Workplace Trends

Where is my workplace? – For the facility manager

Amit Lall Head
Workplace Solutions
Sodexo

What’s on their minds?

“The immediate priority for any organization and its leadership is to ensure safety and human health. As organizations prepare to get back carefully and gradually, the most imminent challenge they face is to regain employee trust. CRE/FMs will play the role of a catalyst in establishing trust by being the enablers of a larger cross-functional collaboration. This collaboration will build and sustain mechanisms of communication, engagement, communities, and leadership that will successfully transition organizations into the new normal.”

How can they maximize their value addition during this crucial time?

“Cross-functional collaboration and trust-building are transforming the role of the CRE & FM’s players into strategic enablers of organizations, globally. Digital will be a key enabler in making this happen, especially in a hybrid workplace format. For the employees, this will mean increased autonomy in terms of accessing and using the workplace as and when they need it, and for the duration, they need it – just like the OTT model.”

Kevin Stanly Mascarenhas
Associate VP – Solutions
AGC Networks

What’s on their minds?

“This Pandemic has ensured that facility management services become the center of attention with a stringent focus on cleaning, disinfecting, sanitization and governance. It has called for a transformed view for hygiene and overall facility management to adapt to the new set of challenges through digital and differentiated services. Facility Managers are now focussed on refreshing the ongoing soft services to support the workplace environment by automating FM business processes, everything from move-ins, service requests and maintenance, to energy management or workspace customization.”

How can they maximize their value addition during this crucial time?

“Automation, Data & Analytics are key enablers that FM’s are looking to enable transform their workplace by bringing in a balanced approach that help builds greater resilience. By leveraging on this, the day-to-day work of FM providers will get more efficient and focused. With the help of these emerging smart technologies, facility managers have the potential to optimize their time on the job and create a better environment for employees/occupants. Rapid changes, remote operations, and data analytics are expected to bring efficiency in this dynamically changing occupancy.”

What’s on our mind?

  1. We need to be the one and only external locus of compliance and market intelligence for our clients. We need to be adept with the latest global and local compliance requirements & safety guidelines while keeping ourselves abreast of how other organizations of the same scale or industry are navigating return readiness

With the new normal taking shape day by day, our past subject matter expertise around facility management is becoming obsolete. This requires both learning new ways of being as well as unlearning past ways of doing. Internal workplace enablers look to us for clarity, confidence & courses of action. This is why we need to be calm in the eye of the storm. This is a huge responsibility and that overwhelms us sometimes. This however is our crucial moment. The decisions we help our clients take now will impact them for years to come and will shape the way the world works. Our clients depend heavily on us to ensure the safety of their workforce and that definitely comes with sleepless nights. We are constantly on the lookout for new solutions, smart technologies, and processes to safeguard our clients and their people. The task is enormous. To work in tandem with internal enablers to safeguard the health & productivity of employees, ensure compliance with the latest regulations, and offer substantial ROI on a newly configured workplace.

  1. The very definition of ‘The office’ is in flux. The way the world views the office is changing. It’s not about lobbies, meeting rooms, and hot desks anymore. It’s about viewing the office as a collection of configurable square footage.

We have transitioned from a time where employees would raise requests to work from home to a time when employees have to raise requests to work from the office. We are in a time where companies are questioning the way their offices are configured. A facility is no longer a collection of individual desks, conference rooms, huddle spots, lobbies & common areas. It is now being viewed as a collection of square footage. We are asking crucial and fundamental questions such as, do we really need as much space now that only 40% of the workforce will be in the office at a time? Do we need as many individual desks when the purpose of office space now is to meet colleagues & clients face to face in common areas & meeting rooms? The task here is to recommend the office configuration most suited to that client based on a deep understanding of global standards, regulations, and the unique needs of that client. One that allows them to put safety first while maximizing productivity, wellbeing, and return of resource investment.

  1. We are used to striving for higher optimization and efficiency. Faster seamless implementation, higher facility efficiency and workplace productivity, have been our main KRA’s. These KRA’s have been replaced with one monumental task – ‘employee safety’.

We need to ask ourselves the hard questions such as, do we really know wtho is at the client premises at all times? Do we have processes and technologies in place to assess the risk factor of individuals in real-time? Do we have a multi-disciplinary response unit in place in case of emergency? How do we ensure thermal screening, symptom scanning, health declaration & mask adherence of every individual? Do my current technologies allow for dependable contact tracing? What if I need to check for the health declaration of a vendor from weeks before? How difficult would it be to track that? How do we ensure social distancing in common areas and choke points? Do we completely switch from on-demand activity-based working to a booking-only system? How do we ensure occupant density mapping? How do we ensure safety doesn’t come at the cost of resource optimization? How do we build an ecosystem which tells us who has occupied which space at any given time? Which technologies can we leverage?

How can I maximize my value addition during this crucial time?

  1. Technology, automation & digital transformation connoisseurs

Technology and digital automation will be the lynchpin of the future of the workplace. The most important role of facility managers at present is to keep pace with paradigm-shifting technologies being used across the globe to enable return readiness. Every day, relevant technology is born, major product upgrades are launched as the world tries to find its footing. Be it AI-driven hot-desking, zero-touch visitor registration, thermal scanning devices or facial recognition-based staff attendance, or remote working applications, it’s a lot to keep up with. The largest part of a facility manager’s month should be devoted to spotting the next set of relevant revolutionary technologies and which ones should be tested next. They should invest time and energy in restarting these technology applications, assessing their fit, and measuring their impact through pilot projects. They should also take out time to articulate the right metrics of success for every different technology application selected, be it workforce safety, workplace readiness, staff productivity, or user experience, among others. They should be the in-house digital connoisseurs or experts, who understand which technology will best suit every need that arises in their client organization. 

  1. Agile strategy over impeccable execution

The role of facility managers has transformed from a role focussed on speedy and impeccable execution to one focussed on strategy and ideation. Organizations are depending on external workplace enablers to navigate strategic workplace initiatives based on their subject market expertise. Internal workplace enablers are becoming the executing arm while external enablers take the lead in understanding market trends, internal organizational structures, and the voice of multiple stakeholders. They can bring in the freshness of perspective and ideate outside of the box. It is critical for them to also work closely with internal workplace experts at the client organization to deeply understand the organization’s unique context, so they can suggest better recommendations. The strategic recommendations given by external enablers should possess the following 3 they should be in tune with the current market reality, they should be flexible and they should be highly measurable over the short term. 

  1. Synergistic & sustainable vendor management

Large-scale enterprises manage a vendor network of 500+ vendors on an average in a single geography. Each of these vendors has been affected differently by the pandemic, making many products and technologies obsolete. It is therefore important for facility managers to understand the extent to which each vendor is impacted, find those which are still relevant, find new vendors which will be required, and most importantly, recontract with them. It is imperative to onboard & retains vendors which allow for three key essentials- agility, relevance, and sustainability. The vendor organization should be agile enough to move with the market and adapt to the changing needs of the organization. It should have a product that is relevant to the current market reality alongside insightful market expertise. Also, this vendor organization should have the capability to stay in business for the long term. It should display strength and endurance in the face of unexpected crises such as this global pandemic.

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