From sick building syndrome 20 years ago to the current focus on wellbeing, Martin Read wonders whether the buzzword will finally boost FM's reputation.
At Workplace Futures last month VINCI’s Victoria Hughes spoke of how we’re living in an epoch known as the Anthropocene – because we humans now have most influence over climate and environment.
Which is interesting, because it feels to me as if this profession has traversed an epoch – through workspace and time – in pursuit of defining its own influence. Let’s call this period the Facilitithic – after all, we’ve been taking an age to work it all out.
These past two decades have seen the profession’s focus shift from health and safety, service innovation, productivity, employee, engagement, wellbeing…
Practitioners have presented ample evidence of FM’s impact in all these areas, showing just how well placed it is to take a leading role in seeing viable solutions through to fruition.
Yet each of these big-ticket business issues was nothing new. Did we really have no interest in the wellbeing of employees a decade ago? Was service innovation an afterthought until it became fashionable? Was the link between support services and an organisation’s productivity a sudden, shocking revelation?
What links them is that they were all the broader business issues of the day, to which FM then responded. Each was slowly superseded by the next buzzword. (Take innovation – five years ago you couldn’t move for the stuff, yet it’s hardly mentioned at conferences today.)
And here’s another example, as mentioned at Workplace Futures: sick building syndrome. Twenty years ago, this theme was addressed through, for instance, air quality improving through good HVAC. In this sense ‘wellbeing’ takes us full circle. The difference today is that the topic is more expansive, adding mental health to the merely physical and with more of a focus on the value of taking a preemptive approach. Which is how it should be for a profession that has always loudly trumpeted the benefits of the preventative over the merely responsive.
Wellbeing is a theme that, again, is ripe for FM to influence. But will it be the one that finally shines a clear light on the workplace and facilities management profession? It’ll improve my own personal wellbeing if it does.
Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine