At Mainstay, we believe facilities management will play a major role in implementing new ways of working, beyond the global pandemic, as this article, originally featured in the May 2021 issue of FMUK explains.
A year of flexible working has left a lasting impact on the way businesses operate, and many continue to favour remote setups even as COVID restrictions are lifted. However, a prolonged period of logistical challenges, plus a wider global desire for normality has led to a renewed interest in office space – even if the look and functionality must evolve to reflect the developments of the past 12 months.
Luke Sanders, Managing Director, Commercial & Asset Management at Mainstay
which provides facilities management services for 12,000 occupants across 18 locations throughout the UK, discusses why reports of the demise of the office may have been exaggerated and how facilities management can be the driving force behind embracing the learnings of lockdown and adapting to post-pandemic office culture.
It is fair to say that the introduction of enforced home working was initially seen as a dream scenario for many office workers – escaping the time and expense of commuting, a workspace built from home comforts and a relaxed dress code among the perks, all against the backdrop of glorious weather throughout the spring and summer months of 2020. However, for many, the logistics of these interim measures are not sustainable in the long term and for some, the small kitchen table was always less than ideal.
While the advances in remote working and conferencing solutions have proven, and will continue to prove invaluable, the practicality of working in closer proximity to colleagues is crucial to many functions within businesses and importantly, to many people within them, as a means for collaboration, creativity and socialisation. It is clear that the lasting impact of the pandemic will alter the ways in which office space is used, and therefore, facilities managers will be hugely important as organisations implement change and embrace new ideas as we emerge from lockdown.
Workplace Readiness and Adaptive Workspace
The ‘Office vs Remote Working’ debate sparked by lockdown will certainly influence the way businesses operate in a post-pandemic world. Despite the new-found benefits of remote working, as restrictions have continued to be imposed, the advantages of communal workspaces, such as face-to-face interaction and collaboration have become conspicuous in their absence. With many workers continuing to embrace flexible working, there is a growing need for office buildings to move away from their traditional, static format with allocated fixed desks and become a more versatile hub-like layout, ideal for bringing staff together for creative or communicative purposes, even if they are not essential to all staff on a daily basis. Therefore, Facilities Managers will now be tasked with ensuring that when staff visit offices, the environment delivers precisely to their needs when they do attend.
This will result in a need for an adaptive workspace, continually re-configured throughout the day to meet the needs of the next meeting, collaboration, individual or team. Workplace managers of the future will have this ongoing adaptation of the space as their key responsibility, with the traditional FM services provided as subset of that. Rather than maintaining the built environment, the focus shifts to a need for the building and the workspace to be ready for its next user and whatever adaptation is required, that maximises outputs and meets collaborative and creative needs during the reduced attendance. Multi-skilled workplace teams will provide those core traditional FM services in the quest for workspace readiness, in preparation for the next user.
The Importance of Front of House
This focus on the next user will likely result in an increased importance of Front of House roles. For many, the days of robust security as the welcome to a building have been phased out, but the events of the last year will accelerate that trend and shift the role of Front of House operatives further.
Since March 2020, employees across the UK have been kept away from offices, with their conventional workspace and daily routines deemed unsafe to themselves and the people around them. With restrictions beginning to relax, many will feel a sense of apprehension upon their return to the office and it is crucial that employees are confident their safety is ensured and maintained as they re-enter the workplace - that reassuring and welcoming entry to the workplace has never been so important.
The front of house workplace teams can play a crucial role in providing a welcoming, reassuring and secure entry point, whilst also providing that first checkpoint for the covid secure environments we have all become accustomed to. Front of House teams will also have a key role to play in concept of workspace readiness as the guides and trouble-shooters for a new office layout and working approach as well as making sure staff are fully informed and feeling comfortable before they’ve even stepped foot in the office.
The Evolution of Management
A year of remote working has impacted the way teams are led and employees are managed, with communication often less frequent and via various remote technologies. Going forward, as teams continue to work from multiple destinations, offices will remain as crucial central bases for operations, which will take multiple forms, depending on the requirements of specific projects on any given day. Therefore, we can expect to see increased use of conferencing technology from within offices, as organisations look to cultivate new ways of working.
People leadership and management of traditional office-based roles has needed to evolve during the enforced restriction. For many there has been limited scope for task-based supervision aligned to broader objectives. Instead, a greater focus on regular short-term goals, empowering individuals to deliver the tasks required for that in intervening periods has been adopted. With the expectation that people will continue to work from multiple destinations in the future, the hub-style office will become the focal point for that goal setting, a creative space for sharing ideas, collaborating to problem solve and agree the next areas of focus. The role of workplace teams, in ensuring the workplace readiness for its next need, and indeed its next user, will be an important facilitator as people supervision, management and leadership continues to evolve.
As businesses head into a new era influenced by flexibility, logistical requirements of individuals, teams and organisations will vary more than ever. While staff steer their organisations into a post-pandemic world, it is clear that in many cases, each step into the new normal will be anything but just another day at the office.
Therefore, the presence of facilities management specialists will be crucial, not just in cultivating the environment that returning workers are greeted by, but in ensuring that premises can be as adaptable as the employees that work in – or with them.