Guest Columns

Builders as Influencers: Urging Construction Teams to Get Vaccinated is Crucial

We are part of The Trust Project
By Chuck Petersheim

Lumber prices have gone through the roof. Appliances are hard to find. Stain for floors, hot water heaters, electrical conduits and PVC are scarce. Labor is non-existent.

Just about everything we need to build and service a home is a disrupted mess because of COVID-19.

Yes, the mundane has become the heroic. Little did I know the complex pandemic-related day-to-day problem-solving would be the least of my worries from this crisis.

The “Black Swan” problem I did not anticipate: Those employed in construction-related fields have one of the lowest group vaccination rates nationwide. Smart people. Sophisticated people. Caring people. Unvaccinated.

Builders by nature are doers, and this is a clear call to action. Builders influence – that’s what we do, across a broad range of professions and trades. Encouraging our unvaccinated team members to get the shots aligns with our diverse communications strengths. Every day, builders seamlessly communicate across socioeconomic worlds. We speak as easily with architects and engineers holding Ph.Ds, and surveyors and clients with bachelor’s degrees as we do with the blue-collar workforce of painters, framers, masons and plumbers.

I work with smart men and women, old and young, with varying degrees of education. Why does this vaccine hesitancy run through them all at a higher rate than other industries?

They are, at their core, a hardy, headstrong, self-sufficient group. But as valuable as that trait is in performing their jobs, it also can be an obstacle to safe behavior among workers who routinely interact with more people than those in many other professions.

Across the country, construction industry employees leave their homes daily and travel substantial distances, carpooling and ridesharing. They stop at delis, lumber stores and home goods stores. They enter the homes of clients and customers. Many of these workers are likely to be unvaccinated – and likely ignore crucial health and safety advice.

Builders and construction executives are responsible for more than securing certificates of occupancy and laying foundations. We are uniquely suited to serve as influencers when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. We can – and must – smartly, consistently and directly influence our employee and subcontractor network by promoting the benefits of those shots in the arm.

Builders have deep credibility and experience influencing their teams. I do it all the time and I deeply care for my teams. I help employees with basic dental and health care visits. I support their financial literacy efforts with 401(k) contribution education and personal debt management. I encourage regular attendance and coach safety in the workplace. I offer counsel regarding family issues and challenges. The advantages of vaccinations should be part of that regimen.

While every building company is unique, all share the same hierarchical structure, and all successful firms benefit from strong leadership at the top. As leaders, we know how to motivate with time off, bonuses and recognition. We know how to influence with smart communications strategies.

This vaccination effort must happen before their hesitancy impacts our operations, profitability and hard-earned reputations. Builders always serve their communities – we build Little League dugouts and are the first to volunteer.

Simply put, this is just another way for us to serve and protect our community.

Chuck Petersheim, the founder of Catskill Farms in Sullivan County, N.Y., has built homes for 20 years. His insights emerge from a grassroots perspective built from close contact with a broad cross-section of small businesses, buyers and governments. From this unique perspective, he is an authority on Hudson Valley and Catskills migration trends, real estate, home construction, financing and land use.

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