Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Kuala Lumpur (UTMKL)

Communication Effectiveness at Construction Site during COVID-19 Outbreak in Malaysia: Case Studies of G7 Contractors

Briefing and site visit by main contractor at Site-PJS

The construction industry is severely impacted due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a labor-intense industry clocking 7.2 percent annual growth rate, the construction industry is hugely impacted with currently a 60% decline in the annual turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Movement Control Order (MCO) due to the COVID-19 pandemic has currently stalled all activities at the construction sites. The construction industry is facing a bleak future; delays at construction sites are a certainty and would subsequently result in cost escalation. Many companies are unable to cope with such losses. Apart from this, many construction workers are also in despair as they have lost their jobs. Taking note of this inimical impact on the construction industry, the Government of Malaysia has cautiously decided to loosen the restrictions under the MCO and slowly permit various activities to resume at the construction sites. The stakeholders majorly affected by this intervention are apparently the construction employees, who are largely involved in the day-to-day construction activities at sites, as well as other construction industry stakeholders such as the contractors and sub-contractors, consultants, developers, clients suppliers and those involved in the construction industry supply chain. Hence, effective Communications Management (CM) is crucial in construction projects as it is very complex and involves various stakeholders, especially with MCO restrictions, wherein physical meetings and discussions are limited.

Use of online work environments could be the panacea for the construction industry, but even these solutions require effective CM. The construction industry does not have the luxury of working from home, because there is a substantial need for physical presence. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the communication effectiveness at the construction site during the COVID-19 outbreak based on the CM practice in Malaysia. This investigation involves 3 case studies involving G7 contractor companies currently working on mixed development projects in Malaysia. A series of interviews were conducted with the top management at the construction site to examine each company’s current CM practice. In addition to this, a questionnaire survey was also distributed to the general workers to assess communication effectiveness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The findings were that two of these contractor companies demonstrated high communication effectiveness due to the implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT), morning briefing, single lingual use and friendly communication approaches. However, the other contractor displayed poor communication effectiveness due to lack of IoT implementation, multilingual practice and inferior communication approach at the construction site. This study concluded that CM practice directly affects communication effectiveness at the construction site. The use of single lingual practice, IoT implementation as well as barcode scanning for latest instruction and report updates keep site workers updated. Friendly communication approach at the construction site also helps the general workers understand better to increase communication effectiveness.

Check out the multimedia version of the COVID-19 Personality of the Month at the link below: