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Collaboration key to achieving FM and real estate aims

12 February 2020

An indirect route into his FM role has seen Chris Spratt discover a passion for the highly varied role and the benefits it provides to managing agents and building users.

One of the plus points about their role enjoyed by many client-side FMs is the variety it includes on a daily basis, which seldom sees them following the same pattern or schedule for two days in succession.

This is one of the many positive elements enjoyed by Chris Spratt in his position of director of property and facilities for PageGroup, who spoke to PFM on an exclusive basis to share his views on FM and its potential to deliver added value in a number of areas.

Similar to many of his peers, he had no plans to become an FM after joining IBM in Hampshire as an administrator: “Everything seemed to be going well and then our business unit was bought by a US firm who decided to move manufacturing to Thailand so it looked as though everyone would be made redundant,” he recalls.

“I managed to keep my job, however, and stayed with the remaining parts of the business when they moved to a smaller local office.

“My FM career effectively began at that point, as I was offered the chance to look after the running of the office, beginning with the search, acquisition, fit out and move to that new 12,000 sq ft facility.

“I made lots of mistakes as it was the first time I’d done this, but enjoyed the experience of doing something different every day and loved the sheer variety of tasks you have to get involved with,” he says.

His career developed over the next few years as he managed other facilities, including work as a facilities coordinator in Sussex, and saw him further extend his expertise in areas such as health and safety management, projects, procurement, rent reviews and infrastructure.

Having learned a “great amount” on all aspects of FM, Mr Spratt then secured a role working for a procurement consultancy in the City of London supporting one of their key financial services clients.

This included managing an aged central London facility offering 120,000 sq ft of prime office and trading space that required considerable levels of expertise in a number of mission-critical areas to keep everything operational day-to-day.

Other tasks saw him deal with high-level security issues ranging from a visit by Prince William to providing assistance to victims of the 7 July London bombings in 2005, and also refurbishing a large jetty on the Thames.

“We had to nursemaid the ageing M&E infrastructure to keep everything going and that provided a number of challenges but also valuable experience in many areas,” he continues.

“Although we weren’t able to replace the systems because the company was looking to move, one of the successes was the use of cheap electricity at night to produce ice in large tanks in the car park that then allowed us to cool the fresh air intake leading to less energy used during the day for air conditioning.

"It was cost effective and sustainable, and allowed us to use the power saved to keep the trading and IT systems going.”

The move to a new building saw yet more additions to Mr Spratt’s skill set, getting involved with basebuild commissioning, Cat A and Cat B fit-outs, hard and soft service tenders and the relocation of 800 staff to the new office.

“With the new office enjoying fine views of the River Thames, we hosted a party for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a great view of the flotilla as it made its way along the river. We had also introduced a lot of smart controls into the building with the aim of providing a seamless building management platform, but we didn’t quite get it right,” he says. “We were probably too ambitious.”

This wealth of experience is now being put to good use and continuing to be further extended within his current role overseeing 47 facilities used by over 2,00 people.

“I’ve had days where we’ve completed a £4m property deal and then had to deal with a major water leak, which means you go from a senior management meeting to rolling up your sleeves - but I still enjoy getting my hands dirty,” he says.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that you have to look beyond seeing buildings as just bricks and mortar, and recognise their importance in allowing people to work as productively as possible,” says Mr Spratt.

“The ethos of all FM teams should be to work collaboratively with all the key stakeholders, foster strategic partnerships with service providers, and design offices to suit the needs of people – people-based FM is key.”

Where more collaboration between teams is desired, this can be delivered through applying different perspectives to further extend open plan and engaging office designs.

Options can range from installing interactive audio visual systems in customer facing areas to the use of vibrant colour, imaginative design and exciting artwork to create more dynamic and fun workspaces that encourage everyone to interact and enjoy the experience.

“FM has often focused on just managing buildings but everyone has to see that the workspace has to work for the people who use it,” he continues.

“When this is achieved successfully it will improve wellness, reduce churn and improve productivity.”

Chris says it is important to preserve the culture of the business within these initiatives, but it is still possible to combine with increasing energy levels within the office through the introduction of fun aspects such as football tables, table tennis, and chilled break-out areas etc.

Other considerations include the use of stand-up bench work areas, meeting pods, a variety of collaboration spaces designed around the needs of colleagues and flexible offices that can be adapted to the requirements of users to leverage improved returns on investment.

In addition to collaboration between all FM personnel, with everyone following “don’t walk by” protocols and alerting relevant team members to emerging issues, he further emphasises the need for engagement between managing agents, occupiers and service providers to place people at the centre of all operations.

“This may require a change in attitude as you can see in some multi-tenanted buildings that the managing agent often has little contact with the tenants. But when everyone sees that keeping all occupiers happy will improve return on investment and prolong the usefulness of buildings, as well as develop long term landlord/tenants relationships it makes a great deal of sense,” he says.

These efforts can also play an important role in engaging building users to reduce energy use and improve sustainability levels in all types of facility, he continues.

“Showing energy use figures on reception screens and holding workshops to help tenants change behaviours can be very helpful in making small changes, leading to large impacts on sustainability levels,” he says.

“We also need to use technology as an enabler in managing buildings better to meet the needs of everyone, including the analysis of data and live reporting to show the changes as they happen and encourage more effort in the right areas.

“All this needs everyone to work collaboratively and align building management technology to get the best results, but it’s in everyone’s best interests and as soon as all partners embrace a joined-up workplace management approach we will see better performing and sustainable workspaces in so many ways" says Mr Spratt.

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