Construction Media Index - Pandemic Response

Next in our series of blogs on the recently published 2022 Construction Media Index reports, we look at what the research shows about the industry’s response to the pandemic.

Pete Stemp - Senior Copywriter

Peter Stemp01.06.2022

The Construction Media Index (CMI) research is conducted every two years and provides impartial insights into the communication media behaviours of decision makers across the construction industry. The 2022 edition covers M&E Consulting Engineers, Architects, Housebuilders, Electricians and Main Contractors.

This year’s research provides the opportunity to see how the pandemic has impacted media preferences and behaviours. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was the necessity to shift to home working wherever possible. As would be expected, the extent of working from home differed across the different professions surveyed. For example, 56% of architects were working from home 5 days a week whereas this was just 7% of housebuilder respondents and 9% for main contractors.

In total, 75% of architects and 85% of M&E engineers have worked from home for 2 or more days a week in the past year. However, the respondents in each group have differing views of how this will change in the future. 31% of architects believe working from home will be full time going forward with a further 28% saying it will be 2 or more days a week. In comparison, the M&E sector expects more of a return to pre-pandemic patterns. Just 1% of respondents envisage full time home-working with 32% expecting 2 or more days per week.

While this is still an evolving situation and may be subject to further change, this finding does have implications for certain types of communication channel. For example, CPD delivery, which has traditionally been focused on in-person delivery, often at the architect practice’s office may need to change. If architects are only working from the office for part of the week, online delivery may be more convenient. In fact, the CMI report found that 77% expect to continue participating in online CPDs after the pandemic. However, when asked for their preferred method, the respondents were divided. Face-to-face at an organised event (26%) face-to-face at our offices (23%), recorded online presentation (28%) and live online presentation (23%) were all selected by a similar proportion.

Across all audiences there is, to some extent, a split between those who want to return to face-to-face events, such as trade shows and conferences, and those that would prefer to participate in the online versions that were common during the height of the pandemic. For example, among M&E engineers 73% said they had attended online conferences or seminars in the past 12 months. However, when asked if they would attend online events in the future only 44% said they would. A similar number (45%) said they expect to attend an event in person after the pandemic. The profession that seems most converted to online conferences is housebuilders. 70% said they did not expect to return to face-to-face conferences and 67% said they would continue with online conferences.

Generally, more respondents expect to regularly hold video meetings with manufacturers compared with those that said the same about face-to-face meetings. In fact, only 3% of housebuilder respondents expect to have regular in-person meetings with representatives and almost one third (31%) expect no such meetings.

For the electrician audience, the research also looked at purchase preferences and behaviour. Interestingly, despite the restrictions and changes in purchasing that occurred during the pandemic, traditional sources of supply are still preferred by many. Wholesaler/merchant was selected as the first choice by 67% of respondents with a further 30% saying they use them regularly (97% total). In contrast, just 8% said online was their first choice with 44% using it regularly. 17% would only use it as a last resort. However, a net 12% of respondents say they expect their use of online retailers to increase in the next 12 months.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on almost every aspect of people’s lives, with working patterns and methods of engagement changing dramatically. It seems that these shifts have had an effect on how people are choosing to work and communicate but it may be some time before all the effects on the industry are fully understood.

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