By Shane Arnold, Business Unit Director, myfm
During a pandemic, it is all too easy to catastrophise and overplay the likely long-term changes once the world establishes a new “normal”. This is simply human nature.
When we are forced to change the way we operate at the speed we have experienced over the past few weeks, we naturally question the way we have done things before and the way we might do things in the future.
Nothing is more important right now than following government advice, staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives. But we also need to be considering what the future will look like and the part Facilities Management (FM) will play in helping businesses thrive again.
Within the FM sector, I see it as inevitable that flexibility will be required. New challenges have been presented to businesses operating in both physical and virtual workspaces, ranging from mothballing of sites to a demand to rapidly expand capacity.
The impending partial easing of lockdown measures and the re-opening of certain businesses will necessitate further change and the businesses and sectors which best embrace that change will be the ones which thrive in a post-Coronavirus economy.
The FM sector will be a crucial player in helping businesses succeed so we need to think clearly what change might look like in FM terms and importantly, given we are a people-focused sector, what skills we will need to develop as individuals to emerge even stronger.
Clearly, our immediate focus should be on the safe re-opening of workplaces. The following are likely to be essential for this to be successful:
- Ensuring ownership and co-ordination through the appointment of a Covid-19 leader
- Reviewing and renewing risk assessments/method statements
- Regular, effective communication
- Recording and documenting actions.
During this time, it is likely many businesses will operate with people working from home. That has H&S implications and, even though times are unprecedented, it is important to remember our underpinning statutes, laws and regulations still apply.
For much of this activity, we will rely largely on the existing skillset of good FM providers but we might find capacity is in short supply in a period of transition when demand is high for certain expertise. FM service providers will draw on trusted supply-chain partners and flexible external expertise to ensure changes are planned, delivered and maintained as swiftly and effectively as feasible to avoid further unnecessary disruption.
None of us know what things will look like post-Coronavirus but it seems sensible to assume pressures will continue to keep the built environment to a minimum, while maximising the use of technology to enable effective remote working. Indeed, Jes Staley, Barclays CEO has highlighted a rethink in the bank’s long-term “location strategy” as he can no longer see the need for office blocks full of workers.
We will need to look to technology to a greater extent, for example to help with the remote monitoring and maintenance of workplaces. We should be looking to harness and further develop/accelerate the power of the Internet of Things and the implementation of SMART building solutions, while ensuring any changes to the size, nature and location of the built environment are delivered as seamlessly as possible.
FM professionals are ideally placed to work more closely with managing agents, property managers, external specialist contractors and internal delivery teams to bring together the requirements of these stakeholders and determine agreed outcomes.
Remote working may also bring increased demand in relation to sourcing FM expertise particularly through the interim market. If geography is not a limiting factor given the acceptance that remote working is both possible and preferable, then organisations will be able to access a much wider pool of skilled people to fill roles. The potential impact on cost, productivity, environmental factors and wellbeing such a model could deliver is huge.
Our clients will have a wide spectrum of ideas of what the workplace of tomorrow will look like and the needs of each must be accommodated in our thinking. We will need our solutions to be flexible enough to meet their objectives while maintaining our traditional values of service, professionalism, honesty and collaboration: these will be more important than ever as we deliver changes required as a result of this terrible pandemic.
So, whether you are delivering hard or soft services, part of a delivery team or in the back-office, I would suggest changes are inevitable. Some will be subtle, some significant, but the demand for trusted, reliable service from people who are experts in their field will remain.
As ever within FM, our people are our single greatest asset. This fundamental understanding never changes – the expertise to deliver, the strength to perform in adversity, the character to embrace change and the empathy to understand the challenges of others have never been more crucial.