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Wider picture of risk in the modern workplace

12 August 2019

With staff welfare emerging as an increasingly important factor to consider within FM delivery, the August 2019 issue of PFM looks at how this can lead to increased focus on risk management.

One of the most surprising aspects for those considering the role of the FM for the first time is the sheer number of areas of focus, that can include services such as front of house and security, to cleaning and catering on the ‘soft’ side of things, to all the many and varied considerations necessary within the ‘hard’ services side, ranging from HVAC to general building maintenance, along with renovation and construction.

There are two typical reactions to the realisation of the information above, one of which is admiration combined with interest – usually from those interested in an FM career – or something much more negative, usually from those who prefer to work within a more well-defined environment.

One of the regular comments from FM professionals conversing with PFM is appreciation for the varied nature of their job, which is typically described as “completely different each day”.

Within this, each FM will be well aware of the need to “do the basics”, which typically involves ensuring that the facility complies with all the necessary legislation. Health and safety will be a major factor in the vast majority of settings and this will inevitably include strategies for the management of risk.

While that may sound something straightforward, it only takes a little more thought and consideration to begin to appreciate how the level of complexity is beginning to increase. Given the importance of the subject, PFM has widened the discussion to include more thought on how the recent drive to improve wellbeing levels has also impacted on risk management.

As with all editorial features, the views of the PFM Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) once again provide further detail to include in this area, to emphasise how many FMs are now being tasked with ever wider requirements included in the running of facilities.

While some are increasingly involved in meeting the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies of their companies and those of their clients, others are required to assist in improving the options for supporting staff in both work-based and social activities, all of which will have an element of risk to consider.

It should be stated, of course, that there is a growing number of FMs that include both of the above factors in their roles, which will no doubt continue to expand further in the future, but for the purposes of this article we need to focus on the effect of increased focus on wellbeing of occupants on the management of risk.

The thoughts of Real Estate Asset Management Solutions (REAMS) technical manager Mike Powell provide us with some helpful advice in this area: “Wellbeing is a fundamental part of our risk management and an increasingly relevant and necessary consideration in the modern workplace.”

From an organisational point of view, employee wellbeing is a major factor in quality, performance, productivity and therefore business effectiveness and profit, he continues.

“Having the right people healthy at work, and in the right mind set, can significantly reduce risks on all fronts. Where a person's wellbeing reduces, so typically does their performance and effectiveness. People can function better, and are happier, without their background health issues being a worry.

“For us, the past has shown that when our workforce suffers, our core outputs decline if we do not have the wellbeing of our team in focus. With this in mind, we have always strived to promote health awareness across the business using team meetings and toolbox talks.”

This shows the importance of communication in all areas and it is highly relevant that the best FMs are typically excellent communicators. This usually includes the art of diplomacy on a number of levels, with the FM often regarded as a mediator between different internal departments and/or external service providers.

Mr Powell’s thoughts provide further consideration within this, as he believes that leadership is essential to improving the health and safety culture across an organisation from the top to the bottom.

“With flexible working growing in popularity and technological advances, employees tend to find it harder to switch off and feel obligated to work when ill, as they can work from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Highly engaged employees can often work too many hours and fall ill due to stress or burnout and FM employers need to tackle this in order to reduce business risks,” he says.

“Ensuring buildings and their assets are well maintained helps to ensure the optimum working environment for employees. Temperature, lighting and noise can all significantly affect day to day wellbeing and planned fabric maintenance reduces business continuity risks,” Mr Powell concludes.

With the role of the FM continuing to increase in its diversity, the task of managing risk is a constant factor within every aspect of their many areas of focus.

Despite the growing number of requirements, it can be clearly seen that it is essential for all elements of risk management and health and safety to be established as a constant factor to avoid any dilution of their importance in contributing to the effective running of facilities of all types and sizes.

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