Along with many colleagues in the Facilities Management industry, I’ve been having urgent conversations over the past few weeks with my customers regarding ‘what to do with the properties we manage and the people who occupy them?’ In dealing with the many implications this current situation is presenting, property-related matters may seem well down the ‘to do’ list for many organisations. However, whether your business is in a fully serviced building or you own or manage the whole site, it is in times such as this, that a clear Facilities Management (FM) strategy needs to come to the fore.
Decisions relating to the use of a building will of course vary enormously depending on the occupier, the business and the numbers of staff involved. Many organisations, in accordance with government instruction will now have their employees working from home and so have locked-down their buildings, whilst others have been required to retain a number of key employees on site for essential work. Either way, this creates challenges for an FM team. One thing is for certain, even if a building is locked down, walking away and leaving it for a period of what could be weeks or even months, is not an option.
Critical systems and infrastructure must be maintained. Simply switching-off key plant and equipment could have dire consequences for IT and other business-critical functions, whilst the requirement to uphold all obligations in relation to statutory and mandatory maintenance does not diminish simply because a building is empty. Factors that still need to be considered are:
- Security and the integrity of the building
- Alarm systems, door access, CCTV and 24/7 response
- Fire alarm systems and testing
- Water systems hygiene and flushing
- PPM of critical plant (heating, cooling, UPS, back-up generators)
- Statutory insurance inspections (lifts, hoists, pressure vessels)
- Review of leaseholder obligations and associated insurance arrangements
What is clear, is that FM services must be considered as an ‘essential business function’ during these challenging times and organisations must make adequate provision.
Going beyond the essential, businesses should consider the opportunities that having a vacant or minimally occupied building presents. In this 24/7 business world in which we all now work, one of the big challenges that FM providers often face is simply ‘access’ in order to carry-out essential works.
I know that strategic thinking facilities managers will have a forward maintenance plan and have been using the last couple of weeks as an opportunity to assess, if now they can carry-out the essential ‘downtime’ maintenance. Whilst organisations will not be wishing to outlay unnecessary capital sums at this time for large project works, catching-up on lamp replacements or doing much-needed redecoration works could be considered as well as:
- Carrying out a building condition survey
- Reviewing lifecycle plans and rescheduling activities
- Reviewing forward maintenance plans and rescheduling activities
- Taking advantage of an empty building to carry-out essential maintenance activities
- Catching-up with deep-cleaning activities (bathrooms, kitchens etc)
- Carrying-out carpet cleans, high level cleans and wall-washing
- Attending to building fabric repairs and external maintenance
Of course, all works need to be carried out in full consideration of the current Government restrictions relating to ‘essential workers’ and social distancing. FM managers must ensure, as ever, that any works are fully supported by the appropriate risk assessments and method statements etc.
If managers and operatives are to remain on site, FM teams and providers should be looking for every way in which to support their business or client and make the most of this difficult situation. True partnering and strategic thinking at this time will lessen the impact for occupiers, and ease the transition back to full operational capacity when it comes, and, may even present the opportunity for businesses to benefit from what is unquestionably a difficult time for all.