The sector's speedy and effective response to the pandemic will surely boost FM's reputation, says Martin Read
Critical facilities staffed up within days; refits carried out to meet entirely new realities; the C-suite engaging on best quality of cleaning practice rather than price; government and public alike lauding the type of services that, it turns out, are those that really do matter at a time of global crisis. Yes, it’s been quite the month for FM – simply because it has acted as the meet-the-need, adapt-to-circumstance, provide-at-pace profession it always has been. Performed at breakneck pace, for sure, and with fresh goals to meet as a result of a terrible pandemic; but typical FM behaviour nonetheless, performed under a welcome national and international spotlight.
What’s more, this new-found respect may be set to stick around and – dare we hope – have a genuinely transformative effect. As talk turns to phased returns there is new opportunity and responsibility ahead for workplace and facilities managers; organisations will be obliged to see workplace management as a primary rather than supporting activity as social distancing and a wider range of shift patterns are designed, introduced and sustained by firms steadily building back demand. Health and safety will be meshed to a wider appreciation of wellbeing for workers both present and remote as the perception of what constitutes the appropriate workplace continues to evolve. Other fundamental elements of the FM role will remain in sharp focus: the provision and management of clean air; washrooms; meeting rooms. A reappraisal of what constitutes operational service support, with exciting potential for FM, will continue into 2021 and beyond.
Naturally, there will be a huge price to pay for this crisis and we will all be living with the consequences for years. But if anything deserves to become the ‘new normal’ – the last time you’ll hear me use that phrase, I promise – it’s government, business and public all sustaining their new-found appreciation of what this sector does. In time, we will probably need to resist attempts to see what this sector does marginalised once more. But that’s the future challenge. For now, for workplace and facilities managers, it’s all about doing more of the same – and making the most of that spotlight.
Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine