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!


Business statistics bar graph

What's driving growth in the FM industry

There are four big trends currently driving growth in the facilities management market worldwide. They are providing strong growth and all of them seem set to continue into the 2020s, affecting jobs and recruitment. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Increasing FM integration and demand for outsourced services
In the Asia Pacific region, there is a rapid increase in the demand for outsourced services. At the same time, there’s a worldwide growth in demand for integrated provision. How are these two things linked?

The link is that clients see them both as twin solutions which will allow them to bundle up all their facilities tasks, and pass them to a provider who will provide an integrated, end-to-end solution, replacing a hotchpotch of maintenance contracts, in-house staff and other arrangements. As huge markets such as China open up to the possible efficiency savings of integrated and outsourced facilities supervision, this market will see significant growth.

2. Growing demand for services that assist corporate aims
These value-added services involve the provider having an in-depth knowledge of what the business is trying to achieve, and understanding how they can help. For example, this might be in the area of environmental issues, where a client might wish to achieve a more sustainable workplace through the use of the latest energy management technologies.

Similarly, a facilities manager might be able to bring about significant economies through more efficient use of energy, space, and infrastructure, thus increasing shareholder value. Again, an active provider could be engaged in helping a company to show its staff and customers that they are good employers, by promoting a “well building” approach and showing an active interest in issues such as indoor air quality.

3. International trade
Despite some problems in trade relations, the number of contracts is growing globally. Integrated management of facilities has broad international appeal because it can deliver on some universal business requirements. These are the need to cut costs, the desire to provide great workspaces to help recruitment of talented staff, and a feeling across the world that simpler, more standardised services are easier to manage and more likely to deliver.

As companies aggregate their regional and national operations, they are seeking contracts that can deliver integrated management of facilities to wider geographic areas and business sectors.

4. Increasing economic pressures on companies
Disruption from the internet, increased regulation and greater competition, are all putting pressures on companies to cut costs, and find partners to deliver key services at more economical rates.

All companies want to protect their current facility assets, but many are seeking a partner to take over the whole of the FM function, leaving the company free to concentrate on its core business. Companies are well aware that if they don’t deliver shareholder value, they could be targets for takeover, and so they are intent on divesting non-core activities.

Increased regulation concerning environmental, employment and health and safety issues means that it now makes sense to hand the whole facilities management function over to specialised companies.

It’s not surprising then, that many facilities management jobs now include a compliance component, which requires FM managers to have an up to date understanding of all current legislation and guidance.


problem

5 key FM issues for managers to know in 2018

Here are some of the key issues that our industry needs to engage within 2018.

1. The industry needs to think the unthinkable 
Scenario planning is a key activity for modern FM managers, and this may include thinking the unthinkable, such as: suppose there are no offices in the future? As unlikely as this may be, it can get people thinking radically about how building use may change in the future. After all, if someone had said 20 years ago that High Street shops would struggle to survive in the future, no one would have believed them.

The radical change in the pattern of building occupation and use can happen more quickly than we like to imagine, and can catch managers unaware if they’re not thinking in radical “what if” terms.

2. Get fresh talent to join the profession
Young graduates don’t seem to be aware of facilities management as a profession, even though many have exactly the mix of analytic and pragmatic skills that can ensure success in these jobs. As discussed previously, we need to think about future patterns of work and leisure. The recruitment of recent graduates means a fresh supply of ideas and the presence of people who will challenge the status quo. This is an interesting, varied industry, but to survive, it will have to take that message to the pool of young achievers and get them interested in joining.

3. Engage with people in the business
It’s important to find the areas in which facilities management is helping deliver the company’s mission and to use internal communications, newsletters, blogs and web pages to make sure people know about them. For example, nearly every business is keen to show that it’s shrinking its carbon footprint. The facilities function can almost certainly help them punch above their weight in this respect because it’s leading the way in reducing energy use. So make sure the company knows this.

4. Connect with senior executives
Industry professionals should be trying to secure a place in the discussion about where the company is headed - in terms of workforce numbers, locations, type of working environments and so on. One way to do this is a positive and thoughtful response to a blog or article written by the CEO, or other senior executives. It will make them aware that their facilities managers have ideas - and can make a quality contribution to future planning for the business, including discussions about cost reduction.

5. Understand changed work arrangements
Facilities professionals need to adapt itself to the changing nature of work. First of all, we had occasional home working, then full-blown hot desking. Now we have hotelling - where office space is provided short term to temporary workers on a project or is even let out temporarily to another company, if the building operator has spare capacity. Suddenly, the facilities management function is running reservation systems for spare desks, or reconfiguring whole floors of accommodation at short notice.

The pace of change is very unlikely to slow - so facilities professionals have to be aware of these issues, and develop creative but robust responses to them.


Security guard

How Facilities managers can keep their estates more secure

Facilities management (FM) is in danger of turning into a branch of the crime-fighting profession, as the number of crimes rises, with both buildings and land being increasingly targeted. This is no longer a threat that can be addressed in a piecemeal way - beefing up the locks here, adding CCTV there. It needs a strategic response.

Security roles need to be identified 

The strategic security plan needs to address the entire estate, and involve the whole organisation, including senior management. Roles and responsibilities will need to be clarified, and a rapid escalation path for security issues must be identified. A security assessment of all the premises and land in the estate will enable the FM professional to rank those where the threat is greatest and prioritise remediation action if their security isn’t strong enough.

That personnel who are identified as having specific safeguarding and security responsibilities will need training and must have the new duties added to their job descriptions so that no one is in any doubt about their responsibility. This has the benefit that if recruitment needs to take place, the jobs described will have the security role already embedded within them.

Equally, security action must only be taken by those qualified to do so - otherwise, staff may carry out potentially disastrous steps such as padlocking fire exits.

Simple measures can be surprisingly effective

Some of the most effective measures are also the simplest - for example, ensuring that doors are properly closed. Electronic door closers and push button openers can make a significant difference, without costing a great deal. Similarly, keypad access control is effective because the entry codes can be changed frequently at no cost.

However, for a determined intruder, keypad access is not much of a deterrent - they will look at the strength of the physical access system and determine how easy it will be to break it. Many keypad systems are not designed to prevent attempts at physical entry, only to ensure that certain groups of people can pass through and others cannot. So don’t use a keypad system when what you really need is protective security.

Is smart access the answer?

There are now access systems that use facial recognition, smartphone codes, swipe cards, fingerprints and other biometrics. These systems can be integrated with alarm and CCTV systems and used to log data such as entry and exit times. The weakness of these systems is the biometric aspect. In the US, a group of hackers have hacked a facial recognition system by identifying employees, then using their images from Facebook to fool the recognition system. Meanwhile, the theft of vehicles with “smart” keys, by gangs equipped with scanners, is rising hugely.

It’s no surprise then, that the old standby, the physical lock, is enjoying something of a resurgence - but in a smarter form. Smart locks can combine the best of the physical and digital worlds, especially now we have the Internet of Things. They can store and transmit data about when they were activated, and by whom. And of course, their key can be changed immediately, without any costs.

In the battle against smarter thieves, smarter locks are certainly helping - as are smarter and more security conscious FM managers.


cool office

Why more employers are investing in 'cool' offices

cool officeIf you think “cool” offices are confined to slightly off the wall startups in the trendier bits of London and Manchester, think again. A study reported in the Facilities Management Journal found that a third of employers had added a “cool” element to their workplaces, in order to increase productivity and bolster staff morale.

Cycle storage, showers, bean bags and quiet spaces are all being added, in an attempt to improve employee wellbeing. As contented staff are not combing LinkedIn for a new position every Monday morning, there are plenty of benefits for the employer.

In fact, the study also revealed that 20% of workers have left a job because they didn’t like the surroundings they had to work in. Given the expense of recruiting staff, employers see the cost-benefit of any investment that will boost staff retention. Another bonus is that these kinds of facilities can be used to attract new talent into the organisation.

More than bike racks and bean bags

Facilities managers now need to be able to provide a wide range of cool features when they furnish workspaces, with the main emphasis very much on health and wellbeing. An impressive 40% of employers believe that reducing stress and improving employee well-being pays off with increased productivity and better attendance.

So lunchtime yoga and fitness sessions, gyms, games rooms, and even indoor play equipment such as slides, are all now becoming more common. One of the developments that are interesting for facilities management professionals is to see the way in which physical furnishings, such as sofas and relaxation pods, are part of an integrated approach to wellbeing that may also include lunchtime talks or bringing pets to work. One can’t help wondering whether some staff may not find the office manager’s pet tarantula a little less than relaxing, however.

What’s holding back this movement?

Those employers who aren’t intending to give their staff any new wellbeing facilities are not necessarily present day Scrooges. Although 17% think that the cool office trend is a fad that will pass, for nearly half, the overwhelming problem is lack of space. Where this rules out space-hungry features such as quiet rooms and relaxation pods, employers are still able to offer employees many of the facilities they now want. For example, where there isn’t enough room for a gym and shower, employers are offering discounts on local gyms and healthy eating restaurants. They’re arranging for motivational speakers to come in during the lunch hour or giving staff free access to fitness classes and local swimming pools.

One thing is certain - the trend for remote working, with employees paying only occasional visits to the office, will increase the pressure on facilities management companies to provide an environment that is welcoming and that aids productivity. The office will need to justify its cost, by providing more than a desk, a PC and a phone. The extra perks will change over time, but the days of lateral desking in tones of beige, and a dingy coffee area may have gone - much to the relief of many staff.


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.


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.


Blog - Catch 22

5 reasons to attend a careers fair

It can be pretty daunting to start looking around at the world of work when you're finishing school or even college. There is such a range of employers, courses apprenticeships and other options, it's difficult to know where to begin. A careers fair is a great way of doing some research quickly, because lots of different companies and providers will be gathered together in one place and you'll get the chance to ask questions. Here are the top five benefits you'll get from going to a careers fair.

1. Get the inside info

A careers fair is a great way to find out about jobs and apprenticeship opportunities that haven't even been advertised yet. If you make a good impression, talking to the employer on the stand is a great way to get remembered by them, if you decide to apply. Some organisations will even make sure that there are current trainees or apprentices on hand to give you a real insight into what it's like to work there.

2. Great networking opportunities

Just letting people know that you're interested and giving them your details can have results. Equally important is to collect names as you go around the hall talking to people. If you do decide later that you want to apply to a company, you have a named person as your contact.

3. There’s nothing like meeting people face-to-face

It's amazing how you can get the wrong impression about an organisation or company, despite all their advertising and PR. You may find that a potential employer you were seriously considering is much too formal for you - if you're an informal kind of person, a clue would be that every single person on the stand is wearing a full business suit. The opposite can happen too. A company or a career that you might not have been considering actually looks a lot more interesting when you get the opportunity to take a look at what really happens. Facilities management is a good example, as people often don't really understand what it is, until they get talking to someone doing it.

Sometimes, you can just tell that a company culture is going to suit you - it just feels right. Equally, you can also sometimes tell that you are never going to fit into a certain type of organisation.

4. More information, more quickly than you get on the internet

Web pages and social media entries don't give a huge amount of information and a lot of the information they do give is very general. You can get exactly the information you want by talking to an employer at a career fair.

5. You can flatter them into giving you lots of useful advice

Don't be afraid to ask the experts on the stand to give you advice - normally they will be flattered to be asked and very willing to help out. So if you're not sure if, say, facilities management is for you, it's fine to say, “If you were me, is this something you would consider?” This kind of advice is hard to get anywhere else, so it’s another reason why a careers fair is a must if you’re starting to look at your career and apprenticeship options.