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Will FM cope with hybrid working?

01 June 2021

With all eyes set on June 21st, and rising questions around whether the final phase of restrictions will be lifted, business owners are beginning to think about hybrid working and decide how they’re expecting their employees to operate going forward.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority are looking at a version of hybrid working as the new normal.

And after a year of pushing the boundaries of working patterns, increased tech use and a surge in innovation, almost all organisations are looking at ways to support new ways of working. For FM, this has meant a considerable shift in mindset, and a new reliance on technology.

After an initial fear that the footprint businesses occupy would shrink, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this won’t be the case.

Collaborative spaces

In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Knight Frank, 53% of businesses said they wanted their offices to have a greater amount of collaboration space. While a large proportion of their workforce may be choosing to work from home long term, zoom fatigue has indeed taken its toll, and businesses are finding a growing demand for space to meet and collaborate.

This will present some unique challenges to the FM sector, both on their employee side, and on the client side.

As clients begin to consider hybrid working as the norm, and consider how to use space more creatively, FMs will need to get creative too.

Here are 5 things FMs will need to plan for with the rise of flexible working:

1) An increase in reliance on sensor technology is in the offing
Room occupancy monitoring and robust data collection and analysis will be key in helping to maintain high levels of safety and employee confidence when people begin to return to the office. Flexible and hybrid working will mean patterns of working will be far less stable than FMs will have been used to pre-Covid. Using sensors will make it easier for FMs to schedule shifts when and where they’re most needed, rather than arbitrarily.

2) IT, HR and FM departments will need to work more closely than ever
Hybrid working means a more disparate workforce. As employees manage another transition in working life, communication is going to be key. While FMs are considering how to keep workspaces safe, hygienic and welcoming, there will also be an increasing focus on employee mental wellbeing, whether choosing to work from home or the office. For those returning IT, HR and FM teams will need to work closely together to reduce the impact of another change. Clear signage for one-way systems, video tours of new office set ups, return to work sessions will all help ease staff back into office-based work. For those choosing to work from home some or all of the time, IT, HT and FM teams will need to work together to consider ways they can ensure employees aren’t isolated, and they’re included in office initiatives.

3) The experience of a space will become more important
For FMs, the cleanliness and security of the space they look after will always be the priority. But there may now be an increase in emphasis on creating positive and even exciting visitor experiences to make those spaces enticing for employees and customers. While spaces will need to become more flexible moving forward, they will also need to offer something different to draw people in. Some will be considering interactive elements in shared areas, others will be incorporating technology to make spaces more intuitive. Many will, at the very least, finally be looking at their coffee machines and thinking it’s time for an upgrade!

4) A move from commoditised services to strategic thinking
While Facilities Management has long been a commoditised service offering since the pandemic there has been a shift in people’s view of FM. FMs now play a crucial role in supporting the business objectives of their clients. Those who are able to take a more strategic view of the impact they can have, and where they can add value to support their clients’ growth, will see a massive amount of success. Having been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic, FMs now hold an important seat at the table. What they’ll need to do now is hold on to it, by showing just how much of a strategic input they can have.

5) Cobotics will become a regular part of cleaning routines
What was once a hidden workforce is now in the spotlight, with visible touchpoint cleaning a priority for companies who want their employees and visitors to feel safe and secure. But alongside this increase in day time cleaning, there will need to be supplementary work programmed.

Many FMs will realise that the way to do this without increasing headcount in cleaning teams, is to incorporate robots to take on large repetitive tasks, such as floor cleaning and vacuuming, out of hours.

In fact, research shows that 81 per cent of FM leaders in EMEA see cobotics as a potential solution to cleaning challenges over the next five years and 73 per cent believe that cobotics has the potential to transform the cleaning industry.

FMs have the opportunity to lead the conversation

What’s apparent is that going forward, a rise of hybrid working will present challenges for FMs. However, after taking the spotlight throughout the pandemic, FM professionals have been given a seat at the table, and are now contributing strategically. This means they can have far more impact in making sure spaces are usable, safe and inviting than ever before.

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