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Why truly virtual workplaces will become a reality

As you jump from Google Docs to Dropbox to Slack you’re using new tools to do the same work. But what if a truly virtual workplace could digitise interactions, put everyone literally on the same page and revolutionise every step of a project from conception to completion?

Virtual collaboration has the potential to help us work faster, smarter, more strategically and more transparently than ever before. Opening up the virtual workplace for all has impacts in terms of productivity, innovation and problem-solving. Today, over 41 million employees will spend at least one day a week engaged in virtual working.

The advantages of the virtual workplace

Any organisation that wants to reduce costs and increase productivity is looking seriously at the virtual workplace. By engineering spaces that encourage open-ended creativity and collaboration, an organisation can create an always available virtual office that promotes innovative and more democratic ways of working that drive employee engagement and retention.

But sometimes it seems as if new tools and technologies are only encouraging us to improve the ways we work, rather than to become more productive and creative in the work we do. Moving the office to the cloud won’t fundamentally change the way we work - yet. But the advantages of reducing the real-world footprint by exchanging functional work for conceptual work is already happening and it has some real implications for facilities management.

Rethinking space

Knowledge working is the fastest growing sector in the 21st-century workplace and it’s forcing businesses to totally rethink their concept of space. That, in turn, has an impact on facilities management, making workplace planning more fluid and dynamic.

Because the virtual workplace allows for the seamless exchange of knowledge between employees, stakeholders and customers, FM should focus on re-engineering existing office spaces to follow suit.

Integrating technology and services

The virtual workforce is already here, characterised by their mobility and an anytime, anywhere approach to doing business. As the virtual workplace takes hold, facilities management will be required to provide totally reliable and consistent connectivity for a diverse range of devices. This will be powered by collaborative software and backed up with highly responsive support services including space reservation services and concierge systems.

Reconceptualising the office

Truly virtual workplaces are already becoming a reality, boosting production and saving valuable time in the delivery of project work. However, virtual workers still rely on real-world office space to accomplish certain specific tasks and that’s where real estate can be found wanting.

Successful bricks and mortar offices combine open and closed spaces, group and individual, unassigned and private. Getting the right balance is critical to translate the productivity gains of virtual collaboration into the real-world workplace.

Forward-thinking

The challenge for FM providers is to remain forward-facing in the way in which they manage the demands and needs of virtual workers. New competencies will be required alongside new ways of thinking about space. By managing the evolution of work and the virtual workplace successfully, facilities management can help to integrate virtual and real-world employees, reduce overhead costs and minimise the environmental impact of traditional styles of working and commuting.

The process has already begun and forward-thinking FM managers will be at the forefront of a change that will alter the workplace forever.


New year's career resolutions to make in 2020

New year's career resolutions to make in 2020!

Want to make your career in facilities management shine in 2020? You need to decide on realistic goals that can be achieved in a timely fashion throughout the coming year. If you want to start moving on and moving up, then these are the top career resolutions to make now.

Get into learning mode

Been doing the same FM job for a while and starting to coast? Now’s the time to switch your brain into learning mode and adopt a growth mindset. Even if the things you learn don’t directly relate to your skill set, it’s the attitude that matters.

Make an impact

Want to gain maximum visibility? Then pick the big high profile FM projects and make your contribution felt. Create your own opportunities rather than waiting to be invited to climb the next rung of the career ladder. Get some clarity on what you need to do to be considered for promotion and take steps to get there.

Step outside your comfort zone

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Make 2020 the year that you stretch your role and show some initiative. Whether you seek out a different role in one of the big facilities management projects on your patch or come up with your own ideas and find ways to implement them, taking on some new responsibilities is a cast-iron way to gain experience and become more valuable to your company.

Build a great relationship with your boss

When it comes to advancing your career, fostering a great relationship with your boss is paramount. Managing up is a smart strategy for developing that relationship, so find out what issues are keeping them up at night and find ways to ease the burden. Help your boss to hit their goals and chances are they’ll be more motivated to help you hit yours. Whatever the financial or performance targets they need to hit, be around to help them achieve their goals.

Manage across your team

When you’re working on team projects, the way you interact with your colleagues can make or break the chances of success. Always give credit where it’s due and make the effort to engage and build rapport. Giving emotional support can help you work as a team more effectively and build more meaningful and productive relationships in the long term.

Communicate better

One of the quickest ways to improve your profile is to improve your communication skills. Return calls and emails promptly, keep your colleagues updated, ask them about their own progress and projects and give thanks and credit where it’s due. If you’re going to be unavailable, let people know in a timely fashion.

Be open to new possibilities

Want to move up or move on in FM? Whether you’re happy or not in your current position, you should always have one eye out for new possibilities. See something that’s a good fit and you could open up a whole new career avenue so make sure your CV is up to date and uploaded.

Create a work-life balance

If you're miserable and demotivated at work then your career is liable to stall. Make this the year that you claw back some time for friends and family and don’t forget to take those holiday days to rebalance your life and career.


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Make these year-end career moves before Christmas

The start of a new decade is a great time to reflect back on your career so far. A self-audit now will help you to focus on your FM career goals for the next decade without getting in the way of your celebrations. Here are the year-end career moves you need to make before Christmas because thinking about the big picture now will set you up nicely for a successful 2020.

Review your goals and achievements

If you had big plans for your facilities management career this year, did you achieve your goals? You may have started out on several new projects or decided to implement new procedures. Now is the time to assess whether you’ve achieved the goals you set yourself, especially if these were communicated to your boss.

Generate a list of your achievements and take time to quantify their impact. Recording the details and measurable outcomes of the last twelve months sets you up for performance reviews and a CV update in the New Year.

Assess your performance

Have you hit all the action points from your last performance review and made those positive changes? What mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

If there are action points you need to meet, start lining them up now. If things didn’t go as expected or you tried something new and it didn’t work out as you planned, reflect on what you learned from the experience and capture what you would do differently next time.

Check your development

How does your salary stack up with other employees in facilities management? What core strengths and skills do you need to develop to enhance your FM career?

If you’re being underpaid and you want to fight for the salary you deserve, focus on your personal and professional development heading into the New Year. You may need to pursue training or education to improve your skillset or talk with your boss about project opportunities you’d like to pursue. Your goals can also be personal; the soft skills you learn from having the resilience and discipline to run a marathon can be a foundation stone for long term success in your career.

Review your networks

Who are the most effective people in your professional network? Can you build and maintain relationships that can help with your career development?

This is the ideal time of year to reach out to your existing network and send them season’s greetings. Ask how you can help your champions, supporters and mentors to achieve their goals in the New Year. Now look beyond your existing network to discover ways you can diversify and expand your contacts. Join a professional association or a community of interest within your organisation to pursue common interests and expand your network of professional friends.

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on the state of your FM career and to focus on ways to move it forward. This is a natural time to celebrate what you’ve achieved and to decide where you want to get to in the next 12 months to hit the next rung on the career ladder.


Ever considered FM? Why it's time to make a career pivot

Ever considered a career in facilities management? If you’ve already enjoyed one career and feel it’s time for a pivot, FM could offer you the challenge and flexibility you crave. So how do you cut through biases and make the change to this exciting new career?

Do your homework

Once you decide to target a new career in facilities management, you’ll need to get up to speed with areas where your new industry is different so that you can make a frictionless transition. Learn the new jargon and acquaint yourself with best practice in FM so you can interview with confidence. Don't be afraid to point out ways of doing things differently to demonstrate your abilities.

Getting through the door

The key is to interview well - a laundry list of your achievements won’t convey to an interviewer the essential skills and qualities that you have to offer.

Address the bias

Bias doesn’t only exist in interviewers. To get the most out of your job search, you’ll need to address your own issues so that fear and anxiety don’t put you off pursuing your career pivot. Making a conscious effort to strip out the negatives in your own thinking will help you to improve your own actions and focus them clearly on your career objectives.

Network for success

Do you know anyone who’s recently made a similar career move? Get in touch to congratulate them and start networking - you never know what tips you’ll pick up. If you don’t know anyone personally, search out stories of successful career pivots that inspire and motivate you or use social media to make valuable connections.

Make the most of your advantages

Never assume that you’re too old for a new career. Instead, be prepared to play up all the advantages that your skills and experiences can lend you. The chances are you’ve weathered a few economic storms and have a proven track record in finding success even when the climate is against you. Focus on your experience, your career progress and your consistency in achieving excellent results.

Overcome objections

For employers, hiring experienced professionals from outside of the FM industry has a downside as well as an upside so be prepared to overcome objections by being realistic in your expectations. You may need to check your salary and managerial level and be prepared to take a step down in terms of remuneration and responsibility.

Facilities management is a sector that’s embracing technology at breakneck speed so be prepared to find yourself working with younger people who may have less experience in terms of time served but more experience on the job in its current form than you can offer.

This is not a regular job search

Don’t approach a career pivot in the same fashion as a regular job search. You’re moving out of an industry where your skills and experience really count to one where you can be at a disadvantage, however transferable your skills. Help recruiters by having a coherent career story to tell and a clear path into your new career. You’ll need to be able to identify exactly why you want to make the move and take any assignments seriously. This is your opportunity to show exactly why your new employers should consider you.


These trends are boosting sustainable buildings

Sustainability has been shaping the way we build for over two decades. But today’s facilities managers need to be looking beyond the green building to other trends that are enhancing the sustainability of our buildings.

The business case for sustainable change

Ultimately, what drives sustainable building design is profitability. Energy-efficient solutions and recyclability lead to operational savings, while robust solutions for high-quality construction are reflected in higher rents.

Facilities management lies at the heart of sustainable development. By reporting back on both the social value and economic performance of a building, FM contributes to better performance and sustainability while adding value to any project. Regulatory incentives are also driving the case for sustainable change and enabling FM to oversee new levels of environmentally friendly development.

Health and wellness

A focus on health and wellness in sustainable design is nothing new. But for businesses that want to attract the best millennial talent, it’s a very contemporary concern. For example, Indoor Air Quality monitoring seeks to control high concentrations of CO2 in the workplace and improve cognitive function throughout the day.

For facilities management, the integration of health and wellbeing into a development opens the door to conversations about other aspects of sustainable construction. The use of IoT technology to monitor air quality and improve productivity, for example, is expected to become integral to smart facilities management.

Circular and modular construction

With American construction companies sending an estimated 160 million tons of waste to landfill, there’s a growing interest in methods of circular construction. In Europe, buildings are increasingly designed as resource banks of materials that can be reused in future constructions.

Prefabricated or modular construction is another older construction method that has been revived to cut costs and waste, delivering construction projects on time and to budget.

Smart building technology

In terms of sustainable performance, tools such as computational fluid dynamics and energy modelling allow designers to move beyond conventional design. By focusing on the integration of smart technology and Distributed Energy Systems at the heart of design, these projects enable FM to gather and analyse information on how a building behaves in use and make adjustments accordingly.

Smart energy generation and control overheating and cooling in a building’s DES offers facility management ways to improve the security and reliability of a building’s energy while reducing costs.

Facilities management is at the heart of sustainable construction

To transition to sustainable construction, more companies need to look to waste reduction, including effective recycling and reuse of materials, life cycle policies and sustainability baked in at design level. Critical to tying sustainable policies and practices together is the implementation of facilities management.

The trend for smart high-performance buildings may safeguard the health and wellbeing of occupants but only FM can deliver the economic and efficient operation of that building over the long term. The combination of sustainable high-performance buildings with facilities management is set to add economic value while delivering on commitments to the sustainability and social responsibility of any business.


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How informal networking can grow your career

It’s often said that ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ that is significant when it comes to business. Networking and making connections with others has always been an important part of getting ahead in any industry. Recent years have seen a huge increase in business-orientated social media, with sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook growing in popularity for both recruitment and networking.

With such advances and changes in working practices, traditional networking may not be as relevant as it once was and informal networking may be the way to further your career.

Whatever industry you are in, networking can be a valuable pursuit in order to get ahead. It can be helpful for hearing about new jobs and developments in companies. So what exactly is informal marketing, how does it work and how is it different?

Just as traditional networking, it is all about contacting, communicating with and getting to know business contacts. In this way, you build up a network of professional contacts with whom you can share valuable information and knowledge The way in which informal networking differs from traditional networking is that it is less structured and doesn’t need to be in a confined professional setting.

Informal networking is more about being open to meeting a range of professionals in a variety of environments and settings. Rather than rushing to exchange business cards with a contact at an organised structured meeting, informal networking is about letting the conversation flow freely and organically in a relaxed environment.

An example of informal networking could be a gala dinner. Such an event might seem like a formal occasion in that the attendees get the chance to don their dinner jackets or ball gowns and enjoy a spectacular multiple course meal. It offers guests the chance to enjoy an evening where the focus is not on professional matters but rather about entertainment.

However, it also affords professionals from all areas and backgrounds the chance to get to meet and integrate with people with whom may not usually have the opportunity to connect. This is just one example of informal networking, but opportunities can be found anywhere and everywhere. Getting to know people around you in settings such as the gym, the local community even the school run, you never know who you may meet or how a relationship could be mutually beneficial.

A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, titled Entrepreneurship and Informal Communities found corroborating evidence that some forms of informal networking can be beneficial. The report found a correlation between success and those entrepreneurs who actively engage in business-related social media such as LinkedIn.

It is thought that this is because of the friendship aspect and sense of community. Often, when networking isn’t enforced and evolves organically, it can involve a deeper connection. The study reports that engaging with like-minded professionals can help “mitigate pitfalls and cultivate creativity and innovation”.

The lesson to take away is that in this day and age, networking need not be confined to business environments. Take opportunities to meet new contacts wherever you are, whatever you are doing and these informal meetings may just make connections that can be beneficial to your career.


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The construction industry will hit digital tipping point in 2020

The construction industry has not always been renowned for its innovative approach or its eagerness to embrace digital change and business transformation. However, recent research in the field suggests that 2020 could be the critical year in terms of digital transformation for the construction sector, as challenging areas such as supply chains, productivity and risk management are gradually being addressed.

A new industry report was commissioned by Causeway, a UK construction company, with the aim of assessing how digital innovations were being adopted across the construction industry. The report involved a survey of 200 key decision-makers in the building industry in the UK, including Birmingham City University, Eiffage Kier and Atkins.

The findings of the survey show that 54% of respondents agreed that the construction industry has been relatively slow in the uptake of new technology and the integration of new digital practices. However, despite this acknowledgement, the survey did reveal that there is an optimism and a growing appreciation that investment in digital technology can have a positive effect on business.

70% of respondents reported a positive impact on the project and operational management, with improved flows of data and information. 58% felt that the investment in technology had an impact on recruitment and jobs, with success in attracting and also retaining essential new digital talent.

Advances were also realised in commercial performance, with 54% reporting workforce productivity improvements, 56% reducing their operating costs and 43% seeing business win rates increase. The supply chain was another area to see a positive impact, with 48% feeling that relations within the supply chain were stronger.

There are still challenges in the industry, as respondents reported in the survey. It was felt that there were key areas to be addressed for the industry to really move forward and fully embrace digital transformation. Firstly, there is a need to have a standardisation of technology in the supply chain to aid cohesion. The workforce is another area which requires focus as there is a necessity to develop a new workforce that is digitally driven and diverse.

Lastly, there is a need to increase profitability so that continued investment in the digital transformation is possible. Phil Brown, the Chief Executive of Causeway, cited this as one reason why the industry has lagged behind technologically, specifically mentioning the cycle of low-productivity and low-profitability as challenges to the industry.

Notwithstanding this, an encouraging 81% of respondents in the survey reported that they would, in fact, be making greater efforts to implement digital changes and improvements to their businesses in the construction industry within the next 12 months. In order to fully embrace the technologies and digital transformation, it is necessary to harness and employ web-enabled, intuitive, mobile technology that allows data to be easily accessed and shared on the front line and all the way through the business.

Time will tell exactly how and when the industry fully embraces digital transformation, but as Phil Brown says “in today’s mobile and digitally-enabled world, success will increasingly be found”.


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These healthcare trends are changing FM

In this time of economic uncertainty, the healthcare industry is not alone in facing the dual challenges of change and increasing costs. Taking a strategic approach to the often extensive real estate portfolios owned within the healthcare industry and optimising the efficiency of facilities management is vital in order to stay ahead.

Here, we take a look at some of the current healthcare trends affecting facility management.

1.      A high level of merger and acquisition activity is changing the approach to construction and real estate

In the past few years, the healthcare industry has witnessed unprecedented M&A activity, which has led to several cross-industry collaborations with non-traditional healthcare providers, faith-based organisations and pharmaceutical companies. Such consolidation is creating mega health systems, all of which will require a fresh approach to facilities management.

2.      Operating margins are tightening as costs-per-patient increase

While it is a constant source of political debate, it remains the case that healthcare providers are continuing to face cost pressures and the continuing need to balance patient care with tighter and tighter budget constraints. Improving outcomes for those at the receiving end of healthcare services, of course, remains the key priority across the industry, off-set against the need to find creative ways to reduce costs wherever possible. Facilities management is not immune.

3.      As the healthcare system evolves, traditional hospital networks could become obsolete

The many changes happening across the healthcare sector will undoubtedly mean changes to the approach taken towards real estate and its future management.

For example, the merger of different institutions combined with an increase in service provision from other providers is likely to mean a reduction in large all-encompassing hospital buildings as we see a move towards greater use of ambulatory surgeries, emergency clinics and micro-hospitals based within local communities.

With the aim of reaching local residents easily and addressing their health issues early within their local community, the hope for the future is to reduce the number of people developing acute illnesses which then require expensive treatment in a large, centralised facility. From a healthcare perspective, prevention is better than cure and most patients would prefer to receive treatment near their own homes. As such, the provision of localised facilities is likely to be a welcome progression for the future.

In addition to, most importantly, improving the overall patient experience, smaller outpatient centres are less expensive to build and maintain than traditional, larger hospital buildings. However, the management of such a diverse portfolio of buildings in various locations brings with it new challenges in terms of the ongoing management of each facility.

4.      The risk of hospital-acquired infections is still real

While receiving treatment for other health issues, there remains a risk of patients picking up further infections through simply being in a healthcare environment. As a result, there is a duty on those responsible for the management of buildings to look at what can be done with the physical environment to reduce the risk and spread of infections.

This may include the design and maintenance of buildings, from ventilation systems through to interior design.

Fresh thinking and embracing new technologies will be key to the future of FM in this industry as it supports the health of the population.


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3 Tech innovations transforming facilities

Technology is having a huge impact on many aspects of our everyday lives and so it comes as no surprise that technological advances are now also transforming facilities management. Three technologies in particular - drones, robots and advanced access control - are leading to rapid changes in the way in which facilities managers are planning and implementing security in their buildings. white drone in sky

Ensuring that the occupants of the building for which they are responsible feel safe, secure and content is a primary concern of any facilities management professional. Embracing technology to improve security and tackle issues is a forward-thinking and efficient approach. However, it’s vital to be aware of the challenges new technology may bring, and how best to deal with them.

We have taken a quick look at three state-of-the-art approaches to building security and the issues surrounding them.

1. Drones

Drones can provide unrivalled views of an area which would simply not otherwise be possible. They can easily and effectively be used to conduct thorough security patrols. Equally, the technology may also be used for other non-surveillance purposes, such as roof-top inspections.

However, their availability and ease of use which is so advantageous is also a potential downside. Just as drones can be used internally to monitor a building, they could be used by others external to an organisation for more sinister purposes, such as spying or for gaining illegal access to computer systems.

With the ever-increasing number of drones - commercial and private - in operation, it is essential that those working in facilities management understand this technology and the advantages and risks that it can bring.

Thankfully, where drones may pose a security risk for a building, there are detection and monitoring systems available. These will sense the presence of drones within a designated area and enable suitable responses to be taken.

2. Robots

No longer limited to futuristic sci-fi films, the use of robots is becoming a very real option for security, providing additional ‘eyes and ears’ and a very visual deterrent for anybody considering committing a crime.

Last year, a New York City airport became the first major airport in the country to deploy a robot security guard. Robotic security guards have been used in places such a stadiums and shopping centres but, to date, have been met with mixed emotions.

Concerns have been raised as to the capability and accuracy of artificial intelligence. However, there is no doubting that the technology is constantly improving and is here to stay. Robots are certainly a technology trend for anybody working in facilities to keep an eye on.

3. Advanced Access Control

The access control market is another technology predicted for explosive growth in the coming years. From an increase in the use of biometrics to facial recognition, the technology surrounding access control is becoming more and more sophisticated.

Like many other new technologies, there are privacy concerns surrounding the use of personal data and the willingness of people to use this to gain access to places of work. However, those in favour counter that such technology is already widely embraced by mobile-phone users.

Whether or not this technology is appropriate for a particular workplace could well be a cultural issue that those working in facilities need to consider.


Engineers in the sun

How to protect workers when the temperature rises!

Employers are expected to provide a reasonable working environment for their employees. The recommended temperature should be set at a minimum of 16°C, or 13°C for work requiring heavy lifting. Heating and cooling systems should be provided if a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained, for example, fans should be used and windows should be opened to allow air to circulate if needed.

Employees should never be in a situation where they are too hot. The appropriate shade should be added if any team members are sitting in direct sunlight or in the vicinity of objects that give off heat, for example, machinery or other equipment. engineers working in the sun

In a warm atmosphere, sufficient breaks should be provided to allow staff to cool down. They should also have access to cold drinks, for example, many businesses provide water coolers or vending machines for the comfort of their workforce. Depending on individual circumstances, it may also be appropriate to introduce a system of working in order to limit exposure to extremes of heat. This could include job rotation or moving workstations. It may also include flexible working patterns.

Heat-related illnesses can increase the number of accidents at work. High temperatures in the working environment can cause lethargy and lead to poor concentration, which increases the potential for personal injury in the workplace. Extremes of temperature can also give rise to poor judgement and this is especially risky when employees’ jobs require them to operate machinery or work with tools or harsh chemicals.

Facilities management can oversee conditions in the workplace and can make recommendations for improvement. Some companies may require specific advice, particularly if workers are exposed to extremes of temperature. If employees are experiencing ill effects due to the working environment, then the situation requires urgent review to ensure that the relevant precautions are taken.

Conditions may require close monitoring and any incidents must be recorded as outlined by health and safety legislation. Monitoring or medical screening may be needed for workers who have certain illnesses or disabilities, in addition to any women who are pregnant. This is of particular importance when exposed to extremes of temperature and medical advice may be necessary.

A visible focus on the safety of all employees can only serve to enhance the firm's reputation and employer branding. This, in turn, may enhance applicant volumes for new positions. For those already in-role, there will be a sense that their welfare is regarded as a high priority and retention rates should improve as a result. Overall, a strong focus on working conditions creates a more positive working environment for everyone within the organisation.

It is important to remember that illnesses caused by temperature increases can affect office workers too, in addition to drivers and staff who are based on site. It is essential to ensure that all workers, whether exposed to sunlight or extremes of temperatures, benefit from safe and comfortable working conditions and that any risks are managed.

Ultimately, it is vital that any firm is proactive when it comes to temperature management and that the in-house risk assessment systems are fully effective.