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.


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.


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.


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.


key workers

Should FM managers be classed as 'key workers'?

Who are the key workers? It’s a question that’s critical where FM is concerned. With the need to keep buildings secure, well maintained and above all clean, facilities management is arguably now more important than ever.

Safe and operational

In these unprecedented times, FM has a critical role to play in keeping essential buildings operational and safe. But that’s not currently reflected in government thinking and facilities managers are not currently listed as key workers along with cleaners and waste management operatives. Fears are that if facilities management and associated roles are not recognised as critical workers now then hygiene standards will drop when FM should have a positive role to play in the response to COVID-19.

Essential buildings, essential workers?

Buildings that are essential in the crisis include hospitals, schools and banks, all of which need to be kept clean and well maintained. Even temporarily unoccupied buildings need to be kept secure and operational to in readiness for business continuity. In addition, waste management and HVAC maintenance are critical to ensure that infestations and the threat of Legionnaires disease are minimised.

So if buildings can be considered essential, why not the facilities managers who undertake this critical work? While tighter social distancing and isolation measures are quite rightly in force, should FM managers maintain the right to work and access their buildings to provide these essential services? That’s the question the IWFM is asking of the government.

Critical to the COVID-19 response

In a letter to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis makes two urgent demands:

- That facilities management professionals be considered as key workers under the latest government guidance
- That these professionals and their contractors be able to attend their buildings and continue to ensure they are safe and well maintained even in the event of stricter social distancing measures

The bigger picture is that these professionals play a critical role in keeping buildings clean and well maintained in sectors regarded by the government as key to the Covid-19 response. In some cases, this essential maintenance and repair work fulfils a statutory duty. The industry body is also asking that facilities professionals be allowed to determine the teams and contractors that are critical to achieving safe and healthy outcomes for those key workers using these buildings.

The IWFM is asking professionals to share their experiences of managing the coronavirus crisis by email to policy@iwfm.org.uk. This information can then be used to support and inform other facility managers across the profession.

Professional resources

If you’re a facility management professional looking for the latest guidance and information to stay ahead of the curve, the IWFM has put together a set of Covid-19 resources which can be found at https://www.iwfm.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-resources.html. Alongside the latest advice from government and public health authorities, the industry body has collated a range of valuable resources from across the business and other partner organisations.

To help you keep delivering essential services, you’ll find information on business continuity plans, shutdown, partial occupancy and restarting plus security, stress and wellbeing and best practice guidance. Sound management of the critical infrastructure that business and key workers depend upon demonstrates beyond all doubt that FM professionals deserve to be included as part of the UK’s critical workforce.


Stress at work

5 causes of office stress

We’re all more aware than ever as to the harmful effects of stress. A recent report claimed that over 70% of FM managers admit to feeling moderate stress during their working day, while 14% describe themselves as very stressed. It’s hardly surprising, considering the variety of challenges that facilities management personnel face on a daily basis. These are the five most common causes of stress in the workplace:

1. Overwork

This is one of the most common causes of workplace stress. In fact, 59% of FM managers said that feeling that they never had enough hours in the day was their primary cause of stress. The pressure to overwork doesn’t always come from your boss, either. In some cases, you can be the one who decides they just have to keep the pressure on and keep working.

2. Coworkers

Bullying and harassment from coworkers can make your life a misery and are a major contributing factor to stress in the workplace. This kind of behaviour can also lead to mental health issues that can be challenging to overcome.

3. The wrong job

Facilities management can be an incredibly varied and challenging career that has something for everyone. But if you’re feeling stressed out for no reason, you could be working in the wrong field. If you’re happier interpreting data but your work mainly involves scheduling maintenance it could be time for a switch.

4. Work environment

Most FM managers are used to working in challenging environments. But there are plenty of everyday frustrations that can lead to work stress including not having the most up to date tools and equipment for the job. 50% of facilities managers complain of a lack of resources, while 34% deal with unreliable building systems that contribute to stress.

5. Lack of support network

Working in facilities management can sometimes be isolating, leading 24% of managers to describe their job as a thankless one. A lack of resources can leave you dealing with complex problems alone which can lead to further stress.

Is all stress bad for you?

If you’re thinking that the solution to your work stress is a good long holiday, then think again. Science has revealed that the moments when we are happiest are the moments when we face big challenges and overcome them. When we tackle something right at the limit of our abilities and pull through. In fact, a certain level of moderate stress, otherwise known as eustress, can be an energising and beneficial force.

But how can you avoid the kind of chronic stress that can really take a toll on mind and body?

Stress reduction in FM

Stress reduction for facilities managers is often a question of being aware of three things: being clear what’s required in your job, having the skills to do it and feeling in control over the way you achieve your goals.

Focus upon creating a work environment with clear lines of communication where people are both comfortable in asking for help and empowered to create their own ways of working. As a manager, you need to be able to motivate your team in the face of a challenging situation. By encouraging them to see what lies ahead not as stressful but as exciting and fulfilling, you can harness stress for great outcomes.


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.