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Coping with COVID

Facilities Management

26/10/20 | Rebecca Drewett

FSI Marketing Manager, Sally Wotton, joins FMJ's group of experts to describe the many ways CAFM can help FMs cope with the latest Covid-19 requirements to stay safe and compliant.


The priorities for those working in FM have changed out of all recognition over the last six months. They’ve moved away from managing buildings and their occupants to juggling the needs of hybrid and off ice-based workers that are beginning to migrate back into the workplace. One the most important elements for CAFM developers is in talking to customers and finding out their needs, and for the foreseeable feature this means developing COVID-friendly software that helps FMs plan and organise buildings and occupancy as seamlessly as possible.

It is also important to offer customers as much flexibility as possible, which is why Space Connect software includes configuration rights, allowing users quick and easy access to manage their own system alternations without having to go back to the developer.

Desk booking

CAFM systems have had to adapt quickly to keep up over the last few months and for us the first realisation was that the demand for meeting room booking, which used to account for 80 to 90 per cent of enquires switched almost overnight to enquiries about desk booking.

Previously our desk booking software was used mainly to facilitate agile working practices, but in the age of COVID the idea of just turning up to choose a desk isn’t feasible. This is why users now have the option of choosing from bookable desks or fixed desks, the latter being for those who regularly need to be in the office and want an assigned place.

With social distancing being a priority, systems now offer managers access to floorplans and interactive maps that show which desks are available and blanks out those that need to be left free to assist social distancing. To avoid people wandering around the workplace, managers can also confirm via the dashboard assigned zones where particular teams can sit together. End users can access the desk booking via an app or online and – to ensure accountability they’ll be prompted by the system if they fail to register their arrival.

Cleaning and sanitisation is hugely important, and we are developing a tool that will give cleaning operatives access to a dedicated area of the system which will tell them which spaces need to be cleaned and enable them to sign off on areas that are ready for reoccupation. Managers can also add push notifications via the software to remind occupants to wash hands.

Minimising contact is a crucial factor in the battle against infection, so meeting room software automatically integrates with Zoom, Teams and Skype to deliver touch free access to these platforms. By integrating the software with hardware (e.g. sensors, docking stations, facial recognition, contactless check-in, digital signage) FMs can install touch free systems at point of entries that enable visitors to use facial recognition to enter a building and notify the person they’re meeting to come and collect them, all without the need for any physical contact.

Track and trace is a vital part of the battle against COVID, and the latest system enhancements allow the dashboard to track not only where an individual has been sitting in the workplace, but with a click of a button shows who else has sat in that spot to enable a fast response should it be needed.


However, one of the most powerful benefits of the latest CAFM enhancements will be in utilising data and analytics to enable FMs to manage corporate real estate and assets.

One of the key ingredients for this is occupancy sensors, for instance positioned under or on desktops. Whereas in the past the use of sensors to measure occupancy levels was met with some reticence by clients who thought it very expensive and users who viewed it as a ‘big brother’ platform, the application of sensor integration into a CAFM system takes the product to a new level.

Using sensors, you can chart exactly how many people have utilised a particular area of a building, and for how long. That way, meeting rooms which are virtually redundant can be reappointed and off ice areas which may be utilised erratically can be addressed. The latest systems will even link to Bluetooth locations on a mobile app so the sensor will automatically know you were the person who booked the desk. The tech is expensive at the moment but the cost will go down as uptake increases.

The real power of the system will be when a real estate customer has for example, four off ices and is able to use the data to work out how many desks are being booked, how much space is being used, how many meeting rooms are being utilised and how many ‘ghost bookings’ are being made.

But in the short-term for tackling COVID and the longer term in managing real estate and assets the latest CAFM systems are being honed to allow you to monitor not only the health of your occupants but the building.


There are a host of ways that CAFM can be utilised to help us through the current crisis.

Where employers are encouraging staff back to the workplace, social distancing is a key priority to make people feel safe.

Working with a ‘return to work policy’, CAFM software can be configured to allow staff to book resources, desks, or meeting spaces before travelling to the office. Systems administrators can easily turn on or off spaces available to book, offering piece of mind, ensuring sufficient space is maintained and supporting other policies such as staggered start and finish times.

Crucially, ‘check-in and check-out’ capability can provide details on where and when staff have been within facilities, supporting government guidance : “…if someone develops symptoms, they will be encouraged to alert the people they have had close contact with in the 48 hours before symptom onset. If any of those close contacts are co-workers, the person who has developed symptoms should consider asking their employer to alert those co-workers”.

Planned preventative and reactive maintenance

As offices, campuses, retail outlets and leisure industry facilities reopen, welcoming back staff and clients, FMs are being challenged with additional planned and reactive maintenance tasks. With the help of CAFM software, planned maintenance ensures routine work orders are scheduled, automatically triggering work orders.

Systems offering self-service functionality allows end users to log issues that the facilities team can monitor and allocate to their mobile workforce. Engineers, tradespeople, and service providers can work ‘on-the-go’, with the option to record travel time between jobs.

Risk assessments and action checklists can be set up for teams carrying out work to answer a defined list of questions, capturing essential and auditable data for reporting adherence to government guidelines.

Adherence to government guidance and regulations Regulation has always been integral to an FM role but with increased compliance and more rigorous provisions needed within planned work schedules, CAFM software can help

support health and hygiene regimes, for example sanitising and handwashing and the need for air-conditioned environments to be more closely monitored. Planned work orders can cover anything from electrical systems, lighting to water systems and treatments and ensuring that all HVAC and environmental systems are checked, occupancy levels are reset, and fire testing routines are resumed and maintained.

It’s also important to restore planned preventative maintenance tasks with your service provider – waste, food and drink, post, pest control and statutory checks on facilities such as gas systems and lifts.

Asset management and stock control

With home working still the case for many office workers, CAFM can help keep track of IT equipment allocation. For those on site, it can track new equipment that has been purchased to support safety in the workplace – screens, automatic hand sanitising units, temperature gauges and air quality monitors.

Software will support efficient management of stock, giving real-time analysis and full details of stock, and supplier information and levels for automatically triggering restocking. For example, ensuring your business has optimum supplies of hand sanitiser, face masks and other PPE. It integrates with your help desk to allocate stock to both reactive and planned work orders, improving your efficiency and preventing overspend.

Reporting and oversight

Recording data in a CAFM system enables facilities managers to plan, make better strategic decisions, reduce costs, and track all aspects of their estates in one platform.

In the current environment, it’s even more important to capture and create specific reports on essential risk assessment and checklist responses. It’s also important to see where staff have booked into and checked out of workspaces and who they have been in proximity to. A CAFM tool which allows you to design your own reports and dashboards, tailored to specific business requirements, off ers a lot of value and supports these increased reporting requirements.


CAFM brings a degree of certainty to the disorder caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. The pressure to maintain a safe, hygienic and fully functional workspace is at a peak and CAFM can relieve some of the stress by providing greater efficiency, insight and automation.


Many businesses may be operating with a reduced FM team, meaning each member must be resourced as efficiently as possible.

Time-consuming visits to base for job sheets can be eliminated by managing jobs with a CAFM system and communicating with operatives via email or mobile app; which also helps to maintain social distancing. As well as receiving the details of the work that needs to be done, the operative can access a map showing the job location, COVID-safe entry and exit routes through a building, see being the deadline (colour-coded by urgency), access the asset’s maintenance history, and submit photos of asset condition via their mobile device.


Insight into how a business is performing requires a strong foundation of data - essential to any business, and never more so than with employees working remotely, at different sites, or self-isolating, which could lead to potential knowledge gaps. CAFM makes information centralised and accessible, especially when the software is cloud-hosted, as users can securely log in from any browser.


CAFM can automate work allocation in order to improve work rectification time, taking pressure off a busy and / or reduced helpdesk team, many of whom may be managing enhanced maintenance or cleaning regimes in line with new COVID-19 risk management strategies. Requests are analysed and allocated by accounting for operative skills, current workload, location (through GPS tracking) and shift pattern, greatly reducing the potential for a return visit or incomplete tasks. The helpdesk can readily keep track of all works across the site, seeing the progress for each and those nearing the deadline in order to keep the site functioning effectively and ensuring a safe workplace for those who have returned.

Integrating CAFM with other systems can deliver vast time savings and improved data accuracy, helping improve service response times and building cleanliness. As all integrated systems securely share data, the need to enter data multiple times is removed, such as logging faults, updating contractor information or finance / purchase order details. For example, problems identified by the building management system (BMS) are relayed directly to the CAFM system, automatically creating a job and allocating an operative – all without human intervention and likely before a problem or breakage occurs, meaning it’s also often easier and quicker to service.


For many businesses, cleaning regimes will have been increased in order to mitigate COVID risk. Using CAFM, cleaning schedules can be readily created to cover whole areas like a site or a floor, or narrowed down to an individual room, rather than creating a series of individual jobs. Digital forms and checklists can be attached to the schedules and pushed out to the operative with each job, ensuring important information is read and standards remain high throughout the facility. This could be an agreement to the site’s COVID-19 policy, a checklist of items for completion, or a COSHH sheet for strong cleaning chemicals.


Working with a BIM model integrated with a CAFM system provides the next level in facilities management, allowing FMs to view an accurate image of an entire building and access all the data within. The model can be zoomed in at any point to show the required detail, such as revealing any access issues to an asset, permits required, measurements, materials, manuals, health and safety guidelines, and even part serial numbers.

This gives the team all the information required to assess the work and ensure they are fully prepared to complete the works in one go, eliminating the need for unnecessary site visits – essential in the COVID-era when access to sites may be limited.

Space planning / social distancing

A big part of COVID-19 prevention at the workplace is social distancing. Heatmaps highlight high footfall, showing thoroughfares which encroach on desk and workspaces. From this, strategic decisions can be made on how to safely route employees through the workspace. It can also help identify space for new areas like break rooms for the FM team shift, or a tea station in an office to reduce traffic to the kitchen.


The current situation we find ourselves in has brought FM to the fore, becoming the catalyst in making workplaces safe and efficient.

Since day one of lockdown, FM professionals across the globe have played a key role in keeping buildings running smoothly in a reduced ‘mothball’ capacity, as well as ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff, cleaners and contractors.

Even in lockdown, a CAFM / IWMS solution has assisted with remote working and mobile processes for maintaining business continuity. They have supported FM teams both vertically (for service providers and internal teams) and horizontally (on-site and off -site users across multiple regions) delivering crucial services and achieving compliance with government pandemic prevention guidelines.

A CAFM / IWMS system with a ‘contactless first’ approach provides a range of advantages by:

  • Maximising the effectiveness of contractor visits and providing you with real-time updates on the status of your tasks.
  • Ensuring that only qualified and validated personnel carry out work.
  • Managing contact risk by allowing contractors to use their own devices to confirm proof of attendance, all controlled by geo-fencing technology.

For the vital cleaning service required in the workplace, a CAFM / IWMS system includes:

  • Contactless checkpoints for your cleaning operatives to receive tasks.
  • Providing safe routes to minimise physical contact.
  • Maximising the effectiveness of cleaning duties.

What is obvious now is the basic but fundamental requirement to keep everyone safe and secure in the working environment, be they staff or operatives. Engagement with the workforce is key, and they must be able to raise their concerns both before and during a return to the workplace. This feeling of safety and confidence will lead to an increase in wellbeing and mindfulness, as we all know 2020 has taken its toll.

For those returning to the workplace, basic and regular off ice routines now take on extra importance. To raise workforce confidence, provide them with the tools to check availability and book time slots for their personal use of facilities, to avoid congregating. Assuring and addressing the wellbeing of an employee, providing regular information around the constant safety improvements being carried out, and providing live updates of the environmental status of a facility will be the key factors in bringing the workforce back to the workplace.

With a new layer of guidelines and processes added to their standard operating procedures, FMs will rely on a CAFM / IWMS solution more than ever to support the workplace and workforce. The FM industry can evolve out of the pandemic through the use of modern technology and approaches.

FM is now officially classed as an essential service across the globe, with the realisation of just how much effect is required. And the technology that was previously considered too excessive is vital for emerging out of the other side of this pandemic.