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Simon Francis
Simon Francis

04 September 2018 Simon Francis

Simon Francis, head of estates services at London South Bank University, discusses the need for flexibility in the workplace.

As FMs, we like to believe we are flexible, able to meet customers’ needs at a moment’s notice. 

While this is true for our operations and service delivery, are we flexible in the way we manage our workforce? 

We lag some way behind our colleagues in IT and HR in allowing our staff to take advantage of flexible working, whether working from home, job-sharing or working flexible hours.  

A survey published for the conference call provider Powwownow found that nearly three-quarters of UK employees believe flexible working would make a job more appealing, while a third would prefer flexible working to a pay rise. 

These numbers are not insignificant. Recruiting and retaining high-quality FM staff continues to be an issue, particularly in London and the South East. It is likely to get harder after Brexit. 

We will need all the tools at our disposal to ensure we have a happy and productive workforce. 

Similarly, a report for Aviva in 2017 found almost two-thirds of employees are more likely to stay with an employer if offered flexible working. Clearly, FMs need to embrace this if we are to retain our best staff.

While FMs will always have some reliance on shift working and the requirement for fixed location staff (a cleaner working from home would be of no use), a large proportion of the FM workforce should be able to take advantage of the ability to work flexibly. 

Additionally, if we wish to entice the younger generation into FM we must give more thought to their expectations. Much has been written about how millennials see work as something you do, not as somewhere you go, but this is an idea the FM industry needs to get to grips with.

Perhaps I’m biased as I work flexibly myself, but unless our industry embraces flexible working for our staff, we will struggle to maintain a high-quality workforce.

Simon Francis is head of estates services at London South Bank University