The FM industry under the spotlight – leading a workplace revolution

3 min read

The role of the facilities manager is evolving. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the workplace experience for companies in all industries – finance, retail and tech among them. As office operators, we have been constantly adapting to our clients’ needs, using available technologies and industry specific knowledge to provide a great work environment for staff across the world.

Now, facilities managers have the opportunity to lead, defining the workplace experience of the future and supporting newly emerging ways of working.

While we have seen companies discussing their welcome experience following lockdowns, rethinking office configurations and building operations, the future of FM goes beyond that. Wherever your employees are located, they need access to a suitable work environment, and that means office operators have to rethink and evolve their role as an industry.

Workplace at home – leave it to the operator

The role of the corporate office will change in the medium-term. As clients give their employees options to make them feel safe working at all times, we are looking at staff working from home more often, at least for a while.

The role of the facilities manager will expand to ensure that employees have an adequate environment for working at home, and feeling comfortable and safe to do so. The facilities manager will have to recreate the specific company culture wherever employees choose to work.

For many, the workplace is no longer a set location with a fixed address, but simply the surroundings and environment where employees get the job done.  Now that businesses have rapidly accelerated their remote working policies, workplace managers will want to ensure that their clients can retain their company culture and workplace experience no matter where their employees choose to work. That means creating a bridge to the office, in terms of social events or access to office equipment.

Making staff feeling comfortable might seem obvious, with ergonomic seats, desks and monitors. But the indoor air quality also matters, as well as design elements that help improve mental health and wellbeing. Operators must devise plans for homeworking assessments and help clients deliver the best environment.

Clients might also reconsider how to use working from home as recruitment support – only if done well. In the past, corporate office culture has helped attract the right talent, as one of the selling points in many sectors. Now, operators can work with clients in shaping the ‘work from home’ package to attract potential recruits.

Leading the office transformation

Longer-term, facilities managers have to understand new work patterns in different industries. FM providers are not just the operators of a building anymore, we are the workplace experience managers, creating work cultures and environments both in the office as well as remotely.

For existing and new corporate offices, managing risk and people flow can help clients get back to business safely. FM operators will have to take the lead in reoccupation and capacity assessment, helping an easy return to work with as little disruption as possible.

As leaders of the workplace transformation, FM providers can leverage technology to capture key data on building performance. This can help us ensure social distancing rules can be safely followed while office utilisation is maximised. Gathering data from offices and analysing it by sector and by industry, can give us invaluable insight into specific working patterns, helping us review operations plans and deliver the best possible workplace experience.

Digital technology will support workplace recovery, and FM providers have the opportunity to lead clients in this transformation journey. Not only can we help clients adapt their workplace strategies to the current crisis, but we can make them more resilient to future ones.

Finally, we’ll still be in charge of building operations, focusing on managing food service and coffee points, cleaning and waste – but our success in reshaping our client service offer can make or break the office return in all industries.

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the world of work. With it, FM operators can lead their clients in offering a new workplace experience – both in the office and at home, helping their employees feel safe and comfortable.

By leveraging technology, facilities managers can transform office spaces, adapting to new work patterns emerging from the current crisis. Looking to the future, the FM industry as a whole can lead the workplace management revolution, using data insights to ensure the safety of employees while maximising office space use.