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Meeting the New Reality: how technology can help

Everyone deserves to feel safe at work says Paul Bullard Business Strategy Director at FSI who recently took part in a webinar with FMJ on how the latest digital solutions can help keep organisations running safely and efficiently

With the outbreak of COVID-19 and lockdown rules slowly starting to ease, the nation’s workforce is filtering back somewhat unenthused to their desks. Preparing for this new reality involves many new layouts, processes and new ways of working, much of which is being pioneered by the government, but there are still many questions that remain unanswered.

Only two things are certain for facilities managers in this current climate: they will need to be reactive at the drop of any new announcements and have to undertake comprehensive strategy planning in order to make this agility possible.

While the crisis has begun to subside in terms of numbers, it’s unclear how far out of the woods we are at this point. It’s for this reason that the government is considering localised lockdowns should there be spikes in the future. For facilities managers, this could look chaotic without a fully operating CAFM system that allows for reactive, yet carefully planned regime changes. A powerful regime manager allows you to swiftly generate full maintenance plans for a building’s entire asset register, linking each asset to their requirements to ensure work is completed only when necessary. Multiple regimes can be planned in advance to easily interchange them should new announcements come into play.

Outside of this, there are a number of key areas teams need to consider to ensure safe environments:

Risk Assessments And Cleaning

There are many aspects of a normal working day that need to be looked at from a newly-formed COVID-19 perspective. The entire journey of an occupant from the minute they check in, through to coffee breaks and the way meeting rooms are utilised throughout the day – each touchpoint needs a revised workflow in place that is properly managed and optimised by the facilities management teams and wider employee groups. This is not just in relation to how spaces are interacted with once the occupants are in, but also how they are booked, managed, cleaned and optimised for complete compliance and safety assurance.

For example, take something as simple as a communal coffee machine. A facilities management team may look to use a CAFM booking system so that employees can book out use of the machine in 5-minute slots, avoiding overcrowding and unnecessary contact. Cleaning schedules may look to be introduced so that machines are cleaned once an hour instead of one a day. What was once a simple asset now requires a unique set of tasks associated with it.

Other high traffic areas such as meeting rooms will also need to be reconfigured to ensure that cleaning takes place in between each gathering, and that surfaces which have been interacted with frequently are properly sanitised (such as phone systems, computers, pointers).

It’s also important to consider that cleaners are also occupants of the building, and as such their safety should be held as a priority too. Making sure they have optimised routes for minimal contact and have access to virtual task lists is a key step in creating a COVID-19 secure environment. Those with a full CAFM system in place, can look to incorporate QR codes located outside of key areas such as restrooms. This will allow even external contractors to access the most up-to-date task lists and reported issues without having to send a different cleaner at a later point in the day – once again reducing the amount of people that interact with a particular space.

The Importance of Audit Trails

Having a digital trail of data, and a full breakdown of the actions your team has taken to optimise building spaces is critical to the success of keeping colleagues safe and compliant. Not only will you have complete oversight of everything that’s been completed, online in real-time, you will be able to present this in an easily digestible format to any external bodies, should your company be subject to checks.

While specifics around inspections are yet to be confirmed or released by the government, it’s likely that they will be sporadic and without prior warning. Having your CAFM system do the legwork in regard to keeping track of schedules and notifying you of any discrepancies will provide an extra layer of assurance that maintenance tasks are being completed on time and reduce the need for physical inspections.

What does the new reality look like for facilities management?

Though there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for facilities management teams, a CAFM system is going to be a true blessing in delivering the agility, data insight and certainty needed to successfully deliver safe buildings and spaces. There is always going to be an air of hesitance amongst returning employees and having such robust maintenance plans in place will go a long way in providing the reassurance teams need. Though much of the responsibility falls with facilities management teams, the onus is also very much on occupants to comply with any new measures put in place.

Employee wellbeing has been a key focus of the industry for some years now, and this crisis has only magnified this emphasis further. While the reputation of FM as a whole has rocketed in recent times, teams are now considered a key strategic cog in getting people back to work during these unprecedented times. Though unfortunate circumstances may have spurred this shift, this could well be the catalyst that paves the way for FM to become elevated, receive increased investment and fully digitise at long last.

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