Creating A Safer Place To Work, Live & Relax
Pradeep Lala – MD & CEO, Embassy Services Pvt. Ltd.
There are 2 sides to a coin, an idiom that can be used to acknowledge relationships in our Real Estate ecosystem. The Space provider and the tenant; the Employer and the Employee; and the Facility Managers and the assets of a facility. Now, when we speak of safety, hygiene, and the lifestyle that a facility offers, both sides of the coin add to the overall value of a facility.
Especially during such a time of crisis where the shadows of uncertainty dominate the vision for the future, it is imperative that every individual, be it a person or an organization, take responsibility for elevating their own grounds of reality. So together, we can make our facilities, a micro version of the world, a better place. As a leader from the Facility Management Industry, let me elaborate on how we manage spaces in this situation and prepare it for the next phase of growth.
Safety and Hygiene – aka Housekeeping
Two much-spoken words in 2020, and surely the most important areas addressed. Unfortunately, these have been termed as ‘offerings’ rather than as quintessential virtues of an FM service organized at its very foundation. Pre-COVID, during COVID, Post-COVID, at all times, a professional Facility Management will tell you that these tasks have been a routine part of life ever since. Although, yes, the frequency of the cleaning processes has increased, specialized chemicals are being used in some cases, and scrutiny and auditing of these processes have been set to deliver to new benchmarks. All of which contribute to a safer facility, no doubt.
Other subtle yet noteworthy changes are the actions of cleaning common touchpoints such as doorknobs, buttons, railings, etc., and placement of sanitizers across facilities, which was not addressed in the same manner pre-pandemic. Also, waste management practices have been redesigned to allocate an ‘extra bin’ which consists of masks, gloves, etc. The actions coupled with the protective gear and tools that equip personnel are visible signs of the new normal as an FM.
Workplace Design and flow patterns
Some phenomenal changes in the post-pandemic era have been areas such as workplace redesign to ensure social distancing between people. While we seem to be ready but aren’t yet seeing 100% occupancy at facilities, a flexible workspace and open discussion rooms might prove most advisable for occupiers.
The study and address of human flow patterns to ensure the de-densification of the population is another critical area. Meeting rooms and cafeterias are two provisions that best describe an office workspace. Removing them is not the advisable option. Regulating, redesigning, and surveilling them may be the better way forward.
Asset Management – technology integrated
The most crucial aspect that forays the vision of the FM, is the ability to manage assets. These assets involve both man and machine.
Manpower – While technology adds a chip to the brain, the brain needs to know first what to do while it is safely placed inside a thick skull. In simpler terms, when the personnel is given complacent training on what to do, given protective gear to keep him safe, and provided with equipment and technology to facilitate their daily tasks, we can be sure of operational delivery.
Technical assets – One of the most difficult areas to be addressed during lockdowns and even now with the onset of the second wave, is the management of the abundant technical and engineering equipment that needs daily maintenance. If this equipment goes through even a single day of stoppage in operations, it can result in huge monetary losses as well as pose risks to health and safety at a facility. Like a sewage treatment plant, a highly technical provision that is often preconfigured based on the full occupancy of a premise; this had to be reconfigured and managed daily to suit the new occupancy levels and inlet levels of the system. Diesel generators, although placed far away from the employees’ home, these power the servers that cater to the employees’ ability to work from home. Speaking of servers, the rooms they are placed in need to be maintained at a certain temperature and humidity scale.
Reconfiguration and upscaling of HVAC systems to ensure compliance and safety of the insiders is another noteworthy action point. It is great to note that some have already scaled up to HVAC systems that are used at Hospitals, meaning they ensure 99.9% safety.
Some of us leverage technology to cater to these needs and are grateful for given their applications during these times. By using IoT and sensors, assets (both man and machine) can be monitored from anywhere across the globe. With manpower, tech assists in tracking them, measuring the time spent on a task, calculating efficiency and KRAs. Even for backbone functions such as procurement, visitor management, security & surveillance, and HR, cloud-integrated paperless ecosystems are surely the most efficient additions that aid complacent FM. And in the case of technical assets such as server rooms, if there is a mismatch in preset temperature and humidity limits, it triggers an alarm and is addressed as required; In the case of diesel generators, fuel levels are tracked live on a screen to plan the need for diesel over a long duration. The point is that with the right mix of man and machine, no matter the given challenges, they can be addressed.
Business Continuity, Preparedness, and Response:
One of the biggest propositions that an FM offers when seeking new business is, “we help the client focus on their core business while we take care of the factors that surround it.” This is the true purpose that became more evident during this pandemic. Where business continuity was almost stalled, as FMs, the measures that have been taken and resilience displayed to ensure that business continues for the clients is phenomenal. Be it taking care of their workspaces while they were away, even packing the sending desktops to the employees’ homes so that they can continue work, and continuously there at the residential premises to ensure their safety, the FM has stood by all. Even now, while organizations rethink and plan their return to office strategy and work modules, the FMs are on the ground doing what they have to do, no matter which side the coin flips.
While the initial phase left most of us in the dark as to what to do and to do it, we have gained sufficient knowledge over the past few months that allows for preparedness and response to such a situation. With proficient teams being set up to handle emergencies and crises, we are more confident that FMs will lead everyone all the way.
To sum up, the pandemic has opened the doors of perception consolidating our reality. While introspection and revaluation of where we stand is the certain and continuous way forward, will we stand this test of time? While the FMs and space providers are doing their bit to ensure the safety of the facility, will the visitor trust this and return to using the facility? While the economy is still struggling to cope up, will every individual take it upon themselves to deal with the fear and take action accordingly? Only time can tell!