July 8, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak has acted as a catalyst for change and has reiterated the need to pay attention to how facilities are being managed and services are being delivered. All built environments, owned or leased offices, warehouses, retail stores or manufacturing facilities, will require careful consideration and tailored plans. 

With health and wellness becoming key focus areas, organizations may prefer to hire professional and trained facilities managers to drive such initiatives. As we move forward, the role of FM services providers can also become more strategic and long-term in nature with facets like hygiene and safety gaining importance for everyone. Technology and changing attitudes will drive increased sophistication in facilities management. The role of facility management is emerging from just being a service provider, to promoting a culture anchored by safe work practices, quality, talent development, technology and analytics. 

Digital technologies are changing the way real estate functions and facilities are used. It has altered how, when, and where people work, redefining the workplace and the way of living. As digital systems become more powerful and more deeply embedded in the processes and workings of organizations, the way companies manage and use offices, residential properties, manufacturing sites or warehouses, will continue to evolve. Digitized processes allow companies to make data-driven decisions and efficiently manage properties.

Shift to digital

As organizations prepare to reopen workplaces, occupiers should be prepared to determine their thresholds and policies for welcoming employees, customers and visitors back to their offices and places of business. People’s expectations from the amenities and services that companies provide are increasing at a quick pace, with more focus on health and wellness at the workplace. By embracing the latest technologies, FM providers must work together with clients in order to improve the workplace experience and undertake health, and wellness initiatives

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced companies to reset the ongoing soft services to support the workplace environment. There is a growing need for automating FM business processes, everything from move-ins, service requests and maintenance, to energy management or workspace customization. Facilities managers must leverage data for better decision making, capital planning and improving the workplace experience for employees and customers alike.

Smart technology and Artificial Intelligence

Smart technologies are accelerating almost every aspect of building automation. By leveraging the technologies, the day to day work of FM providers will get intelligent and more efficient. There are a variety of smart technologies available to automate business parks, office spaces, shopping malls, apartment complexes, warehouses and other public spaces. With the help of these emerging technologies, facility managers have the potential to optimize their time on the job and create a better environment for facility occupants. 

In the post Covid times, smart technologies will add greater significance, given that facilities will be occupied in a gradual manner and better control and intelligence will be needed to operate buildings in a very dynamic environment with varied occupancy pattern. Quick changes, remote monitoring and operations and data analytics are expected to bring efficiency in this dynamically changing occupancy.

The concept of smart buildings is pushing facility managers to rediscover the use and integrations of buildings into one single eco-system. Every asset or device within the building, such as lights, sensors, windows, HVAC units, doors and CCTV, having a unique identity and all fully integrated into a network. Artificial Intelligence and IoT technologies can increase operational efficiency and improve building management, by allowing to distantly monitor and control facilities.

Wellness and Improving User Experience

With a key focus on health and wellness, organizations are increasingly investing more in the health and well-being of their employees and key priority will be on wellness on every company’s agenda. The pandemic situation has redefined employee experience and expectations completely. As organizations prepare for their reopening, there is a growing need for employers and occupiers to assure and demonstrate to their associates about their safe return to the workplaces and ensuring their safety in the longer run. Demonstratable actions from employers will go a long way in reassuring the associates, with facilities managers being required to drive most of these wellness initiatives. 

The focus of FM professionals is to provide wellness programs that boost productivity, attract talent and reduce the rate of people falling sick. CBRE’s Healthy Offices research suggests that there is a direct relationship between wellness measures and the bottom line as they can improve employee productivity by an average of 10 per cent. The workplace increasingly must accommodate different generations. FM providers must balance the needs of different age groups, keeping in mind the well-being of all.

Driven by an increased focus on the user experience and business outcome, the role of FM providers is becoming more strategic and long term. With employee engagement and experience gaining importance, FM providers are working in partnership with customers to help them achieve the company’s corporate goals. Clients see smart buildings as a means of enhancing the ‘customer experience’ for employees. As technology and changing attitudes drive an increased sophistication in facilities management, it’s the people who are playing a much more important role.

In the post Covid-19 scenario, there would be an increased focus on new services and activities to facilitate employee’s return to their workplaces. Occupiers should conduct a holistic review of business requirements and portfolio implications to assess and optimize their medium- to long-term positions and options considering anticipated changes to workplace strategy in a post-COVID-19 world. It is critical to establish a centralized, multidisciplinary task force as soon as possible to help plan and oversee recovery efforts across the portfolio. FM providers and occupiers must work together to settle on a balanced approach that builds in greater resilience by introducing a spectrum of physical and virtual solutions based on business needs.

This Article first appeared in The Times of India 
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