The outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic has surely had a major effect on our lives and the way we live.
Hence, the changes we are experiencing does not exclude the roles to which we have had to adjust, with Facilities Managers surely being no exception – especially as they responsible for guaranteeing the safety and efficiency of built environments such as offices, hospitals and schools, being just a few examples.
Among their new responsibilities, is taking charge of technologies linked directly to ensuring the safety of people and assets across their facilities.
How has the role of Facilities Managers changed?
Being responsible for keeping people safe, here are a few ways in which the pandemic has altered their roles:
More communication with facility users
While having previously communicated mostly with suppliers, contractors and executives, the pandemic has led to a shift in focus as facilities managers now tend to communicate more with users of their facilities like front line employees and visitors.
Through implemented feedback systems, managers tend to use feedback submitted by facility users to figure out whether they need to strengthen their cleaning protocols to make them feel more safe.
Enhanced health and safety protocols
By enforcing social distancing rules and either sealing off group seating areas or closing them entirely, facilities managers sharpened their health and safety protocols to reduce the risks of infection for their users.
Additional measures included an upgrading in their air circulation systems to increase the spread of air free of contaminants and using hand sanitation.
Key steps to support the role of facility managers and a safe return to work
While the uncertainty regarding a safe return to work in offices and facilities remains in a working environment which has become increasingly hybrid, there is still a major demand by a large amount of the workforce for a return to physical workspaces. In order to ensure safer workspaces therefore, top priority regarding the following steps must be given by facilities managers:
Redesigning workspaces to address needs
Facilities Managers of workspaces should recognize a difference between work involving focus and that involving collaboration. While the former could still be done at home, it is always preferred that the latter be done in person.
They need to work with office designers therefore, to promote safe collaborations in such spaces. As an example, dividing offices into smaller rooms to be used by individual groups tends to minimize contact between the separate groups.
With more team members working from home, video calls must continue to be supported by some facility managers via installing microphone systems and monitors.
Investing in technologies for safer management of facilities
In addition to microphones and monitors, key technologies should be enhanced by facilities managers to ensure the safety of their workplaces on a long term basis. These include automated and contactless systems such as motion activated hand sanitizer stations, bathroom soap dispensers and taps, as well as allowing people entry through touchless Access Control Systems (ACS)at doorways and elevators,
In addition, a Visitor Management System (VMS), can ease a touchless check in process when connected with access control systems. Hence, employees and visitors can enter a building by scanning a QR Code at an ACS, thus avoiding the need to come into contact with either front desk receptionists or touch surfaces.
Additional examples include Cloud Based VMS through which employees, visitors and contractors can be pre-registered in order to arrive onsite. Health questionnaires, as well as on-site protocols and safety are sent to these individuals. If all pre-registration criteria are met, a QR Code is granted to them granting them entry, thus improving the safety and efficiency of these facilities.
Finally, taking temperatures of individuals entering facilities, can be used. Although being risky since it may involve people coming into contact with potentially infected persons, it can be used to deny those with fevers entry thereby minimizing the risk of infection.
Learning, networking and sharing knowledge
As we continuously realize that there is no single answer or solution, sharing learnings and knowledge, as well as having discussions across the Facilities Management and other related industries, is increasing at a rapid pace.
With the new world of work rapidly shaping around us and with many unknowns yet to be faced, this is the ideal time to prepare for a safe return to facilities. This implies ensuring the safety of the most valuable assert (people) through investing in the right design and technology.