National, 19th April, 2021: As professionals from the facility management sector, the past year has been all about evolving and adapting to everchanging ambiguities. While the initial days of the pandemic and the nation-wide lockdown left most of us in the midst of uncertainty, through the year there is so much we have learnt, foreseeably for a better and more sustainable modus operandi.
On a personal scale in tangent with the general public, the experience over the year is surely subjective and diverse on the whole. For now, let’s look at the 5 key learnings which are specific to the field of facility management and service delivery on this front.
- Risk Management: RM in the pre pandemic era aligned with aspects of fire & safety, EHS, Medical emergency, theft, etc. However today it requires a detailed module on Crisis/Emergency Response at par with that of a global pandemic. We learnt that exigency plans specially targeted at reducing impact and footprint caused by one that has contracted a sickness is most critical. This was done through contact tracing (bolstered by the use of AI recognition and surveillance devices), creation of isolation wards, readily equipped and designated personnel to support transition, liaising with local hospitals and govt. authorities through preset communications channels, redesigning of workspaces, social distancing demarcations – all of which are part of the SOPs that direct RM today.
- Emergency fund allocation: Having a fixed monthly allocation for emergency/crisis situations (at least to ensure salaries and sustain basic infrastructure that drives customer delivery) is absolutely necessary. Planning our yearly budgets by prioritizing this additional tab will ensure employee and employer wellbeing in a crisis like situation.
- Environmental, Social & Governance: Whilst we pursued the initial times of the pandemic with more of prescriptive solutions to problems, true strength always lies in prevention. Having a team of experts in EHS is integral to overall governance. Members of this field have access to the most updated and expert advice on the norms pertaining to Environment, health & safety. Organizations seldom find the need to acquire global certifications (examples: British Safety Council, LEED, IGBC, CII, etc.) for their facility. We learnt that those who did have these in place had much better infrastructure to deal with operational aspects affected by the crisis. Another critical area which is under constant evolution is control of air quality coming into the AHUs. Many organizations have already replaced existing HVAC systems with latest technologies and surely more will follow.
- Technology for Facilities management: We learnt how to manage facilities when even reporting to the facility wasn’t possible. With the technology tools that are available to us today (examples: IoT based sensors, unified digital dashboards, BEACONS, etc.) we could monitor performance of assets and consumables such as diesel, manpower, HVACs, and other utilities through remote access in a digital ecosystem. Bigger players with data centers, server rooms, and global standards of facility management also use these tools for proficient asset management. Many others still use conventional paper based and manually driven methods of facility management. The latter surely found more difficulty in ensuring process continuity and they must invest on having these technologies in place. Right from dashboards that display flow patterns and volume of people at various parts of a facility to automated temperature screening processes using AI, there is a lot that these tools can do to ease our functioning.
- Housekeeping & Hygiene: Cleanliness and hygiene are clearly not judged based on our visibility, after all an invisible virus has shredded our whole ethos. We specifically learnt to address hygiene of commonly touched points like railings, buttons, knobs, etc. which was not seen in the same light as before the pandemic. Hence the importance of having an extremely compliant and proactive housekeeping team. When a team of professionals pursue ‘ethical hygiene,’ it surely provides the most realistically safe environment to work and live in, thus ensuring overall wellbeing of our people.
The focus for all Facility Management organizations in the coming year will predominantly be on ensuring clients and their employees of a safe transition back to the office. Our approach to FM should be a ‘scientifically-backed’ and ‘data-driven’ approach that caters diverse implications of space management.
While the world has learnt much over the year and we have most certainly evolved as businesses and people, it will be interesting to watch the outcome our endeavors.