closed for Christmas

How to manage the office Christmas closedown

Right now, there are FM professionals up and down the country wondering where Santa's Little Helper is when you need him to help with those extra festive jobs. Not only do they have to ensure the workplace is looking lovely and cheerful, they often have to manage social activities in the building. Then when the last worker has left, they're the ones who have to restore order and make sure the building is securely closed down for the holiday.

Cleaning 

Evening functions in the premises play havoc with the cleaning routines. The functions often require extra cleaning to take place, but employees turn up the next day expecting the building to look as well serviced as ever. Many organisations now have a two-drink limit for any functions at their premises which has limited the worst - let's say messes - that have to be cleaned up. Still, it's a case of asking the cleaning company to be as flexible as possible, and that's best done some time in advance.

The quiet period over the holidays can be a good time for deep cleaning - again, something you need to arrange in advance.

Heating and ventilation

Heating needs to be adjusted so that it runs as economically as possible. If there are staff on site, such as cleaners or security staff, they need reasonable temperatures to work in. But there is little point in heating an entire multi-storey building for one security guard, and so they're usually provided with spot heating for the room they're in. After the holiday, it's a question of getting the building nicely warm, so that employees returning to work, dejected and probably broke, aren't freezing cold into the bargain. OK, they'll still be depressed and penniless, and spending their morning browsing recruitment sites, but at least they'll be warm.

Security

That lonely security guard with his turkey sandwich and oil filled radiator may be quite busy. Christmas is a key time for break-ins, and one of the facilities management jobs is to ensure that in the rush to get away, other managers haven't forgotten to secure their areas. So the last check is essential and alarms need to be primed for areas that won't be used.

It's also important too, to ensure that no one is sleeping off the after effects of the office party in one of the meeting rooms. Home alone is one thing, at work alone and locked in over Christmas, is quite another. For the same reason, toilets have to be checked, to ensure that taps aren't running.

Fire

A faulty light fitting setting fire to a paper lantern, or some tinsel draped over an overheating electrical device, are all it takes for a fire to start. So it's worth checking the decorations to make sure that none are interfering with any electrical fitting, or likely to fall onto radiators.

Finally, the FM manager gets to turn off the last light, lock the last door, eject the last party straggler and head off home for their own celebration. Silent night. Until the alarm goes off at 3 am and someone wants the key holder!


cleaning service

What do you need to consider when outsourcing your cleaning contract?

One of the key issues to consider when outsourcing a cleaning contract is to ensure that the new contract doesn't compromise the organisation's security arrangements.

Staff and contractors need to work in a safe and secure environment, and an organisation can suffer severe reputational damage if a failure in this area leads to a major security breach. As businesses focus on the threat of data breaches and cyber attacks, many fail to realise that physical security is an important part of data and online security. Robust access control ensures that unauthorised people cannot make their way into controlled areas such as server rooms and data centres.

It often falls to the facilities manager to remind the organisation of the steps that need to be taken to maintain security when a new cleaning company is brought on board. Hopefully, the cleaning company's attitude to security and the ability to prove that they are supplying vetted staff, will have been checked during the procurement process. However, given the inevitable turnover in cleaning staff, the checks need to be ongoing, with a process for ensuring that new cleaners are vetted thoroughly before they are allowed access to a building.

It isn't just the threats of cyber attack and terrorism that need to be taken into account. The security of staff working in the building, particularly if they are working late, and alone, is also a concern.

Checks on the legality of the contractor's staff

During any pre-contract checks, facilities management professionals need to ensure that their contractor's procedures are thorough and robust. Many firms rely on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. However, someone with a false ID, or who is using someone else's ID, can pass these.

The immigration status of new workers also needs to be checked and there's a potential fine of up to £5,600 for every worker who is working illegally. There are even higher fines if the illegal workers are being exploited since the Modern Slavery Act would apply in these circumstances.

So, thorough identity checks are essential if services such as cleaning are to be contracted out. Because outsourcing and contracting-out are now such a large part of facilities management, it's not uncommon for advertised jobs to stipulate management of contractors as a requirement. Recruitment of temporary or contract workers or management of a supply company are now required skills for facilities managers.

Continuing checks for contractors

Many FM professionals are considering introducing biometric checks. This is because, as with the DBS checks, ID passes are only useful if they are used honestly. The ID is frequently not checked if a worker is wearing the uniform of a contractor known to supply cleaners to the organisation. So it's easy for someone to impersonate a contract cleaner, for whatever reason.

Facilities managers need to ensure that processes and checks are in place to pick up this kind of risk to the organisation. Otherwise, the cleaning contract can become a weak point in an organisation's security arrangements.


5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

Facilities management is being transformed by technology, and that is both enhancing and disrupting the traditional business models that have dominated the industry until now. These are the five key technology trends that facilities management professionals must know about.

1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

One key development is the Internet of Things - the ability to add intelligence to physical items, to network them together and to have them communicate into central control points. This is revolutionising the way that buildings are managed. Physical information collected by thermostats, actuators or sensors can be pushed into a processing system which can then take decisions on how well the system is running, and what aspects of it need to be adjusted, in order to reach peak performance. The information collected can confirm humidity, temperature, light levels, sound, vibration, occupancy levels and all kinds of other data.

The facilities manager is able to view the building system as a whole and to manage it much more effectively.

2. Building Information Modelling (BIM)

When a building is being designed, architects need to be able to model the way that the finished construction will work when it is in use. Contractors and others need to use these models to estimate quantities and costs, and to draw up their own plans for how systems such as cabling, heating and so on will be installed.

BIM used to be a specialised tool, used primarily before the building was constructed. But the facilities management profession realised how useful these models would be in planning how buildings would work, and in modelling the building system as a whole. When linked to working documentation, such as floor plans, BIM can be a powerful management tool.

3. Developments in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

HVAC systems are some of the most expensive facilities to run, and this area has been the target both for cost reduction and for efforts to reduce the carbon output of buildings. New building automation systems can make these targets easier to achieve, through lower use of energy for heating and cooling the building.

Facilities managers can get advance warning of system elements that are about to fail, and can also pinpoint elements that are not working efficiently - for example, using more energy, or producing less output, than they should.

4. Maintenance streamlining through software

Managers are beginning to realise the benefits of adding maintenance schedules for systems or parts of systems, to an automated facility maintenance package. The software can create work orders and link them to the required documentation, in order to produce full instructions for contractors, and others working in the building. After the job is finished, the status can be updated in the software, and calendar reminders can be set for the next scheduled maintenance. This enables managers to plan workflow more evenly through the year.

5. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

That's the official name for drones. Until now, these have mainly been used for filming inaccessible parts of buildings. However, in the future, we can expect to see the development of drones that can carry out jobs such as redecoration and repair. It will be a while before scaffolding isn’t needed anymore - but the sight of drones buzzing about buildings is going to become a common one.


networking

These networking tips will help you to land your next job

If you’re not using networking to get your next job, why don’t you spend the extra free time you have, writing a letter to Mark Zuckerberg explaining that the whole networking thing doesn’t work, so you won’t be using it anytime soon. Instead, you’ve decided to stay in your room plugging away at a CV, aimed at an organisation that just gave their best job to someone they met through their networks.

Alternatively, you could give yourself a chance, and network. This doesn’t mean you have to spend every evening on the white wine and Pringles circuit. It’s simply that you need to get known and let people know that you’re available. These days, there are lots of different ways to do that.

Take a look at these four key tips for using networking to get the job you really want...

1. Get business cards printed

You can’t expect people you meet at an event to find a pen to write down your email address or mobile number. So get a business card printed with your name and contact information on it. Then they can either take a card, or capture it with their mobile. Don’t make up a job title, if you haven’t got a job yet, or you’re working below the level you’re aiming for. Just tell the person you have a card - they’ll be impressed by how organised you are.

2. Find the events that feature your kind of firms
You need to get talking to people, so if you want to get into facilities management, attending trade shows can be a real network game changer. Dress for the organisation you want to impress, make for the stand, and start talking to people. Even if it doesn’t result in an immediate call, if you then apply for a job via their website and get an interview, you can use this as proof that you’ve wanted to work for the company for some time. (You needn’t tell them you did the same thing with 20 other companies at that trade show).

3. Networking isn’t always social
There’s a lot of networking that takes place away from social networks, even work-based networks like Linkedin. Look for webinars that feature major names or firms in the areas that interest you. For example, say you want to get into Facilities Management. The British Institute of Facilities Managers has a bunch of relevant webinars on its website - https://www.bifm.org.uk/bifm/Qualifications/studysupport/Webinars.

If there are comment boxes, use them to make yourself known. Say that you were really interested in and that this is an area you hope to work in. Ask for advice. Most people are happy to give it. If you don’t want to comment, remember that it helps when networking in real life, if you have things to talk about that are relevant to the industry and recent. This will help you get over any natural reticence.

4. Use all the social networks
Finally, remember to cover all the bases, with LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, to make sure you don’t miss any opportunities.


issues facilities manager

5 key issues in FM that all facilities managers should know

Facilities management has become a critical part of running a modern organisation, and there’s every indication that its importance will continue to grow. Obviously, it has to meet the challenges that come with increasing criticality - so let’s take a look at how it’s rising to the increasing demands placed upon it.

issues facilities managerAttracting fresh talent

Part of the problem here is making young people aware that facilities management exists, and that it can provide a great career. Graduates looking around the world of work often overlook FM, and yet the industry needs people with recent IT, management and multi-disciplinary skills.

There’s a generation of FM managers who came up through the ranks, often without attending university. They need to encourage young graduates to join, by creating entry points, such as graduate training programmes. The industry also needs to reach out to universities, and help the development of facilities management as a degree discipline.

Embracing scenario planning

Scenario planning is “what if” thinking, and it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses and public bodies. From extreme weather to internet attacks and security threats, facilities managers need to be thinking about how to deal with emergency and unplanned situations.

Less dramatic, but equally important, FM needs to develop change resilience. This means that the facilities team looks two to five years ahead, takes on board the possible changes that may happen in the world of work, and plans for them.

FM needs to bang its own drum

Other workers and managers tend to take everything that FM does for granted. This is partly because facilities managers tend to be pragmatic types, who get on with the job and don’t make a huge fuss. But they need to show that they make a unique contribution to helping the company deliver on its business mission.

This includes using company newsletters or other communication channels to let colleagues know about sustainability or energy-saving initiatives.

Get senior management buy-in

By focusing on the benefits that FM delivers to the workforce, facilities managers can raise the profile of their function and make senior managers more aware of it. That will mean that members of the FM team are more likely to be included on key projects and business change initiatives.

Show you understand the new workforce

Following on from getting senior management buy-in, FM professionals need to show that they understand the ways in which the workplace is changing. Because so many people are now working away from the office for a part, or even most, of the week, they need different facilities when they visit.

A flexible configuration can provide break out spaces, quiet areas, meeting rooms and other kinds of environment that will facilitate these new ways of working. Furniture and fittings need to change so that they encourage conversations and informal exchanges, as well as formal meetings.

Without background organisation, this could become a chaotic and noisy environment, with not enough facilities to go around at busy times. So the FM professional needs to demonstrate that they are flexible but able to maintain a workable and orderly structure that promotes productivity.

All of these challenges are of course, also opportunities - so FM professionals will need plenty of new ideas and energy.


management

How is facilities management changing in the workplace?

There have been enormous changes in the past few years, in the way that people view their workplaces, and this, in turn, has led to significant shifts in the part played by facilities management. It's not just tech startups that feel the need to design a workplace that makes its users feel comfortable. Even major, traditional companies have recognised that there's a strong link between people feeling that their workplace gives them a sense of well-being and consequent rises in productivity.

Growth in project work and home working

With more and more people working on project-based assignments, workflows are often dictated by the demands of the project, and this can lead to occasional long hours for employees who are key to project delivery. An environment where these people feel relaxed yet can work professionally can make extra hours spent delivering a key project more acceptable.

Similarly, the growth in home working has made the formality of office life look increasingly constrained. With many employees spending a couple of days a week at home and the rest of the time in the office, it's become clear that a formal office environment is not necessary for productive work. That has led people to question whether it is necessary at all, and what function it is performing.

New types of facilities managers needed

In addition, when people do come into the office, they are looking for a more sociable environment and they don't wish to sit in rigidly separated structures. To achieve the balance between home working and office life, facilities have had to change and facilities managers have had to become far more customer-focused in order to provide the kind of workspaces that modern organisations demand.

The facilities industry needs to recruit a new type of manager who is capable of understanding these shifts in the working environment. Previously, the industry was seen by the public as concerned with lighting, heating and the most basic aspects of the workplace. That's changing, although the industry still has a long way to go to persuade new recruits to look at facilities management as a forward-looking and rewarding career that integrates many aspects of building design and functionality.

One way forward is to ensure that professional qualifications, including those offered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), are seen as part of the development path for those entering the industry. Facilities management is exceptionally well-placed to recruit a diverse workforce because it is one of the industries most likely to promote those from the shop floor - almost literally - those who perhaps started as cleaners or caretakers can work their way up to leading and influential positions, collecting relevant qualifications as they go.

As buildings change, so do the challenges of the facility, and environmental management is now seen as a key driver of workforce wellbeing in both new and old buildings. The facilities manager is taking an increasingly important role in building design and sustainability initiatives, and this should encourage new entrants who are interested in new technology and new ways to work.


Energy efficient

What should facilities managers know about energy audits?

Energy management systems are comprehensive frameworks for conserving and managing energy at every part of the supply chain. In the EU, a raft of legislation and energy efficiency audits are used to implement this process. It is likely, with Brexit, that in the UK we will tend towards the International Standards Organisation processes, in particular, ISO 50001. This is the international standard for the implementation and monitoring of energy management systems (EnMS).

If a facilities management function or business complies with ISO 50001, it also meets a host of other energy-saving regulations, such as mandatory carbon reporting.

However, until transition arrangements are clearer, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive will still be in force. And very much to the point for facilities managers, the EU Energy Performance of Buildings directive is currently making its way through the system.

It couldn’t really be more complicated, except that one thing is clear - the demand from government for more energy-efficient buildings and facilities is not going to go away. So energy audits are definitely here to stay.

Start with a self-audit
Although dozens of companies and consultancies offer energy audits, it can be a good idea for a company or organisation to self-audit before calling in the professionals. The results of the self-audit will give the company a much more informed basis for discussion with any potential energy auditor they may decide to employ.

The Department of Energy now issues a tool for companies to self-audit, under the less-than-snappy title of the Building Energy Asset Score. However, this is a useful tool, because it uses a national standard, produces a score, stores data and generates an evaluation of both the physical building envelope and the systems in it, including mechanical and electrical. It suggests cost-effective upgrades as well.

As of the end of March 2018, the tool also allows you to store energy audit data, once you have employed someone to carry out your energy audit, or carried it out yourself.

What happens during an energy audit?

The auditor will look at current energy usage in the facility and survey the building and its systems to assess those areas where energy could be saved. This can be a desk audit rather than a physical walk around. The auditor should be able to benchmark the facility against comparable buildings in the same region, taking into account the age of building, its construction materials and systems.

The auditor will then assess the building and provide a score. They should suggest ways to improve energy efficiency. If the building passes the standards for the relevant energy assessment process, the auditor will certificate the building.

Needless to say, Energy Auditors are very much in demand, and there is every sign that the demand for these professionals will continue to grow. Some facilities management jobs now reference a combination role of Energy Manager and Auditor. It’s a sign that the need to evidence energy efficiency will continue, whichever standard companies and organisations use, and whatever the final arrangements after Brexit.


Job Recruitment

How to be successful at a recruitment assessment centre

So you open an email about that facilities management job you really want, and - well, it’s good news and bad news. The good news is you’re through to the next round, so all that time spent on the application was worth it. The bad news is there’s an assessment centre.

However, an assessment centre needn’t be an ordeal, if you know what to expect and do some preparation. The great thing is that any work you do will be useful for all job assessments.

You can train for tests

Many assessment centre tests start by looking at your numerical, logical or abstracting reasoning. If you immediately think “I can’t do maths, this is hopeless,” you're defeating yourself before you get there. You can raise your scores on all of these tests considerably by practising. Thanks to the internet, there are dozens of sample papers and questions you can use. Also, a visit to your local bookshop will pay dividends - there are books on how to pass numeracy or verbal reasoning tests.

Treat the assessment as you would the interview

Don’t imagine you can dress more casually because this isn’t the interview. The interviewing team may well be around, and first impressions count. So get there on time, dress smartly, have the appropriate kit with you - calculator, biro, pencil, eraser. Try not to look nervous and be polite to the reception staff - they are sometimes asked for their impressions of candidates!

Understand the role of the assessment

Most organisations do not rank candidates by result, then choose the top ranking candidate for the job. In many cases, as long as you have performed reasonably in terms of the requirements for the role, that’s enough. Sometimes, people who ace the tests are ruled out because the recruiter feels they wouldn’t be sufficiently challenged in the role and should perhaps be applying for a job that would use their skills more intensively.

Some people are very verbal, others very numeric - the assessment is simply to help build up the picture of what your strengths and weaknesses are, not judge your ability to do percentages, for example.

Psychometric personality tests

These are the tests that candidates often feel most uncomfortable about, but there’s no reason to worry about them. Think of them as the “round peg, square hole” tests. The employer is trying to make sure that the sort of person they need is the sort of person you are. Otherwise, they run the risk of recruiting someone who doesn’t fit in, doesn’t enjoy the job and leaves soon after arriving. That’s an expensive mistake for the employer.

Psychometric tests are not about how nice you are, how successful you are, whether you are a people person, or any other qualities. It’s about whether your behaviour profile is likely to sit well with the job behaviour profile. Even in a specific field, such as facilities management, someone could take a test and the results could rule them out of one job but make them the preferred candidate for another role.

So practice the test skills you can improve on, and as for the personality test - don’t take it personally - it’s not a judgement on you.


Avatar speech bubble

How to network your way into a job with social media

It’s estimated that between 70% and 80% of jobs are never advertised. Instead, people use their networks to spread the word around people who may be interested in the vacancy. In the past, this made it very difficult to break into the world of work and people would say gloomily, “It's not what you know, it's who you know”.

These days, that's never been more true, but luckily there's now a much more even playing field. You can put the word out that you're looking for a job, raise your profile, tell people what interests you and what your skills are - all for free on social networks.

The important thing is to choose the appropriate social network for the level and type of job you want. A high level facilities management job is unlikely to be doing the rounds on Instagram. It's much more likely to be on LinkedIn. There's no harm putting your CV on Instagram because it's a no-cost option, but we all have a limited amount of time, so it's a good idea to focus your efforts where they are most likely to yield results.

Facebook is increasingly servicing an older population segment. Younger people are drawn towards networks such as Snapchat, where parents are less likely to be monitoring what they're doing. However, the comparatively older user base of Facebook can work in your favour if you're job hunting, because people in senior positions are often a bit older.

Facebook is also a great way to get onto someone's radar by liking any pages they've put up or posting pictures relevant to any interests you know they have. If you're aiming for a particular position or department, there's no harm in discovering that the person who heads up that department is an American football fan and using your page to express a keen interest in the same sport. Though obviously, you need to make sure you don't get caught out at interview!

It's also fine to tell the world that you're looking for a new post, what kind of job you're interested in and where you'd like to work. You may think that your Facebook network is primarily social, but remember that all of those people work and have their own family and social connections. And those connections have connections. The ripple effect from your post about looking for a job can be really far-reaching. Just make sure there are no pics on your Facebook pages that are going to put a potential employer off.

LinkedIn is, of course, the main professional network that people use to make contact with others in their line of business and build a professional profile. So this should be a focus for you if you're looking for a more senior job - for example, Head of Facilities Management. But again, be savvy about how you use LinkedIn. Recruiters and businesses that have jobs available are going to search on keywords. So put yourself in their shoes and decide what keywords you’d be searching on, then make sure that those keywords are in your career history, posts and an attached CV.

Spread your net as widely as possible and make it is really easy for people to find you, and you should be pleasantly surprised at the results.


How is smart technology changing the role of the FM manager?

From the Internet of Things to smarter buildings and innovative ways of using light, 2018 is going to be a year of constant technological change for facilities management. Let’s look at some of the main change drivers that are going to affect the FM manager this year.

Buildings that manage themselves

Previously, control over their environment was important to building users when they were working or at leisure. They wanted to be able to control the temperature, the humidity, the lighting and the amount of air being delivered.

Now, building users expect this to be done for them, by an intelligent system that monitors and maintains the environment without their involvement. At the same time as expecting the system to anticipate their needs and wishes, they also want it to save energy and choose the most economical way of managing their surroundings. The Facilities Manager is expected to deliver this system, and ensure that it works flawlessly all the time, no matter what changes occur in the external environment - be it snow or a heatwave.

Smart buildings keep people safer and even manage hot desks

There are also moves to fully integrate security and people management into smart building systems. If every member of staff or visitor is issued with a smart tag, and the system knows where they are meant to be, it’s a relatively simple matter to issue an alert if they move to an area they shouldn’t be in.

The Facilities Manager is the person who will need to ensure that the system is working appropriately and that its data is correct and up to date. Already, security systems can track movements, and this technology has the potential to increase staff safety. In a fire or other emergency, you’d be able to locate anyone trapped in the building because their tag would pinpoint their location on the floor plan.

However, can intelligent buildings sort out the really important problems, such as the squabbles over who gets the hot desks?

They can certainly simplify this kind of facilities management problem, by identifying the location of available hot desks and allowing remote booking via the internet or a mobile app. So an organisation with several buildings can feed information about vacant hot desks to a central point, display it to staff and ensure that everyone isn’t looking for space at the same time in the same building.

For Wi-Fi, think Li-Fi

LED light systems can send data at the speed of light - orders of magnitude faster than our current WiFi systems that transmit using radio waves. Surprisingly,, data transmission via Li-Fi can be incorporated into existing LED systems - the frequencies used mean that the human eye can’t pick up the light changes. When used as semiconductors, the LEDs can switch on or off up to - wait for it - a million times a second. What’s more, Li-Fi is more secure - the signal can’t be picked up by someone outside the building. So this is a technology that FM managers are going to be expected to know about in the future.

We expect to see many more developments in these technologies during the next year, and 2018 is going to be an exciting time to be a Facilities Manager.