Facilities management in a Post-COVID world

Paul Amato's headshot
About the author : Paul Amato

Director FM Platform at Sodexo

Published on : 6/12/20
  • While many industries and organisations are looking at what a post-COVID-19 world looks like for the safety and wellbeing of their employees and customers, there is an added layer of complexity for organisations in the Facilities Management industry. Not only do we have our own employees and facilities to take into consideration, but we also have the employees and stakeholders of our clients and their facilities to consider.

    Fortunately, we are adept at managing facilities, assets, teams and projects, and this planning puts us in good stead to formulate a robust COVIDSAFE plan for the future. 

    Building on our experience working with our clients and stakeholders in China and Asia in the earlier phase of this crisis, we have the expertise and agility as a strong driving force to support organisations to progressively return to their activities, working together to provide a safe environment. 

    We also have solid internal foundations from which to build, which will make for a seamless transition. 

    STARTING WITH THE FOUNDATIONS

    You don’t build a house without a plan, and you certainly won’t return to ‘business as usual’ without a plan either. For Sodexo, our culture of safety, our remote communication tools and our stakeholder engagement processes all form a solid foundation from which to create the next steps for the business. These may be unprecedented times but we aren’t starting from scratch by any means. 

    A culture of safety is inherent in all Facilities Management operations, which is why we place significant focus on the company’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) platform to ensure our segments in Australia meet Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) objectives. Having a platform that develops strategies to drive improvement in health (both physical and mental), safety, environment, sustainability, and quality performance, inspires a cultural and behavioural change towards total safety and a zero-accident mindset.

    Leveraging from this framework, we have built in reactive and preventive disinfection cleaning protocols, human temperature monitoring, onsite health communication and convenient pre-packaged food options to name a few. 

    MyWay App on iPhoneIn one client alone, our mobile communications app, ‘MyWay’, has had a 73% adoption rate with over 5,000 users engaged monthly and submitting more than 13,000 service requests. Thanks to this technology, the breadth and scope of contactless communications is significant, allowing us to disseminate communications, integrate contactless payment options and connect people virtually to accommodate social distancing rules. 

    With more and more people now accustomed to digital communications, the app provides us with a vehicle to deliver more value and increase engagement. 

    Stakeholder engagement is critical to understanding the motives, behaviours and perceived risks of those that are closely impacted by an event or decision. We know that every business has its own unique set of circumstances, and we are proud of our role in helping to facilitate desired outcomes through relationship building and problem solving. Our four-stage approach to engaging with our employees, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders will see us:

    • Listen and identify challenges
    • Assess risk and critical areas
    • Communicate and gain trust
    • Report and follow up

    GAINING TRUST

    Planning a post-COVID-19 response is just the beginning. What consumers, clients and stakeholders want from corporate Australia is assurance that promises will be delivered. With so many businesses either not trading, or operating with restrictions, it will be important to rebuild trust among all stakeholders in work and life spaces - trust in the workspace and beyond has been significantly impacted. Parents will need to feel reassured that they are sending their children to a safe environment at school. People want reassurance their parents are living and being cared for in safe aged care facilities. Employees will expect to feel safe within the workplace. Consumers will need to feel confident that the food they are eating is safe. Gaining trust starts with communicating promises and following through on those promises. 

    We recognise that businesses cannot simply return to their original way of working as restrictions begin to lift – it will be a process which will involve adaptations and change for every organisation. As such, we are supporting our clients to manage COVID-19 through a phased approach of remobilisation and return to work; applying service adaptations and enhancements and planning for longer term changes in anticipation for the ‘new normal’. Here in Australia, we are learning lessons from our teams across the globe for every step of the client experience, making sure consideration of the people, facilities and workplace are at the forefront of these new plans.

    For all clients, we will be conducting a pre-occupation assessment, a structured process to ensure all services are brought back online in a safe, compliant and efficient manner (for example, water quality assessments to look at the effects of low occupancy and closed buildings on the quality of water). 

    Implementing enhanced preventative cleaning regimes minimises the potential for infection from contaminated surfaces. To do so effectively, the following should first be considered:

    1. Which areas need to be cleaned
    2. Cleaning frequency
    3. The level of risk posed by the occupancy and specific use of the space
    4. Existing cleaning methodologies 
    5. Products used 

    Temperature monitoring devices have become commonplace in many workplaces and provide early alerts of potential illness, enabling workers to seek medical advice before entering the workplace. The types of devices available and manual support required depends on the number of employees within the organisation, the frequency employees are visiting the workplace and the rate at which temperature monitoring needs to be conducted. 

    Temperature monitoring systems range from simple and affordable handheld devices to fully automated systems which use thermal imaging technology (often in excess of $30,000). The right system and approach will stem from an understanding of your specific business operations and needs.

    Ensuring that Sodexo teams, client employees and all involved stakeholders follow social distancing long after restrictions have lifted will also be critical to promoting an environment worthy of trust. Physical changes to the office include the redistribution of furniture, a reduction in the number of people in meeting rooms, and the placement of COVIDSAFE signage. Facilities Management divisions should be advocating for the use of equipment and processes that reduce the spread of contaminants such as sneeze guards, changed seating, revised workspace layouts and queue management, including guidance lines or stickers on furniture, floors, lifts and lobby areas.

    Technology also enables social distancing by ensuring that maximum occupancy levels are not exceeded. These technologies allow individuals to book specific rooms, desks or other facilities within their workplace through mobile apps and ensure that those spaces are ready for use when they arrive. 

    Finally, to ensure employees feel safe returning to the workplace and being around colleagues again, we have developed ‘welcome back to work’ packages. These include hand sanitiser, disinfection wipes, face masks and information on the new ways of working to educate and empower employees.

    NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY

    In Australia, Sodexo has delivered integrated facilities management services for more than 30 years, across the Corporate, Education, Government & Justice, Healthcare & Seniors, and Energy & Resources industries. We are responsible for the welfare of more than 5,000 employees based at more than 300 sites around the country and the welfare of thousands more employees, students, consumers, diners, and members of the clients we serve. 

    Sodexo has recently released a report on current trends in the facilities management industry, including IoT and AR. You can read the full report by clicking here.  

    Also, take a look at our “Preparing for our New Normal” solutions to find out more about how Sodexo can support your company during its remobilisation.