Facility management is delicate balance that includes managing people, the place, and the processes that make up the typical modern facility. Understanding this is key to identifying the most efficient and effective ways to stay on top of all that’s required.
The situation becomes even more complicated when facility managers have to plan for external circumstances beyond their immediate control—such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Facility managers lead the direction of the estate under their care. As a result, their leadership skills are tested daily. The impact of their soft skills on the success of the facility is almost equal to their technical skills because they must manage different sets of people: the people that directly help them run the property (the maintenance team), manage the expectations of everyone else that uses the facility (clients, vendors, etc), and communicate effectively with all these parties.
In view of the pandemic, it’s essential to have fast, effective, and trusted means of communicating with staff, occupants, and other stakeholders so that everyone is updated about any decisions you may make and if they need to take any actions as well. Consider a variety of channels such as intranet or internet information pages with Q&A sections and informative posters within the premises.
This is important now more than ever because there’s a lot of fear and misinformation out there about COVID-19. Facility managers need to be proactive to keep negative and harmful information out.
Regardless of the size and type of structure that they manage, the pressure that facility managers face when important assets breakdown can be overwhelming. Because of this challenge, experienced FMs have learned to take proactive steps to minimize equipment failure by continually monitoring equipment maintenance through annual and monthly maintenance plans and looking to follow best building maintenance practices.
On top of this pressure, the COVID-19 situation has added more layers of challenges. For one thing, the highly contagious nature of this virus means that the watchword for FMs now is prevention—they have to do everything necessary to avoid this infection from getting in their premises in the first place. A significant part of that prevention requires that FMs focus on cleaning and disinfecting, safety management and controlling costs.
Proper upkeep of all cleaning and disinfecting equipment
Thoroughly clean and disinfect, especially in high-traffic areas like reception and front desk areas and other shared spaces (bathrooms, common areas) All cleaning equipment should be regularly inspected, kept in optimum condition, and ready to use at a moment’s notice. For larger facilities like schools, hotels, and hospitals, this equipment may include mist disinfection machines, disinfecting robots, automatic hand sanitizer dispensers, etc.
All this may sound daunting considering there are still other categories of equipment (e.g. HVAC and electrical systems) to maintain in the facility. One tool is a CMMS for scheduling maintenance tasks, even for hundreds of machines. This makes it easier to centralize, extract, and analyze maintenance information, automate routine tasks like preparing checklists, monitor daily work and track repair and servicing times and work orders, while also minimizing emergency repairs.
However, even with the best laid-out maintenance plans, things will often go wrong. FMs need to develop the calmness and mental acuity to promptly handle new or urgent situations that may crop up.
Safety is a multifaceted responsibility in facility management because they need to ensure their personal safety, the safety of the maintenance team, and everyone else that uses the facility. FMs now have to contend with additional safety measures to avoid the pandemic. Some particular areas that they need to be mindful of are:
- Identifying contamination hazards: They need to continually check that common areas are clean and disinfected every day; that cleaners adhere to PPE guidelines and are continually informed about safe cleaning methods. FMs need to check and enforce compliance with social distancing guidelines. For very large and busy facilities, in addition to the usual cleaning staff, facility managers can consider introducing ‘roving’ cleaners dedicated to cleaning high-touch surfaces like door handles, staircase handrails, elevator buttons, etc.
- Overall safe operation and maintenance of the premises: Depending on the kind of facility they are managing, facility management teams may be working fully remotely or they may be running flexible working arrangements. Therefore, It’s likely that the facility manager still has to get the same level of work done, but with a smaller team. This creates a unique challenge but it can be managed by being more proactive, for example, avoiding maintenance backlog and deploying automation tools.
For FMs who must keep working through the pandemic, there is extensive information out there to help them assess the risks and make the best decisions for their facilities and people during this period. Nevertheless, it’s important to still emphasize the need for continuous education and awareness for all stakeholders, compliance with strict cleaning and disinfection practices, and prompt maintenance.
FMs are expected to monitor cost, keep their expenditure within an approved budget, and yet maintain operational efficiency in all the services offered in their facility. If they can’t do this, their organizations will likely not be competitive in today’s economy. There will be some cost implications for protecting facilities from COVID-19, for example, acquiring better cleaning/disinfecting equipment or purchasing the necessary PPE on time.
Making decisions to spend money or not is a common source of pressure. But, being resourceful and proactive can help manage this. For instance, one of the first things that FMs need to do as facilities gradually reopen is to conduct audits to catch any loopholes in their preparedness using the tips mentioned above. Again, you don’t necessarily have to buy every safety gadget out there, just ensure that you have the essentials, that every purchase is well-planned, and that assets are not left idle.
Now more than ever, facility management seems to be quite challenging. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. FMs can handle these challenges and still deliver safe and efficient facilities that are protected from the pandemic if they can take ownership of the critical areas discussed above.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.