hands holding a heart with medical white cross

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.


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.


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.