As we start to re-enter the workplace, Michael Rooney, Programme Director shares his views with FMJ Magazine on the challenges remote working for the short term will become – more complex and fluid.
In late April, Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays Bank declared that offices could be a ‘thing of the past’ and did not see the need to bring 7000 people back into an office post pandemic. Many others believe that the office is far from dead. In fact, we know that offices encourage collaboration, innovation, mentoring and team building – all things remote working struggles to replicate. A recent JLL survey found that 58% of office workers missed the office, with younger cohorts – those 35 and under – showing an even stronger desire to return (65%).
But what all parties agree on is that the ‘great pause’ has been the catalyst for change in our working patterns. For the Facilities Manager this rapid evolution of the ‘next normal’ offers the expansion of responsibility to a virtual estate requiring support functions not just into the home, but ultimately wherever the client can work.
Social distancing rules mean the previous occupancy volumes cannot be supported. Hot desking is not a short-term option without a regimented cleaning routine that can guarantee the space is safe for each user. Ingress and egress require levels of controls akin to high-security military and medical facilities, rather than the everyday offices, factories or shops.
The transmission route for Covid-19 exacerbates the need to keep our personal hygiene at an all-time high, and the same goes for shared surfaces. Most soft services providers offer deep cleaning support, leveraging PPE provisions for their workforce and introducing hydrostatic cleaners. But programming and assuring the effectiveness of the activity poses new challenges that a simple attendance sheet will not fulfil.
Health and wellness
Not a common KPI in the performance metrics but should be considered one of the changes here to stay. The air quality measures that were innovative and still new at the end of last year, are emerging as the must-have metrics as we move through the easing period, not just in the UK but across the globe.
An interesting challenge when a large portion of corporate building users are still working from home. Energy studies have shown large scale reductions in electricity usage (10% on average) and the mix of generation input changes dramatically (Solar, wind, non-coal generation). But when the gross reduction in related GDP activity is considered, energy consumption associated with ‘work’ increases.
The legislative requirements placed on the FM are large and far reaching, from engineered systems to water, waste, cleanliness the material condition of the fabric of the building to the behaviours of occupiers.
With these five considerations, the FM needs to prevent them from becoming issues for the service provider, client and occupier. So how to manage all of this and reimagine the new workplace? Like all transformations, the FM needs reliable data. Using sensor information through analytic platforms can provide information on space availability, data registered cleaning routines, air quality, asset, water and travel status. And the occupier needs this data to decide on home or office, what time of day to use the corporate space, or something more flexible. If all parties have the right data, then quality prediction is possible and new working patterns can be established.
The simple solution may seem out of reach as few buildings appear ready to operate this way. However, Covid-19 is likely to drive the need for smarter buildings that can provide the answer for FMs, occupiers and owners alike. So now more than ever the FM’s future looks bright. With virtual workplaces expanding and flexible work patterns increasing, the FM has a whole new set of challenges and solutions they should relish.
Author Michael Rooney – Programme Director, JLL IFM/Integral