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Survey steer

Members of the FMJ Editorial Steering Committee discuss the results of our FM survey on how workplace strategies, including sustainability, wellbeing and compliance have been impacted by the Coronavirus crisis

Since the pandemic hit, facilities managers have played a pivotal role in keeping organisations going. In healthcare they’ve deployed operatives to work at the front line, maintained educational and retail facilities, supported home-based office staff and prepared workplaces for reoccupation. We wanted to know how our readers were navigating the crisis, so in partnership with Informa, the organisers of Facilities Show, we conducted a poll to help create a snapshot of FM practice during COVID-19. Respondents comprised mostly in-house FMs, followed by those working for services providers.

What are your current working arrangements?

Mix of home/office


Working in office


Working from home




Other offices (including clients, partners, suppliers or serviced offices)





The majority were both home and office based (38 per cent) with a quarter working exclusively from home and a quarter mainly office based. These figures were reflected in arrangements for staff, with nearly half introducing a hybrid home/office work pattern.

We presented the results to members of FMJ’s Editorial Steering Committee to get their views on the findings and what they think it could mean for facilities managers going into 2021. When asked how they were organising their own working arrangements, it emerged that all of the panel members, who represent a wide range of sectors (see below) were following the hybrid model, with similar arrangements being made for office-based staff.

What are your top priorities right now? (aside from legislation compliance)


Health and safety




Meeting compliance objectives


Building maintenance management


Workplace planning. (e.g. preparing the workplace for reoccupation)


Workplace relocation management (e.g. reorganisation of building estate to support social distancing)


Strategic planning and project management




Workplace support management (whether for home, field or office-based workers)


Looking into new technology/ IOT


Sustainablity management (i.e. energy management/recycling)




Capital works/lifecycle management





The importance of maintaining compliance was shown by the fact that all of the panel have kept maintenance regimes active, with one advantage being that because much of the space is unoccupied, it’s easier to go in and carry out essential works within working hours.

Health and safety remains a key priority for nearly 70 per cent of respondents, but how meeting compliance is balanced with health and safety considerations is an issue for our panel. “Even if we’ve only got a few people on each floor we still want maintenance suppliers to follow the regulations. It did take some firm conversations to say ‘just because there are fewer people in the office doesn’t mean maintenance staff don’t skip health and safety checks’, as there was a mindset that if there’s only a few people in the building they’d just come in and do this work without adhering to the safety rules.”

Behind issues such as cleaning (57 per cent) and workplace planning (43 per cent), sustainability came in relatively low – being a major priority for just 18 per cent of respondents, something our panellists described as very short sighted. It was suggested though, that respondents may not be considering the wider definition of sustainability. It is not reserved for recycling and energy management but encompasses factors such as business continuity and wellbeing, and the wider impact on organisations. It was agreed that FMs continue to be at the forefront of all these issues, which is why our panel believe it’s vital that sustainability isn’t overlooked due to the COVID emergency.

A related issue regarding sustainability was that concerns about lowering the risk of infection was leading some organisations to put recyclable waste into general waste, while double bagging it to lower the risk of infection. Said one member of the panel: “We’re having a lot of discussions on how we get that balance back in lowering the risk of transmission while also achieving our sustainability targets. We need to talk to the waste and recycling industry and ask, ‘what are the solutions that deliver the best of both?’”

Another hitherto overlooked implication of lockdown is that with so many members of staff being home based, organisations are not assessing home consumption when measuring energy use. This, said a panellist: “Is going to throw out our figures because 2020 will equal low [energy] consumption for us, as our premises are open but there’s less energy being used. For many organisations there may be a level of complacency as they won’t have to do anything to hit their targets.” This unique set of circumstances may bring easy wins now but could cause the sector some real challenges down the line.

About Sarah OBeirne


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