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17 January 2019
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Absence makes the heart grow fonder

16 January 2014

Happy New Year! Firstly, thank you to all of our readers who took the trouble to complete our recent readership survey.

The time you took is much appreciated and the priorities you’ve given us will, of course, be reflected in these pages. If you didn’t take part, please do still get in touch to let us know what you want covered this year; we’re always open to suggestions.

The Christmas break also allowed me time to catch up with a couple of friends. They’ve taken to corresponding with pop stars of the 1970s and 1980s to point out the inconsistencies in their lyrics. An overly literal interpretation for comic effect, but many have taken the bait and replied.

Perhaps the best (and most topical) example is Wizzard’s 1973 Christmas standard, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. In a letter to the band’s Roy Wood, they invite him to imagine a scenario in which each new dawn did, indeed, herald another 25th December. The first day would be most enjoyable, as would the following (save for the desire to consume something other than turkey). 

But as Christmas continued into a third day and beyond, continuing over-indulgence would result in kidney pains and chronic indigestion, lethargy and family arguments. With a vast majority of the workforce remaining on holiday, national levels of productivity and economic health would drop dangerously and the emergency services would become fatally overstretched. Infrastructure would be neglected or poorly maintained, the education system effectively eliminated, and transport and retail brought to a halt – to say nothing of the environmental and human impact of a permanent midwinter Christmas climate.

Against an eternally grey and frozen backdrop, anarchy would surely take hold. Cities would burn, viral plagues spread and millions perish in agony. They suggest that perhaps Wood did not think his “wish” through thoroughly.

Deliberate absurdities, of course. But as I re-read this, a germ of an idea formed. During 2014, I’m certain we’ll again be talking about the need to make FM more ‘visible’ to both the c-suite and wider business world. And, as ever, we’ll be struggling to make what we do ‘visible’ and the ‘value’ of it more ‘tangible’, Great, but what is the actual operational impact of there being no FM?

Perhaps we should resolve this year to point out not what FM does, but rather what its absence might herald. Instead of focusing on what FM brings to an organisation, shouldn’t we more playfully point out what might happen as a result of its absence? From the absurdity of it being Christmas every day to the absurdity of there being no FM every day? OK, so maybe we wouldn’t be suggesting the apocalypse detailed above – but it wouldn’t take any of us long to draw up a list of the chaotic implications connected to security and catering teams departing, the help desk shutting up shop ,the M&E technicians deserting the boiler rooms – and that’s just for starters. 

We’ve tried earnest assessments, such as FM’s contribution as a percentage of GDP. Perhaps it’s time instead to concentrate on the sheer absurdity of an organisation not aware of the value of its FM. Maybe then we’d end up with those whose job titles include FM being nominated in the New Year’s Honours list? One can dream…

Martin Read is managing editor at FM World.