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Across the divide

Ross McCaw, Founder and CEO of OurPeople, shares his best communications practices to keep work processes moving at a time of disconnect and unpredictability

The success of the UK vaccine programme means that workers are expected to return to offices faster than originally thought, and the numbers of those expected to be making the transition back to traditional working environments is much higher than originally anticipated – jumping from 60 per cent to 80 per cent of workers.

With the public being encouraged and feeling confident enough to return to these shared spaces, facilities teams, already laden with additional Coronavirus related duties, will face the challenge of ensuring they remain connected in unpredictable circumstances, while also focusing on the safety and cleanliness of office buildings.

At this time, it’s crucial all staff have the correct and relevant information they need to help mitigate unnecessary risk. As shared spaces fluctuate in levels of busyness, team members will need to know in real time, which tasks need doing, which have been done and what might need doing again the following day (and which do not). Added pressure will also come from a workforce that consists of a variation of deskless and remote employees, along with contractors.

The new office landscape will remain unpredictable and seemingly disjointed for some time, with different staff working different hours in alternative ways. But the integration of both communication systems, and regular in-person meetings and catch-ups can be a vital way to ensure that key information, updates and documents are transferred to the right people.

Effective communication with, and within, facilities management teams is a complicated thing to achieve and often falls to managers, whether they’re deskless or remote. However, now more than ever, implementing effective communications measures will ensure teams can manage workflows more effectively and resolve issues quickly and efficiently.


Another reason communications systems matter more now than ever before in the UK is the trend we’ve seen at OurPeople in the shift towards hybrid models of working – a blend of both in person and digital working, with different days or environments allocated to different tasks.

This blended work model includes a mix of employees in office, at home and deskless working, and is being widely adopted across many industries. However, within facilities management, this model will only work for some employees as others will be needed on the ground. As a result, this model carries the risk of alienating workers from line managers and colleagues, due to a lack of in-person connection.

Regular meetings (with all the applicable precautions in place like masks and social distancing) are crucial to keep teams updated with correct and up-to-date information about what protocols have been put in place, and how the business and buildings are running to protect staff. Most importantly perhaps, regular in-person meetings keep workers motivated. Teams are made up of more than just the tasks they perform and human connection is vital if you want to keep your team working at their best.


Sometimes, one-to-one feedback sessions can be just as valuable, or even more valuable than regular meetings. In these circumstances, people may feel more comfortable discussing more personal views or concerns, often getting right to the heart of the matter.

These kinds of meetings ensure workers are happy, engaged and comfortable with key information being pushed out. This time also enables facilities managers to check up on how staff are doing and feeling about their return to work, and whether any additional measures need to be put in place, listening to both their team member’s feedback and the constantly updated government advice.

At a time when safety and health is at the top of our minds, taking time to ensure protocols work for every member of the team is a valuable investment, and pays off in the long run by revealing key learnings, which might not have happened if time wasn’t taken to hear every voice on the team.

The ease for managers to act on relevant suggestions or concerns can, in turn, have a great effect on staff, not only ensuring they feel safe and protected from the virus, but also that they have a sense of belonging and worth in the workplace. Ensuring employees are happy and engaged can really make a difference to their performance. Alongside this, increased positive engagement with staff will also allow them to feel more protected, and less anxious, about returning to work, encouraging more back into the office.

Facilities managers should keep consistent, instant and transparent connections with all employees regarding their response to the pandemic and how they are working against the ongoing threat.


Communication platforms should also be implemented to assist in the safe return to work, ensuring staff have access to the right information for them, when and where they might need it. This can be a great way for FMs to ensure they are constantly informing staff, outside of regularly scheduled meetings, on the safety measures they have put in place and any changes required by updated government guidance.

Because of the nature of the FM sector, with such a variety of office based and front-line workers, FMs must take extra steps to actively engage staff. In this way they can ensure there is transparency in the way the business is run, and that staff are aware of the measures put in place to protect them, so they can act upon important information to create a safer environment for all involved.

About Sarah OBeirne

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