Perspectives on FM in a Global Pandemic: Asia
02/07/20 | 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, Danny Ho discusses the situation in Asia, and how FM is adapting in this challenging landscape.
On 23rd January 2020, it was first confirmed that Covid-19 had spread here to Hong Kong.
Fortunately, Hong Kong was relatively unscathed by the first wave of this pandemic, with a flatter curve than many other places worldwide. Indeed, as of May 2020, only 1,056 confirmed infections had been recorded, and just 4 deaths.
Many observers have considered this remarkable, considering the region’s status as an international hub and its close proximity to China’s millions of mainland visitors. Some have attributed it to the population’s habit of wearing masks ever since the SARS epidemic of 2003, which meant it was less of a cultural shift.
Hong Kong’s approach of border restrictions, quarantine and isolation, social distancing, and behavioural changes such as the wider wearing of masks have all contributed to containing the disease. But, all of these have required FM organizations to adapt their own approaches and work processes.
Schools were closed in the three months following the Lunar New Year, and government offices were also shut to avoid many people gathering in one place. Emergency office guidelines were introduced, with most workers forced to work from home for a considerable length of time.
Since day one, FM professionals have played a key role in ensuring these guidelines, restrictions and enhanced safety measures have been met. Traffic control systems in workplaces and buildings have become standard procedure to maintain safe social distancing, while everyone who enters an office or restaurant is required to take a temperature check.
FMs have had to ensure these practices are closely followed, as well as provide sanitizers for employees and visitors to prevent any possible spread of diseases. In addition, patrolling and cleaning of touchable spots, such as lifts and building entrances, has needed to become even more thorough (as often as once every 1-2 hours), and some office buildings have gone as far as to automate the delivery and checking of thermometers to keep it unmanned where possible.
Interestingly, as Covid-19 has imposed lockdowns and working from home measures, many FM departments and organizations that were previously quite traditional have been compelled to use online meeting tools like Zoom to conduct their work. This has helped promote modern concepts like cloud computing, remoting working and mobile CAFM processes to ensure business continuity even in these tough times.
Access to end-to-end CAFM platforms that can support FM teams both vertically (for service providers and internal teams) and horizontally (on-site and off-site users across multiple regions) has become critical in delivering services and achieving compliance with the government’s pandemic prevention guidelines.
Now in Hong Kong, we are preparing for the relaxation of some social distancing measures and schools resumed from late May and early June, after we had been free from locally transmitted cases for over 20 days.
Other Asian countries’ situations are also improving, although many of them are still virtually under lockdown, with mask-wearing and social distancing required. Most, like Hong Kong, are interconnected globally, so quarantine and isolation protocols remain strictly enforced, particularly here and areas like Singapore.
Meanwhile, FM professionals are extremely busy preparing for this relaxation of restrictions and returning to normal. Their contribution to supporting people’s health has been highly visible and much appreciated during the pandemic, and they have realized that new guidelines and processes will be required to add to their standard operating procedures, which can be easily achieved through our configurable and sustainable CAFM platform.
Some of our potential customers are getting back on track, and are now understanding the greater value offered by modern CAFM platforms in supporting both their operations and their customers.
Despite the widespread changes that have impacted Hong Kong and other areas across Asia brought on by Covid-19, they are now tentatively preparing to move past the worst of this pandemic.
But more than that, as Danny’s experience highlights, this challenge has led to more appreciation of the efforts and responsibilities of FMs in the area, and encouraged discussion on how the industry needs to evolve through modern technology and approaches, such as the CAFM/IWMS solutions we are developing at FSI.
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