Facility Management has clearly been affected by the changes to the world of work that have come about as a result of the pandemic. A recent study[i] explores the practical implications of this development on the new priorities of this sector, both in the interest of the company and, above all, in the interest of the employee.
Three main observations have emerged from this study, providing new perspectives for Facility Management:
- Priorities that have changed as a result of COVID-19
- A reassessment of the impact of QWL on collective efficiency
- A need for innovation in the services available to employees
Facility Management traditionally manages two types of services:
- Building services (hard services)
- Occupant services (soft services)
Like all corporate purchasing habits, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up this traditional balance of general services in two ways:
- The concept of occupant services has been broadened to accommodate employees working remotely.
- Much more attention has been paid to the well-being of employees, who have been hit particularly hard since the beginning of 2020.
As a result, Facility Management decision makers are now channelling their energy into areas such as remote working conditions, employee health, and health and safety.
Overall, due to the lessons learnt throughout 2020, the order of priorities for Facility Management has been completely transformed:
- Protecting employee health
- Enabling remote working and mobility
- Providing flexibility for service usage options and for on-site operational organisation
- Improving quality of life at work
While quality of working life (QWL) appears fourth on the list of priorities for Facility Management services, in reality, it ties together all of the previous points.
The experience of working remotely and in a lockdown, which has become commonplace across most organisations, has meant that company employee welfare has been placed right at the top of the agenda. For example, maintaining face-to-face team collaboration in some form, especially for new starters, is an objective that is explicitly mentioned in the study.
Moreover, the procurement departments themselves are directly confronted with the same challenges, which makes it easier for them to take on the task.
The study also surveyed Facility Management decision makers about the range of services that are now available. While they stated that they were mostly satisfied (85%), they highlighted a need for change, particularly in organisations with less than 500 people and in the service sector.
According to the decision makers surveyed, innovation could take several forms, such as:
- Access to personal development services, such as sport, coaching or stress management.
- Reduction in the digital divide, in order to foster cohesion among employees, with the vision of maintaining a certain amount of remote working after the crisis is over.
- Better understanding of the particular constraints of remote working, such as child care or food deliveries.
However, buyers are not unaware of the obstacles preventing such innovative ideas being implemented in Facility Management, as we are still yet to come up with a new way of navigating working life. As a matter of fact, companies' ability to create a seamless link between in-person and remote activities is still somewhat lacking. This makes it difficult to allocate the corresponding budgets or mobilise the necessary infrastructure.
In conclusion, Facility Management buyers have fully taken the new issues of corporate cohesion in their stride, including integrating new starters, facilitating sustainable remote working and supporting employee communication. New services are expected to emerge gradually, adapted to the new situation and conducive to improving the quality of working life.
Prioritisation of QWL is part of a larger movement, which sees various facets of CSR making their way onto the procurement department's agenda. For more on this, take a look at the article by Julie Dang Tran, Managing Director of Manutan France: The reality of CSR as told by chief procurement officers.
[i] Study conducted by Elior Services/OpinionWay/Décision Achats – September 2020