woman working remotely from home

Facilities Management businesses and remote working

How has the world Facilities Management changed around remote working? Communications technology has been a widespread catalyst for change, accelerating the digital transformation and forcing a reassessment of the role of facilities management. Remote working creates both challenges and opportunities for FM professionals which means that you need to stay ahead of the curve.

Reevaluating the office

Think more employees working from home makes life easy for facilities management? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a flexitime workforce could make space management more valuable than ever.

Leveraging smart technologies to track and analyse space utilisation is a key tool for businesses looking to reevaluate the way in which office space is used. As open-plan offices and collaborative working have become the norm, hot-desking and space allocation for remote and office-based workers have become a fundamental FM task.

Optimising occupation

The changing workforce is already impacting on facilities management, making tracking and optimising occupancy critical. Familiarity with real-time information and advanced technology can give FM professionals the edge when it comes to rationalising assets and heating and cooling office space.

Reporting and monitoring, data analytics and collection are becoming ubiquitous in facilities management and cloud infrastructure and mobile networking have made managing workplaces remotely more effective. In turn, these connected ways of working are driving new efficiencies. Better yet, communication technologies can underpin remote working for FM professionals in exceptional times.

The virtual water cooler

But what about those intangible forces for productivity like the water cooler? While micromanagers might put little value on those water-cooler moments, those informal interactions that spark ideas and drive collaboration and creativity have long been prized by wiser CEOs.

Those chance encounters might be important but distributed remote working teams can also banter, chat and create their virtual water cooler with programmes such as Campfire, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

How to succeed remotely

As an FM business or an FM professional, it’s by no means impossible to work remotely. But your success may depend on a series of smaller actions that build into the right work-life balance. Start by setting boundaries between your work life and your home life. Establish your office hours and create a dedicated workspace. You can experiment with what feels right for the work you do.

As a facilities manager, you’ll be familiar with using your calendar and setting time blocks to get things done. Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue with the kind of good practice that keeps you accountable during your working day.

Keep your visibility at work just as you would in the office. Organise regular check-ins with your team to update and celebrate your wins. Clear and effective communication using synchronous tools, video meetings and shared documentation will get those tasks done.

Embrace remote management

As an FM professional, you have a unique opportunity to prove that your company has everyone’s best interests at heart. By using data to understand the needs and activities of your organisation and upgrading digital management capabilities, you can reevaluate building priorities and rewrite the FM handbook to include remote management of facilities and the workforce.


working from home

How is home working impacting mental health?

Terms such as home working and work/life balance have become part of our vocabulary. But a new survey has identified the hidden impacts of working from home on our mental health.

According to research by Office Space in Town (OSiT), most workers now favour a full return to the office although barriers remain in terms of health, wellbeing and employees feeling safe and supported at work. This is one of the challenges facing facilities management professionals as the return to the ‘new normal’ continues.

Bad for your health?

It turns out that home working could be bad for your health, with research by the British Council for Offices revealing that over half of respondents reported back, neck and shoulder pain. In the OSiT survey, 29% of respondents felt that the lack of suitable equipment was a disadvantage to home working while 64% felt their company had not offered practical health and safety advice.

But the OSiT survey also revealed the impact of remote working on the wellbeing and mental health of respondents. Almost 30% felt that one of the biggest drawbacks were feelings of loneliness and isolation, with 25% experiencing feelings of anxiety. 37% cited the inability to unplug from the work environment as a major drawback.

In fact, only 5% of respondents favoured full-time remote working with the remaining 95% ready to return to the office once a vaccine is found.

Workers Wishlist

So what do employers and FM professionals need to do to ensure that the transition back to the office can be undertaken confidently and safely?

Workers are most concerned about the potential for contamination in the office environment, with over 60% agreeing that better cleaning and hygiene measures would make them feel more comfortable. Other measures that employees expect to see are social distancing markers and the availability of masks and gloves. Sneeze screens and hand sanitizers should be available at all desks according to half of the survey respondents.

The bigger picture

The survey did manage to identify benefits to home working including avoiding the daily commute (72%) and spending more time with family (54%). However, 52% felt that working from home didn’t have a significant effect on their work-life balance and that missing out on collaboration with colleagues and dealing with distractions were major drawbacks to remote working.

It seems that the dream of working from home is unsustainable for the majority of workers, with 34% identifying a lack of dedicated workspace as one of the key drawbacks.

A professionalised environment

It seems that we actually thrive in the professional office, where opportunities for formal and informal collaboration foster productivity, community and a sense of wellbeing. The survey also uncovered the uncomfortable hidden costs of remote working where feelings of isolation, lack of dedicated workspace and uncomfortable blurring of the boundaries between work and life have created impacts that won’t disappear overnight.

The potential cost to mental health and wellbeing makes the return to the office more critical than ever. FM professionals have a key role and responsibility in ensuring that workers feel safe and comfortable when they finally return to the office. Actioning the ‘workers wishlist’ would be a good place to start while flexible working will encourage workers to return to the normality of the office.


Clean offices

How will offices evolve post Covid-19?

Creating the post-pandemic offices will take a mix of short term fixes and long term changes that prioritise keeping workers safe and healthy.

With lockdown easing, the big return is bringing workers back to the office. The challenge for facilities management is how to put hygiene at the heart of the workplace.

Reducing fear and anxiety

As a result of this unprecedented event, we’re all now hyper-aware of health risks when it comes to sharing spaces with our colleagues. A move away from the open-plan office is predicted with the implementation of sneeze guards between workstations mooted as a low-cost measure to address anxiety.

A more radical plan could be a move towards distributed offices. This involves moving away from a centralised hub to smaller offices based around teams working collaboratively closer to home. Not only could this promote a sense of wellbeing, but it also reduces the exposure to Covid-19 on public transport.

Another potential solution is to stagger the workforce, with smaller groups coming into the office at any given time and avoiding rush hour transport. This hybrid style of working between home and office could, in turn, unlock the workplace for a wider talent pool.

The office as hospital

Swapping out natural elements for non-porous surfaces and opting for materials that are safe and hygienic will be a growing influence on future office design. HVAC systems using ultraviolet light will come out into the open to give workers an immediate impression of cleanliness. And handwashing stations are expected to become the new normal with workers washing their hands as they enter and leave the space.

Hospital design is also expected to impact on wayfinding, with the focus on getting from A to B in the most efficient manner. Your office may even become more proactive in the way in which it monitors for sickness, with sensors embodied under desks. These would then alert facilities management when an employee shows signs of fever.

The contactless office

The gradual automation of everything from exercise to flight check-ins should have prepared us well for the shift towards a more contactless future. Offices that can make the switch will use smartphone technology for contactless access to the office and that first cup of coffee. Voice-activated technology will create hands-free meeting rooms, and a simple hand gesture will flush toilets and open doors.

The future is here

In Australia, Dicker Data has already bridged to the post-corona future with the implementation of huge sanitising stations and thermal body scanners. Essential onsite workers arrive in staggered shifts and extra cleaning staff ensure that hygiene standards are maintained.

In the UK, the major retailers have led the way with floor signage, queuing systems and the compulsory use of masks and hand sanitiser. So what’s the takeaway for your office?

Evolving the hygienic office

The safety of your employees is your top priority, now more than ever. The evolution of the office starts with good practice and policies driven by facilities management. Ask yourself whether employees can work from home or be split into multiple teams that work in distributed places or at staggered times?

You need to stay consistent with public health messaging and be flexible enough to create throughways and workspaces that can evolve as the pandemic continues to evolve.


How to find a new job during the pandemic

How to find a new job during the pandemic

You might be surprised to discover that a pandemic might not be the worst time to look for a new job. While some industries are having to lose workers, others are hiring. A quick search through LinkedIn or using the hashtags #nowhiring and #hiring should give you a good idea as to what jobs are around.

If you have lost your job as a result of Covid-19 or you were looking for a new role in FM when the crisis hit, don’t give up - just follow these tips for job hunting during a pandemic.

Be job search ready

Now’s the time to undertake these three essential tasks:

- Update your CV, tweaking it for any job you apply for
- Write a cover letter that gets you noticed
- Update your profile on LinkedIn

And upgrade your online job searches:

- Set job alerts
- Use relevant hashtags to search
- Organise your job search for a smoother result

Research the job market

A quick look around and at the news will tell you who’s doing well post lockdown and what sectors to avoid. Travel, food and entertainment have all been hard hit by social distancing. But food and retail, healthcare and cleaning services are thriving which could present a good match up with your facilities management skills.

For businesses that have emerged from lockdown relatively unscathed, tapping into new talent is a priority. Not only are organisations looking for more workers, but they’re looking to onboard fast, so make sure you’re available to move as quickly as possible.

Become a remote worker

Covid-19 has pushed many organisations towards a swift digital transformation, making remote working more attainable and attractive than ever. It’s a particularly good option if you’ve been cocooning or you’re uncertain about a return to your old ways of working. All you need is an internet connection to search for, and land, those work from home jobs. Try searching the top job sites for freelance and telecommute jobs. Or try some of the more niche job search sites that deal with the gig economy.

If you can work from home you may have a better chance than ever of getting a job. If you can solve an organisation’s hiring problems then let them know your most valuable qualifications upfront.

Get interview ready

The chances are you’ll be interviewed via video so take the time to get to know how Zoom and Skype work. It may be a learning curve but practising your interview techniques and the way you present yourself on camera can be critical to getting hired. Pay attention to your choice of outfit, lighting and background - Zoom lets you select a suitably professional backdrop.

Upgrade your networks

Networking doesn’t depend on face to face for success so make the most of socials including LinkedIn and Facebook. Take some time to endorse former colleagues or offer to help friends with tasks such as proofreading their CV and cover letter. You can also take the time to upgrade your own skillset through online courses then polish up your profile.

Key takeaways

Just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean businesses aren’t hiring. Take the time to get job search and interview-ready and remember that these are challenging times for all so be prepared for when that new job lands.


healthy offices

Why healthy offices matter more than ever

The healthy offices/building movement has been impacting facilities management for some time now. Most FM teams will be used to evaluation checklists featuring bottle filling stations and green walls alongside the more usual HVAC and lighting checks.

But in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to create safe and welcoming spaces is more pressing than ever. The challenge for facilities managers is to create healthy offices that workers will want to return to after working from home during the lockdown.

Build on good practice

Healthy workspaces will depend on the ongoing work that your team has undertaken to improve health and wellbeing and work towards sustainability. As an FM manager, you’ll be expected to have the expertise to maintain the building in line with aesthetic and psychological concerns as well as purely practical ones.

Encourage healthy behaviours

While it’s vital that the day to day evaluation of your building impacts positively on health, you need to take the long-range view and start by encouraging healthy behaviours.

Green building initiatives are no longer simply nice-to-haves. They demonstrate measurable impacts on productivity, they help to attract and retain employees and they can reduce the amount of time lost to sick leave.

A combination of features including natural and ambient lighting, greenery and outdoor access can promote happiness and productivity. Measures to encourage fitness and wellbeing could include walking trails, onsite fitness classes and accessible stairwells to encourage taking more steps during the day.

Upgrading amenities

Welcoming workers back after a pandemic, particularly those who are anxious about social distancing and hygiene, could be a challenge. Offering quality of life features and tangible engagement can help to tempt back employees who’ve enjoyed working from home.

Well planned gathering spaces with baked-in social distancing features will encourage interaction. Decor influenced by home interiors should include sofas and quiet places. Ultimately, you should be aiming to create a more flexible and agile workspace that integrates remote and onsite employees.

Communication first

In the new normal that awaits us after lockdown, communication will be central to every facilities manager’s role. Among the need for checklists and system audits, don’t lose sight of your building users and the need to educate them on the health and wellbeing strategies being implemented in the workplace.

Re-enforce the fact that these measures are designed to make their work environment both more efficient and productive while making it a safer and healthier place to be. Clear communications through a number of channels including signage, text and email will let users know what’s happening, when and why.

And by dealing with employees' concerns in a timely and transparent manner you’ll keep them reassured and engaged.

FM managers have a vital role to play

As lockdown eases and employees return to work, the healthy offices trend is bound to deepen. There will be a real need to demonstrate to employees that their buildings are safe and healthy and facilities management has a pivotal role to play in the process, whether that’s communicating critical information or enacting hygiene and social distancing measures.

Careful evaluation and thoughtful updates can help to create the kind of healthy built environments that encourage wellbeing and productivity.


man in a suit pushing a giant rock uphill

Top challenges faced by Facilities Managers

Facilities Managers might seem like unlikely superheroes but the best of them are capable of dealing with many challenges. Facilities management might be primarily concerned with keeping the built environment functioning smoothly, but if you work in FM you need to remain alert and flexible enough to deal with the latest trends.

Juggling responsibilities

Keeping on top of so many responsibilities is one of the biggest challenges facing managers. Ensuring that the built environment is functional and safe and that it meets HSE and government standards can be tough and makes FM recruitment a top priority for any business.

Changing standards

Just when you’re on top of one set of standards and regulations, the goalposts move. That means more compliance issues and industry changes to stay on top of, plus resources, staff and budgets to juggle. The way to meet this particular challenge is to stay up to speed on the changing landscape and make sure your training and accreditation are up to the job.

Ageing systems

Machinery, inventory and structures all degrade as they age. And that can lead to breakdowns, loss of productivity and threats to structural integrity. Proper budgeting coupled with planned and preventative maintenance can help to soften the blow when things need to be replaced.

Make resources work harder

FM is all about making resources work harder and more effectively, a real challenge when those resources are scarce. The pressure to perform in circumstances where budgets are stretched raises expectations that facilities managers need to find ways to meet.

Cutting costs

If FM is all about doing more with less, another challenge is to actively cut costs across facilities to increase revenues. Proactive managers can look to energy conservation and increasing the lifespan of equipment through proper maintenance. Close tracking of inventory and assets are other effective ways to control costs.

Managing security

Does your organisation have a proper recovery plan if there’s a major incident in your facility? Another challenge for FM can be coordinating emergency preparedness planning across the entire facility. These security-related responsibilities focus managers on disaster recovery planning and emergency evacuation, adding additional responsibilities to the workload.

Sustainability

As energy costs continue to soar and concerns about the environmental impact of ageing infrastructure continue to grow, FM faces an increasing challenge of adhering to an organisation's sustainability policies and finding new and innovative ways to shrink the existing carbon footprint. Reducing energy usage and finding better ways to manage waste through reuse and recycling are top priorities for managers who will also need to consider lifecycle sustainability when making purchasing decisions.

Time management

Facilities Managers can sometimes feel like being a superhero without the cape. There are a million things to do and never enough time to do them in and that’s without attending budget meetings and answering emails. Add in management concerns, employees questions and issues to be addressed and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. That makes developing effective time management strategies one of the biggest challenges facing any facility manager.

Flexibility, diligence and creativity are all qualities the best facility managers have in spades. Because the way in which facilities management faces its myriad challenges can define not only the success of the individual but the organisation as a whole, which makes a great recruitment strategy critical.


Mental health awareness week

An update from Catch22 on Mental Health

An update from the team at Catch22 on Mental Health.
On World FM Day last week, Catch 22 acknowledged what a fitting time it was to celebrate the industry and workforce on the front line against COVID-19. This week we are keen to connect with colleagues in the facilities management community to highlight Mental Health Awareness Week and this year's theme, Kindness.

The pandemic means there is added significance this year: our way of life has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time and we wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all our workers, candidates, clients and staff to think about how they can contribute. Here are some suggestions of how you can offer kindness to others.

At home and in your community:

  • Call a friend who you haven't spoken to for a while
  • Ring someone who is on their own, or video call them
  • Offer to help an elderly or vulnerable neighbour
  • Check on someone you know who is going through a tough time

At work:

  • Remember to say hi to colleagues and ask how they are
  • Offer to support colleagues who may not be familiar with technology you have used
  • Lend your ear - listen to your colleague who is having a bad day
  •  Say thank you to a colleague who has helped you

Don't forget to look after and be kind to yourself as well - it's been a tough time for everyone. Having to spend too much time at a desk and on a PC, I find being outside and walking long-ish distances with the dog helps enormously to reflect and clear the mind - you will have your own way of staying well but do consider:

  • Prioritising some "me" time so you can relax and reflect
  • Keeping to a schedule that has a healthy pattern but free of restraints
  • Learning a new skill
  • Treating yourself every now and again - you deserve it!

 

There is still so much uncertainty at the moment but all of us here at Catch 22 are committed to supporting and having a positive impact in the communities we service and the causes we support.

Be kind


New building safety standards

Are you prepared for the new building safety standards?

If you’re in facilities management, are you ready for the new building safety standards? Regulatory bodies expect the sector to be ready to undertake the remedial activity and meet compliance needs ahead of new legislation. These are the measures FM's should be considering immediately.

Building safety: measure, review, improve

Not every building currently falls under the remit of the Building Safety Regulator. Developing an asset management plan will help prioritise works in line with new best practice guidelines.

As a result of the first phase of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, key recommendations and guidance have been issued for safety related measures and necessary remediation. These include:

- Removing unsafe materials
- Remediating unsafe wall systems
- Updating fire risk assessments with particular focus on fire resistance of external cladding and fire doors
- Testing fire doors every 3 months in order to confirm that self-closing devices are working correctly
- Reviewing and testing fire fighting equipment and systems
- Reviewing emergency fire procedures including personal evacuation plans for any residents who need assistance

New statutory functions and duties

The new regime will see the creation of the statutory roles of Building Safety Manager and Accountable Person. And while these roles can be performed by legal entities, competent individuals will be required to perform the BSM role. In addition, the accountability of the AP is non-transferable.

Both roles will be required to be registered with the BSR, requiring your facilities management team to have the capacity and expertise for these roles.

A competence framework for the BSM role has already been developed. But your FM team will need a person with the skills and expertise to meet the specified competence requirements.

It’s well worth investing in upskilling and training for your entire team to raise awareness of the new liabilities and responsibilities. You’ll need to have sufficient funding and resources available to build the competence and capacity to fulfil the new statutory requirements.

Systems and information

- Sufficient information will be cascaded to the relevant people. They will then plan and implement actions that can be measured and evidenced to demonstrate that they meet the needs of the new regulatory body
- New information requirements include the safety case for fire and risk management, the digital ‘golden thread’ of building info and the emergency services information box.
- The implementation of a clear engagement strategy for residents and building users. This should include relevant fire safety information

If your FM team isn’t yet engaged in an information-gathering exercise, this is the time to start. You should also revisit or start developing and implementing an engagement strategy that meets the requirements of the new regulations.

Stay up to date

It’s vitally important that your facilities management team stays up to speed with all the developments as the new regime is implemented. The initial focus will be on structural and fire safety in all multi-occupied buildings exceeding 18 metres or six storeys.

Facilities management teams in the sector will need to focus on developing capacity and skills, engagement and information gathering exercises before the full implementation of the new regime.


World Facilities Management Day

World Facilities Management Day

Today is World Facilities Management Day: the day of the year when we recognise the vital work that FMs and the FM industry contribute to business worldwide. It aims to raise the profile of the FM profession anywhere that FMs influence the health, safety, productivity and well-being of people who utilise the built environment.

And what a fitting time to acknowledge an industry and workforce on the frontline against COVID-19 together with the teams wrestling with the challenges of devising and implementing return to the workplace plans.

Many of our clients in the critical sectors have continued to operate effectively in extremely difficult circumstances and, here at Catch 22, I am pleased with the way that our team has collaborated with those customers and adapted quickly to meet their needs. It's been a tough couple of months: new ways of working, extending homeworking, introducing online registrations, video interviewing and compliance - all the time ensuring the wellbeing of employees, workers and clients is paramount.

Now, we are ready to help those who are planning a way out of lockdown to do so safely. There is plenty of guidance out there on the reopening and reoccupying of buildings but Catch 22 are very much here to support your labour/skills/talent back to work strategy. I would be really interested to hear your thoughts around the main challenges and equally keen to share with you how we have tackled the last 2 months and are now wrestling with the irreversible trends and developments in [recruitment] technology whilst staying true to our values of collaboration, capability, compliance and community.

Back to World FM Day first though. Facilities Management is fast becoming the New Emergency Service during the coronavirus pandemic and, on this World FM Day, from all of us at Catch 22,

Thank you to the whole FM community for all you do every day.


fire alarm on the wall

UK Government releases new fire safety bill

New government legislation is set to improve fire safety in England and Wales. Put in place to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the new bill places a legal requirement on the owners of residential buildings to inspect all fire doors and cladding. This comes in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the subsequent inquiry.

Grenfell recommendations

The proposed change to the existing legislation is a result of recommendations made by Sir Martin Moore-Bick during phase 1 of the inquiry. The initial report recommends that statutory checks be made at not less than three-monthly intervals. Under the new bill, fire and rescue services will be empowered to hold building owners to account and enforce the checks if necessary.

There was some initial reluctance from the government to make fire door checks a legal requirement, seeming to recommend only that routine checks be made. But the new bill is intended to swiftly implement the Grenfell recommendations and significantly increase fire safety.

Other recommendations from phase 1 of the inquiry include:

- Regular lift inspections
- Ensure entrance doors where unsafe cladding is in place comply with fire safety standards
- Clear and easy to understand fire safety instructions
- Review and regularly update evacuation plans

This bill is seen as a stepping stone towards implementing secondary legislation to fully implement these recommendations.

Does the bill go far enough?

While industry bodies cautiously welcomed the legislation, others feel that the checks don’t go far enough when it comes to high usage fire doors in public areas or those that have a vital role in protecting in case of a fire. Should fire doors at risk of damage or in particularly vulnerable and high-risk areas be subject to a risk-based approach rather than a time-limited one?

By throwing the responsibility for fire door checks onto building owners and FM professionals, it remains to be seen to what extent the government will play a regulatory role going forward. A Building Safety Bill has been promised with provision for a new building safety regulator but in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, it’s uncertain when such legislation will make it onto the statute books.

Implications for facilities management

So what are the implications for FM managers and how can industry professionals implement fire safety in their buildings? Responsibility for fire door inspection looks set to become a statutory duty for all managed residential buildings which is why implementing best practices now will put you ahead of the game.

Routine maintenance should already be in place, ensuring that building assets don’t deteriorate and present a fire risk. Regular and consistent fire drills and other safety routines will ensure that you and your team have access to safety equipment and be skilled in its deployment should the worst happen. Storing relevant information in the cloud so it's accessible to professionals and residents alike is another smart step in implementing best practices your building. Planning for emergency traffic flow through your building will help residents move safely towards emergency exits.

Taking a risk-based approach to fire safety in your residential building will ensure that you’re already future-proofed. And building owners and managers now have the clarification they need to better safeguard their residents.