As the outbreak of Covid-19 gripped the UK and the nation went into lockdown, the FM industry has been helping society adapt to the fast-evolving situation.
The FM sector has been helping with refits of massive conference centres to create makeshift hospitals to help expand the capacity of the NHS, cleaning buildings, public spaces and transport – and overseeing changes in security procedures including the use of thermal scanners to screen for Covid-19 symptoms. Meanwhile, caterers have joined forces with restaurants to feed NHS staff and real estate advisers are strategising for a post-lockdown ‘socially distanced’ return to the workplace in the near future – all in one dramatic month of change.
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on 16 March that people should work from home if they could, many FMs suddenly found themselves key players in preparing the technological infrastructure necessary to allow employees to work remotely.
In 2019, just 5 per cent of the UK labour force worked from home, but the virtual office has suddenly become standard.
To understand the impact, workplace consultancy Leesman announced a project to analyse how the mass mobilisation of homeworking strategies in response to the Covid-19 crisis is affecting organisations.
To acknowledge and protect the role of mission-critical FM employees, IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis wrote to the secretaries of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking ministers to acknowledge workplace and facilities management professionals as key workers in the national effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. She said: “Buildings enabling the provision of essential services that are so crucial in the Covid-19 response need to be clean, secure and well maintained to ensure they are safe for the people using them. The profession has an essential role to play during the pandemic by ensuring that buildings, and their users, remain safe and operational.”
The letter went on to detail what the FM industry considers to be essential services and safety-critical systems, such as cleaning, security, fire safety, and waste management.
Meanwhile, a series of Covid-19 update webinars hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) reinforced the message that building services specialists are carrying out crucial work to support the nation’s essential services.
Over the following pages we detail the sector’s various responses to the crisis.