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What the 'on-demand' era means for facilities management

New digital platforms mean that changes are afoot for the building industry, especially when it comes to some of the traditional processes that have been used in facilities management for decades. With digital platforms come on-demand requests, which can mean a better (and cheaper) service for the companies that own a building or facility. But how can firms in the facilities management industry adapt to these changes and make on-demand jobs work for them?

What is on-demand?

Businesses have long been able to book certain aspects of their operations 'on-demand'. That includes catering, IT support and even people. On-demand generally refers to booking something online at short notice and not having to book it as part of a longer or larger contract. 24/7

With the rise of digital platforms, specifically built for companies to find facilities and building services, those in charge of booking the work are now able to book actions such as repairs quickly and easily. They can be given full costs, track delivery of the required materials and even make changes to the job where necessary.

What are the benefits?

These platforms certainly make life easier for the company booking the work, as they can take advantage of competitive pricing, guaranteed timeframes and tailored jobs. Buildings themselves are becoming ever more complex with the addition of AI and smart technology being just one example and the use of innovative building materials being another [1].

The result is that many building management jobs are becoming rather more niche. Digital platforms can make it easier to link the right person for the job and ensure the right materials and parts are ordered in time. On-demand services are also preferable for small businesses who can pay per service without the added cost of a subscription.

Some of the more advanced platforms can even be populated with specific information such as staff working hours and skill areas. This means that jobs can be booked by cross-sectioning who is available via an easy to use online booking system, which can find the right team or individual for the job.

What this means for the facilities management industry

These platforms are primarily used for ad-hoc building management and repair jobs, but they can also be used for booking jobs with companies with which you have a contract or ongoing relationship. In fact, bespoke versions of these platforms can even be used by larger businesses and organisations, such as universities, who can book jobs with their own in-house facilities management teams.

These platforms will hold building services companies to account as they'll need to ensure that staff is properly trained and skilled in key areas, so in that way, the platforms can motivate facilities and building firms to stay on top of training and recruitment. It also means that jobs need to be finished on time and can be tracked and priced more easily.

The use of on-demand digital platforms can ultimately be of benefit not just to the companies looking to book facilities management services, but also to those businesses that offer their services too as it forces them to continually strive to improve.

[1] https://www.viatechnik.com/blog/advanced-buildings-construction-industry/


Stress at work

How FM managers can tackle stress levels

In such a fast-paced industry, with ever-evolving demands, pressures and seemingly never enough hours in the day, it is perhaps unsurprising that Facility Managers are reporting increasing stress levels.Stress at work

Of course, many jobs are stressful and stress isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but recent research has found that for facilities managers at least, stress levels have tended to increase over the course of a career. This could be attributable, in part, to increasing seniority and additional responsibility, but it may equally be symptomatic of the fact that facilities management is a demanding industry, with a variety of challenges and on many occasions, limited budgets and resources with which to work.

Indeed, many Facilities Managers are increasingly being asked to provide better results with less money and support. In such a competitive marketplace, there is always the fear that if you don’t perform optimally, someone will be waiting in the wings to take over.

That is not to say that everything about the industry is negative; quite the contrary. Many Facilities Managers report enjoying and thriving on the challenges inherent in the role. There is also a school of thought that suggests that stress itself is not necessarily a bad thing, it is how we respond to this stress that is key.

If harnessed correctly, stress can be used to your advantage and help you to excel. Stress is a natural reaction left over from ancient times when it allowed us to be on our guard against wild animals or other dangers. The heightened awareness and racing pulse it can trigger prime the body to fight or flight as needed. Of course, if prolonged, neither of those elements are ideal for your longer-term health.

However, recognising when you are stressed and identifying how your body is naturally reacting to it is a vital first step in dealing with stress. Instead of getting carried along on a wave of adrenalin, step back from the situation and recognise that although important, it is not a case of life and death. This can help give some much-needed perspective.

It is also useful to appreciate why you are having a stress response and to potentially capitalise on the focus and clarity it can give you. Long term, chronic stress is not helpful, but short term, it can be harnessed to allow you to focus more closely on the task at hand and solve problems quickly.

Another useful tip is to recognise your personal reaction to stress. Do you fight, flight or freeze up? Try and track your behaviour and then see if you can alter your pattern to have a more beneficial response to stress. Think of a time where you were challenged or stressed but worked through it to solve a problem or overcome a hurdle. Remember ways in which you made a stressful response work in your favour and then strive to replicate this every time you feel yourself entering a stressful period.


Why councils are bringing FM and other services back in-house

Why councils are bringing FM and other services back in-house

First rolled out under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, with the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering, the outsourcing of public sector services gradually gained in popularity. It subsequently transitioned into a frenzy of outsourced contracts throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Simply put, outsourcing is an arrangement in which a public sector organisation or local council allows a private company to run a particular service on its behalf. Everything from leisure centres and libraries to IT services and facilities management has been outsourced, with varying degrees of success.

Outsourcing giants such as Serco, Capita and Kier built business empires on delivering services on the public sector’s behalf. Promising huge cost savings, improved performance and increased efficiencies, private companies took on a range of valuable contracts, to mixed reception.

While many outsourcing partnerships have worked very well and delivered valuable savings, there have also been some notable disasters, where not only have services been poorly delivered, but they have ended up costing public sector organisations dearly.

Against this backdrop, there has been a shift in the attitude towards outsourcing, with contracts not being renewed and many services being bought back in-house.

In this age of austerity, public sector bodies need to manage their budgets more closely than ever before and this has brought the spotlight to bear on outsourced contracts. Councils, in particular, simply cannot afford to sign up to lengthy contracts that may not deliver the cost savings they so desperately need.

In fact, a recent report from the Association for Public Service Excellence has found that many local councils are planning to bring outsourced services back in-house. Known as insourcing, this will see councils take back control of elements such as catering, waste management or building services.

For many councils, insourcing provides a great way to save costs and become more efficient. Ironically, this is exactly what the outsourcing of services was meant to provide in the first place.

The same report from the APSE also found that nearly 80% of councils believe that insourcing will allow them to be more flexible, with two-thirds hoping it will save them money.

In addition, insourcing can provide better pay, working conditions and benefits for employees, as well as improving relationships with unions. It can certainly be argued that by running services themselves, councils can ensure that public money is kept in the local economy, ensuring that they work with local businesses where relevant to help fuel the local economy.

However, it is not always the council’s choice to insource. In some cases, private companies are walking away from deals as they no longer see them as profitable.

However, some councils are really turning the tables and going a step further, setting up their own trading companies to help drive further revenue which can be put back into frontline services.

It certainly seems as though the heydays of outsourcing are drawing to a close, with a marked shift to insourcing. Whether this trend continues remains to be seen, but for the time being at least, insourcing seems set to become the dominant approach.


business people lying on floor in circle

Sodexo says these are the top FM trends to watch for

Due to technological advances and the need to create more sustainable lifestyles, FM teams are generating improved personal and work environments. Safer and smarter environments are being developed by looking at people’s needs and fully understanding those needs.

From technology to recruitment, here are the top FM trends to watch out for:

• Augmented reality glasses are next level tech. Technicians and engineers from various industries are using augmented reality glasses in many ways, including communication, live video and for information and problem-solving.

• Chatbots are becoming more and more popular in the modern workplace. Automating the chat function on your company website is becoming the norm as chatbots can offer 24/7 support to your clients. Using artificial intelligence to answer your customer queries is the next step in offering around the clock support. Chatbots learn as they go, building a catalogue of expanding data and knowledge.

• Ultraviolet lights at certain wavelengths are fighting bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms. Killing mould and bacteria could reduce issues faced by schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other public establishments. When bacteria is exposed to UV light, it is unable to spread or infect.

• Attracting the best talent in facilities management is proving to be an uphill battle. A limited number of young people are going down the FM route, leaving a shortage of skilled workers seeking blue-collar roles. More could be done to introduce apprenticeships to school leavers and perhaps graduate programs could be considered for those completing university degrees.

• Retaining talent is a challenge in many industries. Consulting and engaging with staff are great ways to make your employees feel listened to and valued. Goal setting and assisting your staff in achieving their goals is a key principle in retaining staff. They can then work towards progression in the industry and will appreciate loyalty and investment from their employer. Treating employees well will guarantee good employee reviews which, in turn, will attract the very best talent in your industry.

• Remote monitoring from a 24/7 call centre, 365 days a year will save your clients valuable time and money. System failures, alarm responses and general issues can be dealt with and resolved remotely, without the need for an engineer or technician to visit the client’s sites.

• Building analytics is an innovative FM trend. Systems are customisable and can monitor building control equipment. They can also collect data on output and energy savings, as well as performance.

• Green buildings, also known as living buildings, are growing in popularity. Living buildings are generating their own energy using solar panels, wind energy and other renewable energy. Many occupants of living buildings grow their own produce and operate a swap and share scheme.

• Waste-free buildings produce their own energy and generate minimal waste. The buildings and occupants work together with facilities management teams to achieve sustainable living.

• Wellbeing buildings are the trend of the moment in FM circles. Everything from the paints, carpets and furnishings are ergonomically designed for the benefit of the building’s occupants.


Signs that you're ready for a new job

Signs that you're ready for a new job

How is it that on the weekends, you can wake up naturally at the crack of dawn, shower, get the kids ready and be all packed up in the car ready for a fun family day out? Yet by Monday morning, you’re hitting that snooze button harder than a cricketer hitting a six.

If this resonates with you, it could be time to consider your next career move. Feeling unenthusiastic and down about work is one of the first signs that you’re unhappy and ready to burn out.

It could be possible to relight the excitement you felt when you first started your job. If you’ve allowed your disappointments to mount up, you could try to tackle some of the issues you’re facing and make positive changes. Conversely, you may have learned from previous jobs that you’ve already gone too far down the road to turn back.

Either way, here are some things to consider before you update your CV and start to circulate it amongst your favorite recruitment agencies:

Signs that you’re ready for a new job:

• As you’re setting your alarm in the evenings, you get that overwhelming feeling of dread. When the morning comes, you are not motivated to get out of bed and find yourself pressing snooze as many times as you feel you can get away with.

• Both leaving the house early and arriving home late are getting in the way of much-valued family time. Your work commitments are beginning to have a negative impact on your social life and on relationships with friends and family.

• You’re fed up of the commute. Sitting in traffic for long periods of time at both sides of the day is making you resent your job.

• Your workload is expanding and you’re feeling overloaded. You’ve been given more responsibility, but you have not been given the financial compensation that should come with it.

• You no longer feel challenged and you’re bored. The long working day is becoming a drag.

• Your impeccable sickness record is suffering, and your level of absenteeism is increasing. You’re feeling stressed which is causing health issues.

• Your manager lacks motivation and support which is letting the team down. You feel they won’t be going anywhere fast and have concerns about personal progression.

• The company isn’t moving with the times which is affecting sales; you’d prefer to work with a forward-thinking company and a more innovative team.

• You feel that opportunities to grow both personally and within the company are limited.

• You don’t feel like you fit in with the company culture and want to work somewhere with like-minded people who have the same objectives as you.

• You receive your first negative appraisal, which could indicate your dissatisfaction and lack of enthusiasm at work is not going unnoticed.

If you can relate to one or more of the above, you may be ready for a new challenge where you can set goals and push yourself to reach them. Now could be the perfect time to grab a new opportunity with both hands and get that spring back into your step.


Hiking walk

Catch 22’s 12th Charity Walk Challenge

Catch 22’s 12th Charity Challenge is next week!
 
We started these walks in 1997 and this year we are taking on The #SouthDownsWay!
 
This year the #walk will take place on Wednesday, May 1st – Saturday 5th. Vince and Simon (with Don’s organisational assistance!) are tackling the 100 miles from #Winchester to #Eastbourne. Simon will make it, although Vince is not sure his metal knee will last all the way. But 50 odd intrepid walkers will ensure fun is had and money raised.
 
(It's not too late to join us, although you need to sort out your own travel and accommodation. One night in Winchester, #Petersfield, and #Midhurst followed by three in #Brighton, ending with a big celebration in the Good Companions in #Brighton on Sunday night.
 
If you would like to sponsor us, head to our Just Giving page - https://bit.ly/2Uzm7xy
 
As always the main charity is the @Lords Taverners
Simon is walking for Burning Nights CPRS charity; you can read more about CPRS and donate here - https://bit.ly/2vmGrrC
 
Thanks very much in advance!

office and computers

The link between good office design and productivity

Open plan is the design of choice for many facilities management companies, but new studies have shown that these large open spaces can have a negative impact on productivity.

Those workers whose roles require a quiet environment can be disrupted, which results in an output decrease. The study also shows an increase in absenteeism and a costly high turnover of staff. So what makes a good office design and happy and productive staff?

Here are 7 things to consider:

Ask your employees
Your employees know best, so involve your staff in design decisions. Once you learn more about how they work and how they think, they could work smarter, and improvements can be made to encourage maximum output from the whole team

Little things can go a long way
Whilst your staff may dream of bean bag seating and games consoles aplenty, this is not a suitable workspace for most businesses. There are some small luxuries you can offer, however, that will make your staff feel listened to and appreciated, as well as improving their experience at work:

-       Childcare services
-       Vending machines
-       Subsidised canteen
-       Doctor / Dentist clinics
-       Green / Outdoor areas
-       Games rooms
-       Communal couch areas
-       Massage chairs
-       Dress down Friday
-       Bring your dogs/kids to work day

Renew your tech
Use software to automate systems, freeing up more time for staff to do more productive jobs. Make sure you have a dedicated IT person or team to fix software and hardware bugs, so your staff don’t waste valuable time trying to work things out.

Consider noise levels
If ten employees are on the telephone, ten phones are ringing off the hook and ten people are trying to have a meeting, is this a productive workspace or pure chaos? Consider separate meeting areas, soundproofing ceiling tiles and using fabric screens to offer privacy to those who need it. Glass walls may be the solution for your accounts team or anyone else who may require a quiet environment to reduce distractions and improve concentration.

Make light and airy spaces
Make sure your staff have access to fresh air and natural light. This will reduce fatigue, eye strain, the spread of viral infections, headaches caused by artificial lighting and absenteeism. Introduce plants for better air quality.

Movement breaks
Ask your staff to relocate some of the items they use often. This will force them to get up from their workspace frequently and move around. Sitting or standing in one position for prolonged periods can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health. Simply moving around will rejuvenate fatigued workers.

Ergonomics
Speak to your facilities management department about reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. Some of the usual methods are as follows:
-       Wrist supports for use with mouse and keyboard
-       Screen/monitor supports for posture
-       Footrests for comfort and blood flow
-       Replace telephone handsets with headsets
-       Ergonomic seating to encourage an improved sitting position and posture

Feeling happy and contented at work is contagious, and these simple steps could have a significant impact on your working environment, resulting in higher productivity and more satisfied staff.


woman working on a laptop at desk

Sitting too much at work is damaging office employees' health

Whilst countless studies have been undertaken to highlight the dangers of sitting for long periods of time at work, very little attention has been dedicated to studying prolonged standing and the serious health risks involved.

A recent study by The Institute for Work and Health has discovered that both sitting and standing for long periods of time whilst at work could be a serious health risk.

Whilst most employers and their workers assume health problems are limited to musculoskeletal issues, the study contradicts this. Two separate studies were carried out by postdoctoral fellow, Dr Aviroop Biswas and senior scientist, Dr Peter Smith. They discovered those who are seated at work for prolonged periods are placing themselves at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, coupled with a higher chance of dying from these serious health conditions.

The chances of suffering from heart disease are 2.2 times higher for those who stand at work than those who sit. The doctors state their independent studies are not, in fact, contradictory, explaining that sitting at work instead of standing is not a better option for you nor vice versa, but that in any event, employees must be encouraged to move around more.

A further study, published in the Occupational Medicine scientific journal, highlights that exercise outside of working hours does nothing to counterbalance health issues for workers. The 343 employees involved in the study were not aware they were still at risk of life-threatening illnesses if they conducted exercise outside of work and they thought that uninterrupted sitting would not cause serious health problems if they were undertaking regular exercise alongside it.

One solution to consider is for your company’s HR and FM departments to collaborate, putting a plan in place to encourage sedentary employees to get up from their desks more and for those who stand at work to take the opportunity to sit down whenever they can. This could mean deciding when your staff take breaks and including standing and moving. If yours is a fun working environment, playing music at set times throughout the day is a way to get your staff to stand up and move around. For those with a more conservative working environment, ‘take a walk’ breaks could be introduced.

In order to interrupt your standing employees, break out areas with comfortable seating may be a beneficial option. If your standing employees are customer facing, consider introducing chairs and inform your customers of the reasons for this and the health implications involved for your standing staff. This is also a great way to raise awareness among the general public.

Your facilities management team should have more creative ideas on how to achieve a more active and healthier working environment. They may be able to introduce more innovative desk and working area designs and technologies that allow employees to work standing up in a different location within the office at certain times of the working day.

In conclusion, being sedentary in the workplace, whether standing or seated, is bad for your health. As companies introduce more flexible ways of working, we may start to see a reduction in the adverse health effects of prolonged sitting and standing in the workplace.


How to keep a sustainable building green text over image

How to keep a sustainable building green!

You may think that by operating in a sustainable building, your business has met its obligations in terms of helping to create a greener environment and that you can sit back and let the building operations in a sustainable way.

This is not the case. A sustainable building and business will require continuous attention to ensure it remains sustainable today, tomorrow and into the future.

Constructing or renovating a building to obtain the green building certificate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the first phase of becoming an environmentally friendly business. The next phase will require the monitoring of the business to ensure it continues to meet such standards.

This could entail monitoring waste levels to ensure it remains below a previously specified level. However, previously set targets can also be improved upon. The continuous monitoring of waste could help to identify areas where changes could be made that could increase recycling, which would decrease landfill waste and in turn lead to cost-savings, meaning both the business and the environment would come out as winners.

By monitoring and attempting to increase the company’s use of recyclable materials, more of the company’s waste could be found to be suitable for recycling.

From the outset, the business will need to identify how best to measure its operations, which would become a baseline and help to flag up any problems in maintaining its sustainability levels. It would also help to measure the success of any changes that are made with a view to improving the company’s sustainability.

A facilities manager (FM), who may be in charge of one building or multiple buildings, will need to deploy software to monitor the performance of operations in various locations. Some companies provide benchmark tools which can be utilised to measure the consumption of water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions from a single facility or a group of buildings.

This can be useful in determining whether there are some aspects of a company’s operations that need more attention, in terms of meeting sustainability targets, than others. This will allow the company to place its resources and attention where it is needed the most.

Some software companies monitor consumption levels and deliver the results on a 12-month average basis, while other companies can measure the performance of a company’s sustainability credentials on a day-to-day basis, which could help the business keep on top of issues as they arise and allow it to more easily pinpoint areas that need extra attention.

As well as using the latest software to help your business maintain its environmentally-friendly operations, a physical inspection of the facilities is crucial. Night audits are particularly useful. A simple walk through an empty building could identify machinery and equipment that continues to run overnight.

FM staff could then highlight areas of concern and review whether such equipment needs to run overnight or during the company’s downtime. By adjusting processes to reduce the amount of equipment that continues to run when a building is empty, efficiency could be increased by up to 20%.


People running up a trend arrow

Every FM manager should know these trends

There are a number of trends set to change the FM and services industry. By identifying changes that will impact the sector, managers can plan for, and even benefit from, future shifts in society and in how we do business.

Economic Growth
The shift in economic growth from the west to emerging markets in the east means industry players must do more to set themselves apart in what will become a crowded market with new competition. Multinational companies should ensure their products can be tailored to a variety of local markets, so they can capitalise on growth in areas with differing cultures.

Commercialisation
Trends in commercialisation will lead to greater competition and innovation, with industry players needing to ensure their customers stay relevant. It will be essential that managers understand key business indicators and how they can help customers achieve optimised performance. Two examples of this would be to use lean management techniques that cut needless processes or the data-driven six sigma method, which seeks to enhance customer satisfaction with continuous process improvements and low defect rates.

Ageing Population
An ageing population coupled with diminishing pension incomes are leading to an increasing number of people working until later in life, which is changing the workplace. When it comes to hiring and retaining staff, the FM industry will need to gain an understanding of the motivation that drives its staff, which will differ widely from generation to generation.

Furthermore, with a four-generation workforce set to become commonplace in European, American, Japanese and Chinese workplaces, recruiters will need to recognise the differences between these generations, along with the challenges and opportunities that this trend will present.

Technological Progression
Advances in technology, including smart security, robotics and sensors, will affect jobs, leading to reduced demand for low-skilled workers, while increasing demand for skilled staff.

Climate Change
Climate change will force most industries and societies to become greener, which could impact on supply chains and the design, maintenance and management of buildings in the future. However, climate change and the urbanisation of mid to low-income countries in regions prone to natural disasters will bring new risk to the industry, which must ensure it is adequately prepared for such an event. This could be by having robust contingency and continuity plans in place.

Health
Meanwhile, the growing focus on human health will lead to the redesign of buildings to encourage staff to be more active and to stave off lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes. This trend is notable for the industry, as almost a third of Europe’s FM revenue comes from the healthcare sector, but budget cuts could result in governments outsourcing more work.

Flexibility At Work
Lastly, the traditional workplace is changing, with companies of all sizes shifting to models that promote flexible, collaborative, innovative and productive work. This is demonstrated by the growth of coworking environments, homeworking and flexible working options that have become common across the world.

This trend can be used to help retain and recruit staff. A company can be more appealing for prospective workers by offering flexible working options. Flexible working will require managers to use online facility booking and management tools.

Trends that could impact the industry are wide-ranging, but the common factor here is preparedness, which could make the difference between success and failure.