Voices No Longer Heard

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Voices No Longer Heard

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In my line of work, which is construction management and execution, communication is key. Often, this begins and ends with emails, phone calls, and the occasional zoom chat to set a project up. However, once work commences, field superintendents meet daily with clients to discuss progress, delays, opportunities for improvement, and at times, complaining. Morning meetings are at the heart of the daily communications, and have always taken place at 7:30 am, with fifteen to twenty people present.
From January 2020 thru the middle of March 2020, morning meeting went as they had in the past. At times, with so many in the room, expressing their ideas, it can be difficult to keep track of what is being talked about. In my role, I attend one or more of these meetings, at different jobsites, throughout the week.
As Covid safety precautions took hold towards the end of March, I noticed that the meetings I attended were quieter. This was partially due to masks being worn. Whenever someone chose to speak, their voice, which had been loud a week or so prior, was now muffled and subdued. Additionally, people spoke no more than was necessary, the meetings were shorter than they had been. Gradually, power points were introduced on a screen each day so that talking was not necessary. Instead, the bosses laid out the schedule, expectations, and those in the room simply took notes.
By the end of April, the morning meeting changed over to Zoom Chat, with everyone in their office, staring at a screen which displayed those same power points, saying very little or nothing at all. By this point, with social distancing in full-force, there was no need to speak. Notes were made by a Project Engineer containing key points and emailed to attendees after the conclusion of the daily Zoom.
Suddenly, there was no face to face conversation, fewer phone calls, and increased emails. With masks across our faces, everyone continued their work in an eerie silence. The robust workplace, full of ideas and plans which must be heard, faded into blank stares saying nothing.
With the New Year, I did not expect any change. It would be difficult to say when practices that existed only a year ago might return. This morning, I logged into Zoom for a pre-construction meeting, I was met with the same silence I heard just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

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This item was submitted on January 12, 2021 by Jon Sage using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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