Workplace and facilities management, so the narrative within the industry goes, has always been about the people – both those delivering services and the recipients. But the focus on people is going to become even more pronounced over the next 12 to 36 months.
The sentiment was unanimously agreed to by the panellists on the IWFM’s World FM Day 2021 webinar, entitled ‘Standing tall: strategic FM leading beyond the pandemic’, which was hosted by Steve Gladwin, chair of the IWFM International Special Interest Group.
Sean Gibbons, head of global real estate and facility management at Roche Diagnostics, said: “The workplace of the future, previous to what it has been in the past, won't be defined through the specification of technical service-level descriptions. The long-term future will probably be much more personalised; there'll be a formation of products that end users can directly relate to and select depending on their requirements and where they are.”
The result will be an enhanced employee experience, Gibbons contended. Working closely with large FM service providers has helped Gibbons focus on “innovation and optimisation opportunities [and] how we can use predictive technology” to provide the best services to end users.
Gibbons added: “If now, we have people only coming into the office on a certain day of the week, then we need to know, from a catering perspective, what can we provide to them? Is there a certain day of the week that people prefer certain foods? How can we have predictability when it comes to cleaning or asset maintenance, and so on? So I think these will all become important factors moving forward.”
People make places, places make people
Simon Titchener, chief commercial officer – UK and Ireland, ISS, said: “People make places, places make people – whether that’s an office, factory or airport. It’s about how we, as an organisation, make sure we're servicing that organisation and that organisation's employees. It is becoming a much more personal and bespoke service, without a shadow of a doubt.
“I think that is something that we've got to adapt to so flexibility, collaboration – all of those things are here to stay.”
For Sara Campbell, APAC senior workplace leader at LinkedIn, the focus is going to be on how technology will influence and facilitate a wholly integrated hybrid model of remote and on-site. Fundamental to this, she said, is ensuring that the corporate culture permeates the remote workplaces and not just in the office itself. “How do you take that culture and provide that remotely for people?”
Coupled with company culture is the need to provide safe spaces for those working remotely. “There are so many different elements that need to come in from an HR perspective and a tech perspective… It's going to be a really exciting time. And I don't think we're going to get it right the first time.”
Gibbons said: “I think we will really start to integrate people, places, processes and technology… through this switch from a pure focus on the built environment to the role of the virtual workplace and getting involved at the more strategic level to support the business direction.”
The future path of travel for FM is going to be a powerful means of attracting new entrants to the profession. Already, the pandemic has helped to improve the recognition of what the facilities function does.
“It’s likely to have profound implications in terms of the type of individual the industry attracts, perhaps making it more attractive to people who don't come from the traditional technical or built environment background,” Gibbons opined. “I think we see a strategic, more dynamic industry emerging. It will require a range of additional skill sets to complement those that we traditionally see, with this added focus on strategy development skills.”
According to ISS’s Global Graduate Programme at least, the future of FM is looking robust. Titchener revealed: “This year we've had over 50 per cent more applicants than we had in the last two years. So is that a coincidence or is that because people suddenly see this as an industry to come and join because of the excitement, the versatility of it?”
Positively, previous pandemics have shaped the world in new and improved ways. Campbell gave the examples of cholera, which led to sewage systems, and how the struggle to overcome tuberculosis resulted in better working conditions for factory workers.
“I think the same thing is going to happen now; how we're working, the office structures… there's going to be a big shift moving forward in the future.”