Message from George
I read an article a year or two ago about innovation and what it takes to get people to buy into something that is a positive change. The point of the article and the principle it was getting across was that the new technology or product can’t be just better, it has to be significantly better to change our preference and behavior to be adopted. A better mousetrap won’t suffice. It has to be significantly better.
I believe that you can add an additional ingredient to that. Forced implementation out of necessity. The principle here is that everything in life is a habit (don’t take me too literally here). Habits are hard to change, right? That would explain the motivation needed to implement the change, even when it is an improvement. It has to overcome our old habits.
I am pretty sure Covid19 has been one of those forces. I was one of those people perfectly happy to work the way I have worked for the last 20 years, or however long it has been since the innovation of email. Who needs to change? But with new innovations (MS Teams, Zoom, etc) along with the elimination of traditional activities (travel, work from home, restaurants closed) we have been forced to adapt. And that has led me to realize that utilizing these new technologies are now easy, and just better in many cases. I have developed new significant relationships with people whom I have not met physically but only virtually. Do you want to meet with the team at GTMO? Piece of cake, and almost like being there, only with less humidity and no jet lag.
Meeting face to face, working at the office, socializing at restaurants, etc will always be with us. However, one of the silver linings of what we have had to endure is the discovery of new ways of working that when added to the traditional ways of working and communicating will make us that much better and that much more efficient.
I believe that going forward, we will be even better, working as teams because we have had to adapt these last few months. I would have never chosen to go through these last 4 months, but as happens time and time again, things have a way of working out for the good. And, good things are happening at RQ!
George H. Rogers, III
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Working and Communicating During These Unprecedented Times
By: Tatiana James
I don’t know about you but adjusting to working-from-home full-time has come with its fair shares of ups and downs. On the up-side, there’s no longer a commute to and from the office, which has done wonders for my gas bill over the past few months! I know in speaking with several others of you, the reality is that no commute to and from the office has allowed you more time with your families, which has been a welcomed change from the hustle and bustle of years gone by. Additionally, the flexibility that has grown around the “office” has been incredible to see and hear about. Waking up early to squeeze in some work hours, juggling kids doing online school, caring for elderly or ailing family members, and getting critical work done takes incredible flexibility by everyone involved. The RQ family has once again shown our ability to maintain that flexibility in spades, while juggling numerous balls in the air.
On the downside, however, having three little kiddos running around my house (and not in school), has made my meetings a little more interesting. I can still remember sitting in a virtual meeting a few weeks ago and I promise you, I was saying something constructive and important to the conversation, only to have a consistent knocking echoing from my make-shift office door. It wasn’t long before I was interrupted by another attendee on the meeting who said, “I think someone is knocking at your door. Maybe you can get that?” Cringe! I had hoped that my colleagues couldn’t hear my chorus of three kids knocking in unison on the door for me to open a snack for each one of them. But alas, I know I’m not alone in this adjustment to the new “normal.” I will also say that the daily lack of interaction in the kitchen or hallway and camaraderie that has occurred during these past few months sometimes makes me feel like an island unto myself.
The ups and downs of how the working world has changed in the last three months doesn’t just include those of us who have been able to work from home. For our many team members working on our essential project jobsites, the additional measures put in place to safely produce quality work has been immense. Staggering subcontractors on-site, hand washing stations, accommodating unexpected disruptions, daily wearing masks to protect everyone at the jobsite – the measures taken have not gone unnoticed and the extra effort put in by our field teams has gone above and beyond the call of duty!
During this time, each of our departments and functions has been working hard to pursue new work, support our work and our people, and support our teams in the field who are executing our winningest year of work ever from our 2019 backlog! We wanted to share with you all the new (and old) ways we’ve been keeping the flywheel moving forward here at RQ with our daily mission to provide the best built environment, while being the first choice of all stakeholders.
Despite the current climate in commercial construction nationwide, our bid volume target here at RQ for 2020 is still right on track as of June. Our Marketing, Estimating, and Design Pursuits teams have not missed a beat as they maneuver the art of sharing PDFs, conducting virtual bid days, utilizing Microsoft (MS) Teams for daily communication, while also capitalizing on the Zoom meetings, when both internal and external stakeholders need to be involved. For those of you who haven’t used or don’t know what MS Teams is, I couldn’t put it any better than Microsoft puts it – it’s a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage, and application integration – especially when filling in our incredibly complex bid sheets in Excel, making edits on a proposal, or reviewing preliminary designs in Revit.
Our Pursuits team is regularly reminded that our subcontracting partners are in the same boat as us – thrust into working from home or very remotely, if at all. From one of our Estimating team members: “We all are having to be nimble with the work ahead of us. Having real-life conversations with our subs has really helped us to grow our relationships and remind us we’re in this together.” The communication is flowing constantly day in and day out, whether in the more traditional forms of email, phone calls, texts (for immediacy) and/or GoToMeetings to effectively check in on tasks, deliverables, or team check-ups, or the use of more integrative applications. In fact, to jazz things up in weekly Team meetings, our Estimating team started dubbing each meeting with a different theme: ball caps, beach gear, sailors, and more. If you ask around, you might be able to find a great screen shot of our virtual Estimating team in action.
Support Work –Accounting, Small Business, HR/OD, etc.
Whether we’re seeking to reach out to small businesses in key areas where we work, encouraging vendors to accept EFT payments, instead of checks, answering employee questions, or conducting significantly more video-based interviews for potential new team members – we’ve been able to adapt in “virtually” every way (pun intended) during this pandemic time. Many of our manual processes have been forced to be executed electronically, which has helped to streamline much of what we do. There is no replacing the in-person chats or interviews in the office or conference room (fully), but we have continued to operate effectively enough, even with the growing pains of learning how to effectively use new applications or having to hop back on a Teams call when it drops or you see an array of frozen faces on your screen. Technology can’t replace human interaction, but it has allowed us to remain fully operational during a time when many things have been uncertain in this world.
Execute Work – Design and Field Construction
How about all the designing we do for our active projects? How has this all been functioning during this time, you might ask? Cue BIM 360, Bluebeam and several other applications already outlined. All our design teams are working on the same model/documents via the cloud in BIM 360, including consultants, so we haven’t missed a beat regarding our workflow during this time. Models/Documents are published for all to utilize in “real time.” Bluebeam has allowed us to share design quality control redline discussions for our Design QC reviews. All the reviewers redline one set of drawings, and comments are posted “live” for others to view. Tools like GoTo continue to be mainstay and are used for everything from team trainings to government meetings and beyond. I liked how one designer mentioned that the use of MS Teams is a tool that’s “a bit better than picking up the phone every time you have a small question or comment. I think it is a way to replace those times when we would get up and walk to someone’s desk. It’s a way for us to carry on our “normal” in office discussions without physically being together.”
In addition to executing pursuit or project deliverables, our architecture team continues to work on internal team development as well by, for instance, using GoTo to learn more about specifications at a high level – what their purpose is, what the specs cover in our documentation, how they relate to drawings, types of specifications to prepare, and what drives the formatting for these important documents on each and every project. Through regular patterns/rhythms/routines, our architecture team continues to focus on the bigger picture – executing great quality work in support of our Mission.
As the news of COVID rapidly led to each state enforcing mandatory lockdown, there was a lot of uncertainty on what this would mean to our projects under construction. For many companies, quarantine meant construction was on hold until further notice. Once we learned that our work – as “essential” – meant we could keep working, we had to figure out the “how”. The safety measures for the field had to be rapidly developed and implemented based on the ever-evolving guidance from the CDC. This required daily (if not hourly) phone and email updates to implement new processes… and lots of signage.
On the West Coast, we added hand wash stations throughout the sites. We established controlled access to our jobsite trailers where access was controlled by establishing set entrance and exit doors. Sanitation was monitored throughout the day, with extra care for frequently touched surfaces and bathrooms. Signs were posted in multiple areas to remind workers to distance and sanitize, and informational signs provided updated COVID facts.
Personnel were screened at the start of each day and were required to fill out a sign in-sheet to confirm they were symptom free, not feeling sick, had not been exposed, and had not traveled outside the local area, all requiring extra time and effort. Like the office teams, group gatherings had to be limited and the field had to deploy alternate means for ongoing communications to ensure the team, foreman, and trades were informed and able to continue safely. All hands safety, subcontractor, and daily task hazard meetings were done via virtual conferencing and socially-distanced meetings. While performing work, employees and subcontractors needed to maintain a six foot distance from each other and wear a face covering. Everyone was reminded to bring multiple face coverings and wash them nightly. If work required closer proximity, additional PPE and face shields were required. All this distancing in the field meant added attention to what was happening, what needed to happen, with careful attention to the sequence of work – our teams had to be prepared for disruptions.
The East Coast looked similar to the West Coast. Since the onset, the team was in constant communication with our RQ COVID-19 Response team and RQ Leadership to receive, decipher, and distribute the corporate recommendations in addition to federal guidance across various field teams to aide in their situational management onsite. Since all projects are different they were assessed as such, while leaning on the guidance available. Onsite, they quickly took audit of our sanitization measures and realized that they needed to increase the number of temporary facilities across the sites. They deployed additional wash stations, spaced out temp facilities to reduce grouping and personal interaction, and also arranged them in a manner that the temp facilities were facing opposite directions.
For our jobsite offices, entry was restricted for any of the subcontractors as it was noticed they would group up and congregate during specific peak times of the day (ex. orientation, meetings, turning in dailies, etc.). They took the office safety a step further and built walls with plexiglass site windows so that RQ staff could be totally isolated from crews. Body positioning signage and feet placement signage were deployed at the offices so that folks remained 6 feet apart when staged at the office. All field and team meetings were moved to teleconferences. As the guidance changed they continued to update and communicate to all of our subcontractors and field teams.
The theme has been “Sanitization, Separation, and Sequencing.” They deployed sanitization stations inside all RQ buildings to provide field staff with hand wash/sanitization materials readily available at the work sites. They reviewed high touch point areas such as ladder access, stair towers, man-lifts, etc and performed routine sanitization of those high touch points. For larger areas, sprayers were filled with cleaner solutions to disinfect the areas quickly. All workers are asked to work 6 feet apart, which required our staff to re-think and re-sequence how we were performing the work. Our subcontractors were compelled to not allow sharing of tools, advised against carpooling, and restricted carpooling on the project sites. Shift work and location isolation measures were deployed to minimize close quarters work. Face coverings became a requirement, however more recently additional changes were made to combat new risks that presented themselves due to high heat and high humidity temperatures. Temperature check at the start of the day and at lunch break are mandatory so that they can monitor for symptoms. It has been a challenge to compel individuals to adjust their behaviors to curve the spread on the projects.
One jobsite uniquely affected by the shutdown was GTMO, which required that any person traveling onto the island needed to be placed in a mandatory 14 day quarantine. There were also a reduced number of available flights, creating difficulty for people needing to get on or off the island. But, there are probably worse places to be trapped during lockdown than a tropical island.
The last three months or so have brought about a world of change not only in how we work, but also in how we communicate. Being thrust into interacting, collaborating, and producing work in a new environment has been something that each and every department and project has sought to work through. It has certainly come with growing pains. At least 20% of our employees have been working from home almost exclusively. At first, I thought the restrictions wouldn’t last long and we’d back to business as usual in our office or on jobsites, but over these months, we’ve all begun to find our groove, seeing that the concept and reality of working from home is still very much a reality for many at RQ, whether out of necessity or choice. As our country, states, cities/towns, and neighborhoods begin to open (with safety precautions in place), I do look forward to seeing more of the RQ family in person and dare I say, give an elbow high -five to celebrate rolling with the punches and still coming out on top. Well done everyone!
By: Eric Taylor
Zoom. A few months ago I would have thought you were talking about a pair of Nike Air Zoom Pegasus running shoes. Or – Zoom, zoom – the jingle Mazda used for their RX-7 commercials. Now, of course, Zoom means the video conferencing platform that we all use. It took awhile. My kids got to be proficient at it during their “online learning” before teaching it to me. And now we use Zoom for WIP meetings and any number of other work meetings. And my Zoom meetings don’t end at work. Our family has had Zoom soccer practices almost every evening since this all started if you can picture that. We celebrated Easter with extended family over Zoom. I took a screen shot in order to have a big family gathering picture despite our isolation. What was life like before Zoom?
Don’t answer that. I hope to experience that life again very soon (even if I continue a certain level of Zooming)!
Even so, what Zoom has done for us brings me all kinds of thankfulness. I am thankful that technology came far enough before ‘the next Spanish flu’ that RQ has been able to stay in contact all over the country all these weeks. When I started at RQ I remember George having the vision for video conferencing and spending a pile on it… just to have it not be functional because bandwidth back then wasn’t fast enough. Now we can see each other and talk to each other without blurriness or that annoying delay between someone mouthing the words and you hearing it. And we can see each other from a great number of different zip codes. It doesn’t seem amazing to us anymore, but it really is amazing. I am so thankful for the ability to connect.
I am thankful that RQers embrace our stated value of innovation so whole heartily. It’s who we are. Whether it’s Teams, GoTo, Zoom or what have you, RQ is quick to adapt and apply all the latest and greatest; not just to have the latest gizmo, but to be functional, ergo better, faster, cheaper. I myself wish to be on the forefront of innovation at RQ, yet I am grateful that I’m actually not. It’s me that often is lagging further behind most of you. I don’t have to push you guys; I have to ask you for help learning how to do something new… constantly! What a good problem! To hear that our design teams have been able to successfully execute Kickoff Meetings with NAVFAC 100% electronically (and with much praise) brings a huge smile to my face.
More than anything, Zoom reminds me of the RQ family and how special family is, even if it is work family. I have been one of the unlucky ones to get pretty sick over this quarantine time. Zoom and cell phones, email and everything else at our disposal has allowed me to work without letting anyone down. But what I am most thankful for is that so many of you have lifted me up when I was feeling down. We not only have strong, capable, responsible leaders in every facet of the business, but I have been personally touched by the fact that these leaders are also very caring and compassionate. I was told at one point I’ll be able to put “managed through a pandemic” on my resume. I don’t keep a resume on file, but if I did I would have to write how I was surrounded by so many great people who collectively managed through a pandemic. You guys have been so responsible. It is humbling if you want personal credit because you can’t honestly take it, but inspiring if you don’t care about that but are looking for a great functioning team.
And this brings me to my final word of thanks. We have a lot of women and men that have utilized Zoom very little. For them, Zoom isn’t a great illustration. That is because these folks were in the field, managing through the pandemic hands-on every single day. We all owe a lot to the sacrifice of our field teams. There has been plenty to be scared of. Built-in excuses to abandon jobsites have been abundant. Yet these women and men have shown up every day, managing in something of a live-fire environment with COVID. They kept our clients quite happy while keeping revenue coming in and the erection of buildings going up which has meant the financial survival (and dear I say thriving) of our company. Enough thanks and appreciation cannot be given to our field teams in this time. What you guys have done and continue to do for the family means everything.
With or without Zoom, there is a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful to all of you in RQ who make this a big team. It really does take everyone to pull off what we do. It makes sense since we wouldn’t employ people we don’t need that can’t bring value, yet it is impressive nonetheless how integral every part is in the machine that makes this company go. Somehow we are in the midst of one of, if not the best financial years we have ever had along with record, or near-record sales in the pipeline, all during a time when jobless claims have hit depression levels in our country. It’s not “somehow.” It’s because of all of you. Thank you for your character. Thank you for making RQ thrive and being there for each other. Zoom zoom!