The FSI logo. UK

Perspectives on FM in a Global Pandemic

Facilities Management

08/07/20 | Rebecca Drewett

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world as we once knew it, impacting businesses of all sizes and sectors. This includes the FM industry, and in this series of articles, we ask our employees across the globe to share their experiences of the crisis, what it has meant for the industry in their area, and the role FM is playing to support people and businesses in these difficult circumstances.

In this edition, Louise Gregory discusses the situation in the UK, and how FM is adapting in this challenging landscape.

The response of the Facilities Management industry in the UK to the Covid-19 pandemic has been driven by the service sectors in which they operate. A number of our service providers and owner-occupiers provide and manage facilities in the city, with hundreds of office workers who require functioning buildings, clean environments, catering and support for their well-being in the workplace.

With the shift to home working, these services have obviously stopped as the buildings remain empty, or with a mere skeleton staff in place. However there are still huge amounts of plant and assets to continue to service to ensure compliance and the lifespan of expensive equipment.

Pre-preventative maintenance plays a key role in ensuring buildings are ready to receive their staff when they can return to work. Reactive calls in this environment have reduced to almost zero and, as a result, we have seen a number of engineers furloughed, or those with underlying health issues forced to isolate at home for significant periods of time.

The office space will require reconfiguration and additional services in terms of cleaning tasks and sanitisation in order to meet the new demands presented by Covid-19. Additional cleaning rounds will incur additional admin time, making the use of mobile apps such as FSI GO even more crucial than ever to ensure service delivery and a safe working environment.

Reactive cleaning tasks, scheduled patrols and cleaning audits can all be managed directly through the Cleaning Now App. Capturing every step of each patrol and audit ensures that, no matter which resource is sent to carry out the clean, the activity levels remain the same. Instant real-time updates ensure those managing the service delivery team can see the available resources and their workload, meaning activities are appropriately spread and delivered on time to SLAs.

At a time where anxiety on the safety of the workplace will be at an all-time high – the data driven from CAFM systems will be crucial in providing peace of mind to staff. The option of having cleaning dashboards in reception, or visible through a self-service portal to see real-time statistics of services being delivered, provides building users with data to support their confidence in their workplace. At the same time, management can also utilise the same data and reports to ensure they are meeting the new Covid-19 safety regulations.

The future working practices for engineers is likely to change. Will engineers be allowed to work in pairs when lone working is a risk? The role of technology will be more important than ever as workers delivering services will be increasingly split to work alone or at least at a distance. Receiving and sending updates through workforce apps will be essential for messages and updates to be exchanged in a timely manner from both supervisors and the workforce, without compromising safety or service.

Managing the workforce at a distance will also be paramount for compliant working practice moving forwards. Exchanging building information, work permits and risk assessments will no longer be possible via paper. Online portals such as FSI’s Contractor will be critical in the paperless information exchange. Sending and sharing information prior to an on-site visit guarantees the suppliers and contractors arriving at your building are vetted and approved in advance by accessing and completing work permits through the Contractor Gateway.

Upon arrival, tasks and building information can be downloaded to their mobile devices through Contractor Relay, ensuring safe transfer and management of information. Completing Risk Assessments and audits as well as updating task information in real-time means the building manager can see up-to-date progress of on-site visitors without direct, face-to-face interaction.

Furthermore, we may see a shift from traditional site-based engineers to mobile working. Smart buildings and the use of IoT can enable your planned maintenance schedules to be generated from the data that informs you when a service is due based on use, not just a fixed frequency. This frees up the workforce to move around the property portfolio rather than be fixed to rigid and unnecessary servicing on assets which have not reached their capacity of use.

There are obviously other sectors who have been busier than ever. Hospital admissions are at an all-time high, which means that NHS buildings and assets are being stretched to maximum performance and capacity. Faster responses and faster fixes are paramount, with lives at risk if delays are incurred.

Engineers are often working long hours in high-risk areas under huge amounts of pressure to keep wards open, theatres operational and doctors and nurses focused on their responsibilities. CAFM systems allow FM teams to manage and prioritise these high-risk areas such as operating theatres so, at the very least, there is a safe and functioning space for lives to be saved.

If these buildings had not been maintained to a high standard, this increase in capacity would have seen assets fail. The biggest testament to a successful FM operation is continued operation in times of high stress and high use.

The flexibility available in both Concept configuration and deployment options with FSI has meant that, when faced with unprecedented challenges, FSI has found fast, responsive solutions. SaaS platforms now more than ever prove that any company can gain control of their building environment and the facilities they support quickly and effectively.

NHS Nightingale is a case in point of CAFM solutions and service providers working as partners to provide safe and functioning facilities in the most important settings. Streamlining service delivery and ensuring engineers and support staff can deliver services in a fast, efficient and safe manner, whilst constantly being in touch with customers through technology, is the future of any workplace.

With the sizable shifts in working practices and building use as a result of Covid-19, FMs throughout the UK have been adapting and preparing for this altered environment, and playing a crucial role in supporting hospitals so they can look after those affected by these hard times.

As Louise highlights throughout this, technology will play a vital role in this new landscape, ensuring that engineers can continue to perform their vital tasks at a high level, while remaining safe and protected during these challenging situations. Now, the need for CAFM/IWMS systems is greater than ever before, and our team at FSI will continue to work hard to support businesses across the UK adapt to both the present environment and beyond.