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Lockdown easing sees cautious development emerging in all areas of FM

Facilities Management

07/06/21 | Rebecca Drewett

As the UK continues to ease lockdown restrictions, facilities are reopening and seeing an increased need for the provision of all types of services. Karl Broom, FSI Territory Sales Manager, discusses with PFM how CAFM technology can support FMs during the challenges they face as businesses reopen.

With the UK continuing to reduce the restrictions introduced to deal with the surge in Coronavirus infections at the start of this year, higher levels of activity can be seen to be emerging in all areas of the FM sector, while continuing to recognise the need to be aware of the presence of the virus.

Our industry has been one of the most resilient performers over a number of years and this can be seen within the rising contribution being made to assist the UK’s economy recovery, as facilities continue to reopen or increase their levels of activity. New and updated contracts are emerging in many areas, resulting in a spate of announcements for new appointments, providing further evidence of FM’s determined drive to recover lost ground.

As always, we asked industry experts to provide their thoughts on where the opportunities are being seen, with the first of these provided by Incentive FM Group managing director Bruce McDonnell, who says that FM is enjoying “a new-found status in the marketplace, given the critical work carried out during lockdown and post lockdown. This will reinforce the benefits of outsourcing FM and potentially also drive a surge in first time outsourcing.”

In Central London, rental values have fallen by circa 6%, which means that landlords will be looking at ways to maximise return and offset this reduction, he continues. This includes various initiatives such as building consolidation, increased concessions within buildings, restacking to support hybrid working and reimagination of how buildings are used.

“This will no doubt generate opportunities within the FM sector to support the initiatives,” says Mr McDonnell. Workforce challenges can also be seen with the UK population dropping by over 1m people in the last 12 months and research shows this is as non UK nationals returning to their home nation during the pandemic.

“As the UK gets back to work and all of the locations are reopened, what impact is this going to have, specifically in the lower paid roles, given new post Brexit immigration rules?” he asks.

“It is likely that we will find a skills shortage specifically at the lower end of the salary scale and this will present many challenges, not just for service partners but also the clients that we service. Will this drive pricing up?”

Concerns over transmission of the virus may mean an increase in the systematic monitoring of both the air quality itself and the performance of HVAC systems that manage the air delivery, according to Mr McDonnell. This will require robust CAFM systems that are agile, real time and responsive, which are operated by knowledgeable FM and maintenance teams.

Management of buildings in terms of utilisation will also be key as there are strong indications that many office-based staff will split their time between home and the office moving forward.

“Hot desks will be more relevant and staff experience/re-orientation will be key as staff won't be in the space daily and may need assistance in finding 'today’s desk' allocated to them. Slick processes for booking and managing this, including smooth access to the buildings, will be more prevalent moving forward,” says Mr McDonnell.

FSI territory manager Karl Broom says Covid-19 illustrated the critical role that FM professionals and the CAFM technology they yield, play in how companies function day-to-day. Even in lockdown, they were key in facilitating remote working and mobile processes.

However, as more businesses begin to reopen, FMs face another challenge: restoring confidence, he continues. Understandably, amongst the eagerness of many to return to workplaces after months away, others remain anxious about the move for several reasons:

  • Fears of catching COVID-19;
  • Hesitance about meeting colleagues after long absences;
  • Difficulties adjusting to new routines.

FMs will be essential in protecting peoples’ wellbeing by assuring workplaces are safe – and CAFM software will be valuable in building that confidence in the months ahead. For instance, cleaning regimes must be well-organised to meet peoples’ heightened expectations.

CAFM technology assists in scheduling these tasks, he explains, while concurrently establishing safe pathways for cleaners to avoid overcrowding. “Because, while buildings are reopening, Covid is still with us. So, space management is another top priority – FMs need to control the flow of traffic around workplaces and track how many people can be in a space safely, particularly in high-footfall environments,” Mr Broom continues.

CAFM applications also provide a direct link between FMs and other employees, empowering the latter to quickly report issues in cleanliness, air quality, or general comfort. This feedback will reassure them that their wellbeing is being protected, and their workspace is truly secure.

“There’s no question the FM industry and CAFM will be crucial as businesses reopen, providing much-needed reassurance on the journey back to ‘normality’,” Mr Broom concludes.

Incentive QAS managing director Jaimie Wright provides further thoughts on the changing situation: “With the added complications of a pandemic it will be extremely important to continue to develop staff teams, as cleaning will play such a vital role in the safety of our working and leisure environments.

“We will continue to utilise e-learning software like UhUb which uses video, written materials, and quizzes for cleaning staff, to help them demonstrate competence in different cleaning aspects,” he continues.

“It’s interactive, and the uptake from QAS staff has been significant. We will continue to create our own video content for the UhUb platform to further-tailor the resources for our teams.”

Mr Wright believes IoT technology will play a part in the safe return to the workplace and improved productivity: “We have recently invested in the mpro5 platform, a cloud-based contract management smart system that, among other functions, can communicate with cleaning staff as and when washrooms require cleaning. Major clients have already started utilising the new software and the system is being rolled out across our whole business.

“mpro5 has the capability to link workflow with the Internet of Things (IoT), which will enable the system to take readings from strategically located sensors to unlock productivity gains and potential cost savings. IoT minimises the need for manual checks where sensors can provide constant monitoring instead enabling more cost-effective work schedules.

“As well as time-saving benefits, the software also reduces the usage of unnecessary cleans, which is better for the environment,” Mr Wright concludes.