The Evolving Role Of Facility Managers Amidst Covid Crisis

Headquartered in Gujarat, the company offers project management and development and integrated facility management services.

We are living in unprecedented times. The spread of COVID-19 across the globe and its repercussions within our country itself stand testament to the severity of the crisis. Post COVID-19, once we move in the normalcy zone, it would have radically altered the ethos of business functionality. There are many service industries such as banking, hospitals, media, and information technology (IT) that are functioning to maintain the financial and healthcare security of the nation amidst this pandemic. To ensure the business support solutions with the cleanliness of the premises of the companies which are currently functional in the lockdown, facilities management companies are deploying resources to ensure optimum soft-hygiene and effective sanitation of the sites.

Blue-collar workforces are on the frontline even amidst this crisis and working in tough conditions. The biggest learning from this critical period is the management's ability to embrace a whole host of newer measures and operating standards, not only for the safety of employees, but also to maintain business continuity. This COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the facility management services with a focus on cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitization. It has called for a renewed view for hygiene and overall facility management to adapt to the new set of challenges through differentiated services.

Safety Foremost
The big trial that facility managers are facing right now is safety not only of their own employees, but also the residents where they are providing their services. Ensuring compliance with the government's protocols on health and safety requirements is critical. Adhering to guidelines on hygiene practices, maintaining social distancing, and limiting personnel interaction is another crucial aspect. Screening at the premise via infrared thermometers has been a set protocol for ingress at all operational sites. A daily update call on COVID status is part of SoP at each site. Keeping medic and authorities reach-out details handy is the new normal.

Using innovative mediums will help in optimizing operations and bring about increased efficiency across all parameters and also improve the health and cleanliness across buildings

Soft-Hygiene Services: Need Of The Hour
Minimizing the risk of infections in buildings ­ both commercial and residential ­ from the threat of COVID-19 has become core to the entire FM service delivery module at any/all active sites. Basic soft-hygiene services have become the essential need of the hour along with standby support ensuring basic needs to electricity and water. To ensure sustainable delivery, most of these blue-collared staff are putting-up in the very premise of clients, keeping at bay the risk of getting infected by venturing-out. As the deployment gets leaner during these times, the staff at the site are multitasking to satiate the requirements of the essential services. The pandemic has changed the way many perceived and approached cleaning and disinfecting services.

This new realm has induced new operational strategies encompassing a more rigorous and increased frequency in cleaning processes. The kind of material used for cleaning has become all the more important. The specifications moving away from an acidic based cleansing material to better options. A well-articulated cleaning SoP with specifications on what surfaces need to be cleaned the most along with the categorization of disinfectant being used. Touchless taps and soap dispensers are high on demand and will gain more importance as we move towards the new normal. The other important factor is keeping a track of occupants and visitors along with a look at symptom visibility for security purposes. A detailed reporting of this information with key members of the taskforce is important. It goes without saying how critical these processes have become.

Automation Gaining Ground
The other point that has emerged amidst this crisis is the need to adopt technology in a way that elevates efficiency and aids workforce and human intelligence. Change is the only constant in life and one has to adapt to this evolving crisis and find solutions in the form of differentiated services. One that will usher in a new change with regards to performance and safety; and the answer lies in the usage of IoT technology. Also, the cleaning industry needs to actively look at embracing automation to prepare for the future. Solutions that will help facility managers to automate tasks and collect performance data to standardize the procedures enhance the effectiveness of staff and streamline operations for the clients. Using innovative mediums will help in optimizing operations and bring about increased efficiency across all parameters and also improve the health and cleanliness across buildings. This in the larger sense would help reassign teams to other workplaces and seek newer opportunities with existing resources.

This easing and eventual fading-out of the lockdown shall call for an all-new rebooting mechanism for all the establishments irrespective of its nature of business or size. The onus is back again on FM service partners to provide its clients with a ready reference manual which shall cover all the dimensions of a new working environment while COVID-19 is not fully gone. The essence would trickle down to finer nuances of greeting people and conducting day-to-day interactions. A lot shall depend on this proactive service and maintenance programs from here on.

It is evident that the stakes have never been higher, neither a crisis so severe and crippling. What the facility management firms need right now is to protect the employees, safeguard their health with a well-documented plan of action, and use appropriate technologies to deliver the desired results as they look at weathering this storm in the near medium and long term.