"Despite the heightened interest from the general public in air quality and cleaning protocol, FMs have been keeping people safe for years."
Lucy Jeynes of Larch Consulting
When the pandemic hit, organisations had to act quickly. Many months later, workplace and facilities management professionals have been tasked with reimagining workplace design and services provision.
Antony Wiltshire at Edelman: A few months before the pandemic we rolled out Office 365 and full collaboration using Microsoft Teams. We did several stress tests before lockdown began, deliberately closing the office and making everyone work remotely to iron out problems before we had no choice but to close.
We've pushed systems into the cloud and reduced reliance on office-located physical infrastructure. With staff returning we're now in a full hybrid environment and the office experience has changed forever.
Edelman’s workplace team is front and centre in conversations around the new space, working with architects and technology providers to envisage what's possible and create an environment that will serve us 10 to 15 years into the future.
Russell Wood at Dentsu: A Future Ways of Working Group, consisting of real estate, operations, communications, technology and HR directors, has helped communicate the introduction of hybrid working. Current thinking is to maintain a 60 per cent hybrid model policy so employees will only be able to book a desk three days a week.
Kellie Lord-Thomas at Amnesty International:
The organisation has just had approval to go hybrid from its senior management. The issue now is how best to introduce it globally. I’m not entirely sure where we're going to go with it – it might be that some teams are in more frequently, it might be the others probably once a month. It's going to be very much dependent on the role of the manager and the team’s output and delivery.
Obviously there are concerns about privacy in the home. What we really need is to be able to monitor, review and measure the performance of teams because one manager could say their team is working great, but really they just don’t want to come in because they're happy not commuting. We really need to set some boundaries, and understand how we're going to measure the effectiveness of it all.
The way the office environment is at the moment with such low numbers we know that's not sustainable. But we also know that not everyone is working to their maximum as they were when they were in the office.
Lucy Jeynes at Larch Consulting: Despite the heightened interest from the general public in air quality and cleaning protocol, FMs have been keeping people safe for years. FM has prepared for pandemics before. We already had on the shelf the protocol to increase cleaning of touch points. We already had hand sanitiser in the cupboard from the last time we thought we needed to have it on site. Given the need for end-users to understand their options, and to reassure them about their organisation’s commitment, FMs should be communicating to them what they are doing behind the scenes. Information might include what happens at night in a building, or details on how touch points and meeting rooms are cleaned.
Lord-Thomas: We're retaining social distancing for now but will reassess after Christmas. We've enhanced our cleaning hours during the day and focused purely on touch points. There are sanitary wipes to clean your desk at the start and end of the day. I don’t see the social distancing or desk screens staying. People will be coming into the office to be with others, either socialising or collaborating, so this habit will quickly drop.
Wood: Cleaning is more frequent, with a focus on touch points as there are too many desks to be cleaned after every user. Sanitary wipes will be available for employees to clean the workspace before and after use. Desks will be cleaned overnight.
Wiltshire: Cleaning is a priority and has increased, but the cleaners now focus on things that keep people safe rather than collecting crockery. We're not recirculating air, we've reduced the number of desks, spaced out workstations and created one-way systems. We've also introduced desk booking. But teams like to come together on certain days. The challenge is to find the right balance, to avoid saturation on Thursdays and a ghost town on Friday.
This article is based on interviews from the September-October 2021 edition of Facilitate, with the theme of the 'hybrid workplace'. Read the full edition here.