Rethinking Business as Usual

man cleaning an elevator with a facemask and heavy gloves, staring at his reflection

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic a lot has been said about how the way we work has changed, perhaps for good. For facilities management, changes in the way we use our workplaces has particular significance.  

From early in the pandemic, facilities managers had to adapt quickly. New safety protocols, and fluctuations in facility use due to restrictions and lockdowns were just the beginning. These changes were navigated with little notice and limited staff, while continuing to ensure that facilities remained secure and operational.

As we try to predict the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the way we work, we consider what this means for facilities management. From remote working expectations, to increased compliance and leaner budgets, facilities management has to rethink the framework for business as usual.

Remote working is here to stay

There’s no playbook for what the world has been through. Some workplaces have been able to adapt to a virtual working environment, while others have not been able to make the shift. For workplaces that were able to adapt to remote work, technology likely played a big role in enabling the shift.

Tools like Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp have seen a huge uptake, and employees proved productivity wasn’t tied to the office. Enabling a productive, remote working environment is no longer a nice to have; it’s business critical.

For facilities management professionals, the shift is harder. The buildings and assets under management are fixed structures, making it impossible to work remotely 100% of the time. Different facilities require different levels of maintenance, depending on capacity. This need to manage fluctuating usage requires lots of pre-planning, and has many factors to take into consideration.

The increasing burden of compliance

Compliance requirements have long been a part of a facilities manager’s remit, and have only increased thanks to COVID-19. Additional safety protocols to manage cleaning and social distancing add to an already long list of testing, inspections and other compliance obligations.

Facilities using manual, paper-based processes carry a level of unnecessary risk due to inefficiencies and errors inherent in these processes. On-premise or paper-based systems restrict the opportunity to work remotely, posing safety and performance risks for the organisation.

Proactive maintenance means setting up tasks on a regular schedule, so work orders are auto-generated and reminders are sent. Planned maintenance means important tasks are not overlooked or forgotten while you are attending to emergent issues. It’s easy to forgo routine maintenance in response to a burst water main or new cases resulting in a lockdown.

Managing risk

The economic impacts of lockdowns, travel restrictions and safety protocols have seen budgets reduced or diverted away from non-essential maintenance tasks.

While cuts may be unavoidable in the short term, facilities managers must understand the risk inflicted from deferred maintenance. Often the impact of this deferred maintenance may not be seen in the organisation until some years later.

It’s the responsibility of the facility manager to determine whether maintenance deferral creates an unreasonable level of risk for the organisation. These risks could include the likelihood of catastrophic downtime, or a significant future liability.

As a facilities manager, this scenario doesn’t need to keep you awake at night. Asset lifecycle management tools are available to provide the data modelling required to build a clear picture of your asset portfolio and risk profile.

Make sure your technology is keeping up with your needs

If you’re managing a facility, ideally all work is managed in a single system. This includes both planned and reactive maintenance, from request through to work order completion. If your facilities management solution is running in the cloud, you will be able to manage your work from anywhere.

If possible, choose a mobile-responsive solution, so you'll be able to manage your work from any device. In the wake of COVID, taking advantage of technology to reduce unnecessary face-to-face interactions within your facilities is a must. By leveraging technology developments, you can improve safety for your staff and reduce your risk.

Rethinking the new business as usual

As organisations across the globe rethink the way they run their businesses, they’re looking at how to provide more flexible working environments for staff. Part of that consideration is how they can utilise technology to improve efficiencies.

For facilities managers, understanding the increased residual risk from the pandemic is part of the consideration, as people return to physical spaces.  Managing the risk created by budget and staff cuts, while compliance increases, requires a proactive and data driven approach to managing facilities.  

Cloud solutions such as FMI Works give you complete visibility of your asset portfolio and support good practice for facilities and risk management. Attain secure and reliable access from anywhere, on any device.