The facilities managers role has never been so critical as it is in today’s organisations; with more emphasis on sustainability and more focus on workforce specific sustainability. The traditional focus on energy, carbon reduction and costs and service delivery optimisation from packaging and food waste initiatives to waste, recycling and reuse, has been expanded to include human ergonomics and workplace wellbeing. The latter is high on the sustainability agenda as a way of ensuring that recruitment and retention is optimised and that staff work efficiently and effectively in new work environments.
All this has been accentuated with the fast change in work environments brought forward by the impact of COVID. FMs and their team’s roles are becoming ever more important – ranging from the communication of new processes through to space planning and ensuring safe work practices are aligned to workforce platforms which continue to change. Key to this is engagement with the workforce as changes develop which are inclusive enough to ensure the wider workforce feels it is a part of the working team and can establish a good workplace inclusive culture.
The facilities team plays a vital role in this changing set of requirements, ensuring that clear communication is given and that employees are kept involved to help achieve their buy in. These requirements should be aligned to the facilities manager’s current roles by continuing to review system lifecycles, enhance and optimise general estate’s sustainability by reducing energy consumption and therefore carbon emissions. This role is in alignment to many businesses aims of working towards Carbon Neutrality while looking at cradle to grave scenarios for systems and new builds.
But we must not forget that sustainability is a vast topic and we have to consider the 3 Ps – People, Planet and Property or more traditionally society, the environment and economic factors. All three areas need to be addressed to create a good business sustainability strategy. One which fosters core credibility and inclusion across an organisation and out into the communities in which our organisations are based. FM teams can work in tandem with procurement to better enhance the social value aspects of our integrated FM and project contracts by ensuring that there is clear direction and inclusion at a local level for job opportunities, apprenticeships, materials and securement of local community engagement. At a business level, whether in house or outsourced our FM teams are well positioned to assist and lead on sustainability, across our organisations and out into our communities.
Although sustainability is most often thought of with reference to our impact on the planet, the concept is comprised of three pillars: economic, environmental and social. I believe every business should have actions related to each pillar embedded in its strategy to ensure long term success, and as we move towards wellbeing centred workspaces, this has never been more important.
The pandemic has had a personal impact on every one of us, with wellbeing, mental health and productivity being impacted for many. Employees are at the heart of service businesses, with sustainable employment a top priority, and NJC is proud to be a Recognised Service Provider working with the Living Wage Foundation and to promote the real Living Wage. Supporting our colleagues individually, through regular catch-ups, training and an external Employee Assistance Programme is vital. We have found that taking formal opportunities, such as participation in the Investors in People Wellbeing Working Group, has helped us to examine our approach, exchange ideas with other organisations and develop the next steps for NJC.
COVID-secure workplaces are likely to be with us for some time, requiring the correct procedures and processes to ensure the safety of our cleaners and everyone using our customer’s buildings. We believe the New Normal will bring challenges, including the increased costs of additional cleaning and altered property strategies focusing on the value of teamwork, development and social cohesion. These may require support service partners to do things differently.
Wider community support comes from using our skills, expertise and knowledge to assist community groups and individuals to improve theirs. We support specific local charities and other organisations through donations of cleaning materials and other resources, and our colleagues have inspired us through donating their time to help with cleaning, as well as fund raising initiatives.
The sustainable use of resources has long been an FM industry driver and the advent of compulsory reporting and science based targeting is creating the environment for structured, continuous improvement. Whilst continued legislation will inevitably force behavioural change, those organisations that are agile to the opportunities of early adoption will reap significant benefits and the pandemic may well have accelerated this change process. The office contains a vast range of resources from the building fabric, to the fittings and fixtures, and the consumable items used on a daily basis, such as paper, food, drinks and cleaning materials. Our decision making should challenge ‘why’ each item is needed, to design out waste and pollutants entirely and retain the maximum value from resources for as long as possible. We need to create more efficient, resilient spaces which contribute to the long-term sustainability of the business, the wider economy, and the wellbeing of occupants.
At NJC our responsibilities to our people, the planet and the communities we serve are our top priorities in our sustainable business model. We have found that external assessments, such as those carried out by EcoVadis, help us to drive continuous improvement and develop our business processes, particularly when difficult times mean dealing successfully with large numbers of often competing priorities.