COVID-19 survey says

June 16, 2020  - By
Reaching ’round the world: GPS World staff engage in a teleconference with Editorial Advisory Board members and contributors via teleconferencing. Clockwise from top: Tim Burch, John Fischer, Mitch Narins, William Tewelow, Julian Thomas, Jean-Marie Sleewaegen, Thibault Bonnevie, Ismael Colomina, Michael Swiek, Tony Murfin, Miguel Amor, Alison Brown, Ellen Hall, Brad Parkinson, Stuart Riley, Greg Turetzky, Tracy Cozzens and Matteo Luccio. (Photos: GPS World)

Reaching ’round the world: GPS World staff engage in a teleconference with Editorial Advisory Board members and contributors via teleconferencing. Clockwise from top: Tim Burch, John Fischer, Mitch Narins, William Tewelow, Julian Thomas, Jean-Marie Sleewaegen, Thibault Bonnevie, Ismael Colomina, Michael Swiek, Tony Murfin, Miguel Amor, Alison Brown, Ellen Hall, Brad Parkinson, Stuart Riley, Greg Turetzky, Tracy Cozzens and Matteo Luccio. (Photos: GPS World)

Our readers participated in an online survey on how they are being impacted by and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We summarize your responses here.

In April, GPS World asked its readers how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the GNSS/PNT industry and their day-to-day work.

About three quarters of respondents fell into two general areas of work: commercial (43%) and government/civilian (33%).

The three biggest market sectors primarily served by respondents’ companies are survey and construction (28%), defense and government (20%), and mapping and geographic information systems, or GIS (14%).

Because of the critical need for mapping during the pandemic, almost all mapping and GIS respondents said they have adapted to answer the needs of those seeking information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporting Solutions

About 14% of respondents reported their company has provided products or services for an application, project or customer directly tied to a COVID-19 response. These include support for police and government supervision, government and federal agencies’ emergency vehicles, air transportation, as well as medical supply transport.

Other efforts include ramping up the manufacturing of personal protective equipment such as face shields, with plants repurposed; others donated face masks, disinfectant and money. Also playing a supporting role are IT- and statistic-related services.

Tracking COVID-19. GNSS services provided by our readers to help track the virus include helping multiple agencies monitor traffic to and from critical locations, and building online dashboards for state data and surveillance.

“Our ability to provide GPS network services has enhanced the ability of public- and private-sector surveyors to continue working, to stay employed during these difficult economic times,” said one respondent.

Roadblocks. During the coronavirus pandemic, only 14% said they are significantly challenged to access parts and services, while 41% noticed a slowdown in deliveries. Comments included: “There have been issues getting supplies to set up for telework” and “Some international suppliers are having issues, so we are looking into alternative suppliers.”

Glass Half-Full

While there’s no question the COVID-19 outbreak has presented challenges, many respondents shared positive experiences while working in this current environment.

Working Remotely. For many of us, learning how to work remotely has been a positive experience, providing options that were overlooked or not considered before. Many readers were pleasantly surprised by how easy the transition has been and how well it has worked.

“It’s been a smooth transition to telework and production continues at normal rates,” said one respondent.
Others reflected on their successful adaptability with remote working, with comments such as “We have proven we can function with staff working remotely,” and “It brings people together in new ways!”

“As the team manager, I was fortunate that I had been transitioning my staff to be flexible in their work locations by replacing their desktop computers with notebook computers, enforcing the utilization of shared network resources for project data, and making sure IT systems were working for them — at work, in the field, and at home — prior to the pandemic. This has given me confidence in part-time telework for this group.”

Employees have become “more focused and more productive in necessary areas: documentation, contracts and gaining necessary certifications and contract information.”

Working from home also has improved productivity with fewer meetings and no commuting. “Traffic in any case was horrific.”

Rise of the Machines. Other respondents looked even further to the future. “COVID-19 has given companies and people a wake-up call. The new economy and new dynamics of workforce management will never be the same. This will help us tremendously as we approach AI (artificial intelligence) automation.”

No More Backlogs. While work has slowed in many areas, that cloud can have a silver lining. “It has allowed a backlog of work to be caught up, but we expect that will be temporary as business begins to bounce back.”

Finally, some respondents noted the human factor coming to the fore, including improved hygiene, seeing people help each other, and “more compassion for people in general.”

Photo: Photo: ftwitty / E+ / Getty Images

Photo: Photo: ftwitty / E+ / Getty Images

Where Do We Go from Here?

We asked our readers if coronavirus pandemic-related workflow changes and adaptations have brought about innovations they intend to keep going forward.

Many readers commented that increased reliance on working at home and new digital workflows will continue past the end of the pandemic. Online communication tools cited include email, WhatsApp, Skype, Teams and Zoom. “Knowledge and use of these tools are now ubiquitous,” wrote one respondent.

Others commented that traveling for meetings will be less frequent and reliance on videoconferencing will increase.

Staying Home. Companies plan to continue with at least some staff working from home to reduce their office-space spending. “I will probably have my staff telework two days per week once this pandemic passes. We will have more online training modules prepared. Digital signatures will be the norm.”

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens Zooms from her home. (Photo: Steve Cozzens)

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens Zooms from her home. (Photo: Steve Cozzens)

One respondent wrote, “We intend to keep using the digital workflow. Accepting and returning PDF plat reviews has worked very smoothly.”

“We are redesigning the logistics of how our business operates — decentralized versus centralized. In this new landscape, businesses cannot be tied to one central location,” another reader wrote.

Others are taking part of the new workflow back to the office: “Videoconferencing has taken on a new light. It works well, and will continue even after we move back to the office.”

Some had a steeper adaptation curve: “As a state government agency, we were not prepared to have the majority of staff working remotely, so we have had significant IT issues.”

Staying Healthy. “We will increase cleaning and sanitizing routines, and all employees and guests will have their temperatures taken before entering, and while on property,” commented one reader.

“The world has changed, and how these changes will affect our business has yet to be determined.”


A Look at Surveying

Surveying companies have adopted remote-office connection strategies and new ways to exchange digital and physical information with their field crews.

About two thirds of professional surveyors have taken steps such as working remotely and videoconferencing to collaborate with colleagues and clients. One respondent said, “We quickly pivoted to working from home by utilizing WebEx and Google Hangouts for collaboration.”

Out in the Field. Some firms are limiting one person per vehicle when traveling to work sites. “Drafting is done via work-from-home on laptops.” Field crews now typically are a single person using GPS and communicating via email.

Going Digital. “The paperless agenda that was difficult to institute is now in place and operational,” commented one surveyor. “It’s often difficult to change until we get that nudge.”

Photo: ftwitty / E+ / Getty Images

Photo: ftwitty / E+ / Getty Images

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.