How has COVID affected facilities management?

The pandemic has created many challenges in the facilities management industry – not least the sudden lack of facilities to manage as workplaces closed during lockdown. Many FM departments found themselves supplying advice and equipment to home workers instead of their usual routine.

As workplaces reopened, the rush was on to make them COVID-safe, with FM being tasked with supplying screens, hand-sanitising stations, and more. 

Cleaning was also affected. Reopening dusty locked workplaces called for an initial deep-cleaning followed by stringent regular cleaning routines to protect returning staff from COVID.

Facilities maintenance costs are likely to remain high as buildings fully reopen. As well as the increased cleaning protocols, visitor and staff behaviour will need closer monitoring, and the hand-cleansing stations will also need upkeep.

However, office space demand is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels, which means prices for facilities maintenance and cleaning in the new normal will be difficult to predict. Reduced staff availability after Brexit adds another imponderable factor to the mix.

Prices for major maintenance works are more likely to rise, as productivity will fall while facilities managers work to implement the UK Construction Leadership Council’s new Site Operating Procedures.

Most organisations already have a short-term plan that takes these guidelines into account, but longer-term questions remain, such as the impact on activity-based working and open spaces. Financial impact, operational follow-up and personnel policy will all feed into these decisions, and we may see a push for facilities managers to be more involved in them.

Facilities managers will need to think about next steps such as the changes in mobility and office layout, and reworking performance management agreements and contracts with suppliers. Best-value procurement, which focuses on getting the best value at the lowest price, is likely to shift to getting the most flexibility and sustainability at the lowest price. This shift from speed to quality will mean contracts focus more on performance and service level agreements (SLAs), with increased emphasis on quality-focused KPIs.

This crisis presents an opportunity for facilities managers to become more involved at the highest levels of the business.

Posted by: Cavendish Search and Selection