17 Jun 2020

Trends & Issues Facing FM as Workplace Activities Return

It is no longer news that the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled many organizations to adjust their ways of working. The adjustment did not just impact business operations, it also impacted employees’ way of life, workplace management, and indeed, the corporate culture of most organizations.

As the gradual and phased opening of economies around the world continues, organizations have now begun a return to full operations. This is expected to come with some new trend and challenges, particularly for organizations that are considering an 100% return to the workplace. FM, as the profession that sits at the heart of workplace and business operations integration must spot these trends, prepare, and develop strategies to address them.

For example, according to a survey carried out by the YouGov poll, commissioned by IWFM, 34% of workers are concerned about getting used to a corporate office culture especially after the lockdown.

Remote working or flexible working is a trend that COVID-19 has popularized. Adjusting back to office routines after experiencing this type of flexibility might not be as smooth as expected and in extreme cases, it might impact on productivity.

FM doesn’t just hold the key to preparing buildings for reoccupation and to helping organisations adjust to a new set of operating norms, it needs to come demonstrate new skills to bring together the space, culture and technology aspects of workplace together.

One of the workplace management trends – even pre-COVID – is the introduction of nap rooms. As people transition from remote working to workplace life, the case for this trend is strong in easing people back to work life and increasing productivity level. The National Sleep Foundation, a nap of up to 30 minutes can help restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. While this might not be a possibility and reality for most organization due to space constraint, it is a trend that is gaining ground in today’s workplace management protocol and one that workplace managers should monitor closely.

Hot-desking is also a trend that is picking up as organizations return to work and reality of the cost of Real Estate viz-a-viz the value to productivity stares businesses in the face. Hot-Desking refers to the practice of allocating a workspace to more than one person. It is usually done in companies that are using a Rota system for their employees.

With a trend like Hot-Desking, FM is going to be faced with the reality of automation and blockchain application. This has the potential to trigger socio-cultural dimensions, particularly in Africa when the concept of shared space is not very popular.

Social distancing is another trend that has picked up since the pandemic began, it’s not just a trend but a way to keep people safe and healthy. Organizations must continue to promote the social distancing culture because the pandemic is still very much around and various places like offices, meeting rooms and canteens need to be put in consideration. This will present Facility Managers with the challenge of managing the number of people in these spaces at a time.

According to a report by Forrester, some ways for Facility Managers to manage physical workspaces include limiting the number of people in each physical meetings and general spaces like canteen areas, increase the physical distance between workspaces to at least 6 feet to adhere with social distancing guidelines.

Nearly every aspect of facilities management is beginning to have more focus on connecting the people who work in the industry and those who are impacted by it. Organizations are transitioning from prioritizing the transactional to the experiential.

As new trends continue to reshape the workforce, facility managers will need to consider how these elements can be best utilized to bring the greatest value to the workplace. And they will need to find a balance between managing costs and prioritizing the employee experience.

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