It’s been a long six months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, which is possibly the biggest threat to the global economy, Facilities Management and Workplace sector this year. On the 13th March 2020, the government announced a national lockdown which saw only key workers such as NHS workers, FM professionals who manage critical environments, workers in supermarkets and delivery drivers allowed to work.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the FM sector step up to support all of our critical environments from hospitals to COVID-19 testing centres across the UK. But as the FM sector supports more than just critical environments on a day to day basis, FM service providers and teams will be searching for new ways to provide Facilities Management services to the market.
The pandemic will be a catalyst for change within the FM and Workplace sector; and the behaviour of office, retail and public buildings. Over the coming months, as lockdown is slowly eased, organisations will focus more on effective utilisation of their estates and how to make their buildings work harder, for example, creating space to lease. We may see that in the post-COVID-19 world with more focus on working from home that there may not be a demand for this.
What could this possibly look like in the coming months or years?
As lockdown is slowly eased, and employees return to work, we could see that businesses encourage their employees to resume working but with split working hours conducted from the office/building and from home where possible. This working pattern would result in the capacity of estates and buildings being dramatically reduced over the coming months and possibly permanently.
The workplace environment
So far in the retail sector, we have seen hand sanitiser dispensers installed in various locations within buildings, plastic screens around contact points, two-metre markings laid out on the floor and implementation of wearing masks.
In the office and workplace environment, there will be a need to reduce contact with people and objects, to reduce transmission of the virus, just as there is within the retail sector. We may see similar actions implemented across the board. Desks may be distanced, reduced number of attendees in meeting rooms, no visitors permitted in buildings.
There may be one way systems implemented to reduce the build-up of crowds and queues in corridors and doorways within the building. Meet and greets, which have previously been very personal contact points for visitors, will see significant changes where they stand further back from the counter and are no longer offered a drink while waiting for their host.
We have also seen departments such as payroll and treasury, which may have been thought never to be able to work from home previously, successfully working from home with the help of great implementation of IT infrastructures.
Health and Safety, Hygiene, and Cleaning
Let’s not forget elements such as health and safety and cleaning programmes across the sector. In a post-COVID-19 world, there will be a more heightened urgency and priority on cleaning programmes and the effectiveness of products used.
For example, we could see cleaning increase from two times a day to every two hours in an eight hour working day that’s four times a day and even more for 24-hour buildings and sites. Employees could be required to clean down their desk three times a day; toilets may only be able to accommodate 1-2 individuals at a time.
In canteens, there may be requirements to use only disposable cutlery to avoid any transmission of the virus. Cleaning of kitchen and canteen areas will be increasing, and reduction in the number of people who can be seated in this area.
Technology is already a significant part within the FM and Workplace environment and the services provided by FM service providers, but how will this change in the coming months?
Changes to the way meeting rooms are formatted, will there be less seating? More virtual interaction, i.e. web cameras to capture the whole room, gesture-controlled screens? There are many elements of technology to be implemented in the work environment to assist with social distancing and reduction of contact with objects and people.
There may be the implementation of technologies and equipment which detect the thermal temperature of an individual as they enter buildings, and new contactless systems implemented to allow workers to enter the building or different floors within the building without fingerprints etc.
New roles in the FM sector
We may see an increase in various job roles within the Facilities Management and Workplace sector. These roles will be more focused around health and safety, hygiene, business continuity and risk concerning health and safety. So what could these job titles post-Covid-19 look like:
- Hygiene manager
- Business continuity manager
- Home workplace assessor
- Hygiene assessor
- Health and safety risk assessor
- Social distancing marshall
Overall it’s no secret that the FM and Workplace sector will see significant changes over the coming months and years to be able to stay ahead of such threats in the future to ensure the health and safety of employees and the employees of their clients.
COVID-19 will provide the FM and Workplace Management sector with opportunities to work differently, deploy new technologies and find new ways to use resources in better and more efficient ways.