This pandemic will undoubtedly have a long lasting and transformative affect on the way that many of us view work and consider the importance of our physical proximity to our organisation going forward.
Before writing anything of substance though this month I must take a moment to thank every member of the FM family throughout the UK that has delivered professional, critical and unwavering support to our nation in a time of national crisis.
As the return to the office gathers pace, fuelled by central Governments keenness to kick start the economy, many organisations are finding that unlocking lockdown and reinvigorating the office is infinitely more difficult than dispersing office-based staff to their homes in the first place.
Many individuals will point to the fact that they have been incredibly efficient at home with the recent findings from the Leesman home working survey supporting this notion with over 80 per cent of respondents stating that the home environment enables them to work productively. In addition over 70 per cent of respondents confirmed that working from home enables them to have a better work/life balance.
Why then, the need to return at all? Teams have become comfortable at home, feel productive at home and have a better work life balance at home… Surely we can just stay like this.
Organisations, however, are more than just a collective of individuals. Businesses are successful because they build culture, they blend skills, they have purpose and they track, manage and deliver on their objectives. The Leesman report highlighted the ‘We versus Me’ organisational risk that could result from this great home working experiment. In the facilities management sector the focus on ‘me’ could be highly damaging if we allowed the needs of the individual to become more prevalent than the needs of the business.
The ‘Me’ in all of us would love to lock in the limited commuting, the greater flexibility, the exercise regimes and the relative safety of remaining at home.
The ‘We’ in our business context, however, needs collective effort, requires the balancing of our personal needs with those operational objectives and it will mean the occasional personal sacrifice.
The way in which we work will undoubtedly change with more flexibility, more agility and therefore more resilience being locked into all our plans in the future, but people still need to come together.
The financial imperative to get people back in to the office is not unique to our sector, having teams continually dispersed will ultimately cause a drift from the values and purpose of any business and then the very essence of what makes an organisation successful can begin to unravel.
Leaders of businesses need to be visible and demonstrate the values and behaviours they support and lead by example. The management teams at all levels must work to drive the benefits of this new-found flexibility for the absolute good of the organisation, whilst harnessing all the strengths and skills of the individuals.
The wider imperative in our sector, however, is for all of us that have enjoyed the relative safety of our homes over the last four months to get out to the teams and reconnect on a human level with all of those thousands of individuals who have continued to deliver on the ground every single day.
Facilities management is very much a ‘We’ business with teams working closely with their customers, suppliers and communities to deliver excellent and often critical services across every sector of our economy. Those of us that have worked from home, have only been able to be afforded that benefit because of the tireless work that is being delivered on the ground by our operational teams.
Returning to the office will no doubt create anxiety for some and until September at least some very real practical implications for many families or those that have vulnerable relatives, so this in no way underestimates those challenges, but we have to move forward.
One of the overriding legacies of this pandemic will be that we better appreciate the contribution that our front-line workers in FM and across all key sectors deliver. There will be no legacy to celebrate if the ‘Me ‘in all of us wins through and we cocoon ourselves at home whilst the ‘We’ in our organisations remains the preserve of our hard-working operational teams throughout the country.