periodically with my guys and gals all through the COVID-19 expertise and directed her to speak to the others at the very least twice day by day to make sure that they weren’t sitting round ingesting beers of their underwear.

Annette, Mapping Principal Challenge Supervisor

Jackson’s “gap within the floor” photograph, with “Zia Mapper” he might add notes and map the photograph location.

The best half about working from house was not having Ed smudge my monitor or inform me how quiet our workforce was 10 instances a day. However we at all times heard his “ingesting beer in your underwear” joke on our weekly division teleconference.

After the Governor pressured us house, all employees might lastly work remotely. The agency had just a few Distant Desktops beforehand arrange for the Board of Director people to test emails and have a look at spreadsheets whereas on trip, however by no means examined the system company-wide or with AutoCAD recordsdata. In the course of the first week of sheltering in place, our machines continually crashed. IT kinda fastened the problems, but it surely by no means bought as environment friendly as working from the workplace.

Initially, everybody was excited, as a result of it was new. No site visitors or coping with obnoxious engineers. I let my workforce work no matter hours they needed, so long as they picked up the telephone between 7:30am and 5:30pm and answered their emails promptly. Most of this was to appease Ed’s want for communication.

Plus, I used to be involved about Josef, our hot-shot, younger RLS. He tends to get sideways on his initiatives and focuses on small particulars that don’t apply to a job’s huge image. I checked up on him greater than the others.

By week three, the shine wore off. New jobs stopped coming in, however we needed to work as effectively as attainable on our present jobs. We began utilizing website images extra.

Since our designers and engineers couldn’t go to job websites, we turned the sphere crews into firm photographers and had them take far more footage on their jobsites. Most discipline guys aren’t good photographers, so, many instances we had no thought the place the photograph was on the location or why they took it.

I keep in mind asking Jackson a few image he took of a gap within the floor. He stated it was the place they looked for a property nook however didn’t discover any monument proof. He was doing what we requested him, take extra pics, however we have been losing lots of time making an attempt to determine them out.

Josef found a elaborate, new photograph software program known as Zia Mapper, that robotically confirmed the situation of a photograph. Plus, the crews might add explainer notes to every photograph in the event that they needed.

This actually helped Carlos and Crystal who work completely on ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys and Topo & Design Surveys. Since they might see the images from their computer systems as the sphere guys took them, they’d allow them to know of questions or in the event that they wanted extra images whereas the crew was on-site.

Josef additionally put collectively a slick Google spreadsheet that we might all view and edit with day by day duties and the variety of chargeable hours for every job earlier than blowing our funds. As soon as we began utilizing it, I didn’t must name my workforce a lot.

Josef and I’ve had our issues prior to now, possibly as a result of my eldest son is older than he’s. If he had his method, we’d go bankrupt shopping for each new software program. However he discovered methods to streamline our workforce that may proceed to assist us lengthy after the COVID-19 shelter orders are over and we get again to regular.

Josef, RLS, Affiliate Survey Technician and Designer

Probably the most annoying half about working from house was Annette micro-managing me. She’d name at the very least twice a day to test up and blather away about stuff I knew already. Typically Ed would name too. I lastly spent an hour producing a Google Sheet to get them off my again (10 minutes to create the sheet and 50 minutes to inform them how one can use it).

After I began working at J.D. 5 years in the past, I instructed Ed we would have liked to improve our methods and adapt to new software program. He’d principally pat me on the top and say, “if it ain’t broke don’t repair it.” Effectively, it lastly broke and we by no means fairly fastened it. Finally, IT completed migrating information from servers to a cloud-networking surroundings after the shelter in place order. One thing a agency J.D.’s measurement ought to have completed years in the past.

Working from house didn’t influence me like different colleagues since I used to be “important” and will go into the workplace usually. I obtain factors from the info collectors, course of them in Carlson Survey and add stake-out or search factors for the crews. After I began at J.D. I requested Ed why the Social gathering Chief can’t do that, however he stated that they don’t need to, and previous canine can’t study new tips. Honest sufficient, all of it pays the identical.

Ed needlessly dropped by my cubicle typically to test on me once I was within the workplace. He’d lean over my shoulder smelling of burnt espresso, and I’d need to say “dude, social distance.” Nonetheless, I didn’t need to danger it as a result of they laid off Richie, who labored completely on Subdivision Plats within the Mapping group. Plus, I believe that he simply needed to speak to somebody.

Together with Ed, the entire brass labored within the workplace most days, they couldn’t test their emails and discuss on the telephone at house? In the meantime, the Revit designers often waited 30 minutes to avoid wasting a file by the Distant Desktop, one thing that takes a pair minutes tops within the workplace.

When working from house, AutoCAD dragged, however I’d crack open a beer in my underwear and watch for it to catch up. Zoom and Google Hangouts (now Duo) have been higher than J.D.’s non-public change teleconferencing software program that I’d solely use if Ed or Annette insisted. Our discipline crews rapidly tailored to the Zia Mapper platform, which helped us handle our images and use them throughout the agency. Jackson, our best discipline surveyor, raved about it.

COVID-19 proved to me it helps to be well-rounded. Different colleagues misplaced pay as a result of they’d finished the identical sort of “mapping activity” for 20 years and couldn’t choose up something new rapidly. Like Crystal does good work on ALTA surveys, however she will be able to’t write an honest Authorized Description to avoid wasting her life. Since I can do bits of every part, I at all times hit my 40 hours per week, and will get out of the condo and pop into the workplace each time.

The Discipline Crews had it best, although, I doubt they even knew COVID-19 was a factor.

Jackson, RLS Social gathering Chief

I adopted the information of the “2019 novel coronavirus” and its impacts in Asia and Europe since early January, so it wasn’t too stunning when the Governor issued the “Shelter in Place” order.

Staying 6 toes aside proved the largest ache for my chainman Karl and me. Because the cab of our Toyota Tacoma is 5’ max, Karl needed to comply with me in his previous ‘88 Camaro. In the future, we needed to stake some effectively websites within the again nation for an Oil & Gasoline outfit. Karl’s automobile couldn’t deal with the roads, so he left it in a pasture and we pretended the cab was 6 toes huge (don’t inform the Governor).

Ed needed us all to put on face masks on-site, to be protected. Karl couldn’t perceive me over the radio, so I pulled it down every time we spoke, which was annoying.

Josef tends to get somewhat enthusiastic about new gear and apps, however the Zia Mapper one he advisable was fairly cool. After I began utilizing it, I didn’t get practically as many questions on my website images from the engineers or others. More often than not they’d name to inform me the place to take the images. They’d at all times need to discuss concerning the climate and the way it was going “on the surface.”

COVID-19 taught me that Land Surveyors are “important” (which is sweet to know), it’s robust speaking by a masks and Karl wants a brand new automobile.