Impact of COVID-19 On Data Center Facility Staffing
November 24, 2020 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
Many facility managers are learning to operate data centers with less staff on-site, with 70 percent taking action as a result of COVID-19, according to a recent FacilitiesNet survey. The most common changes — offering facility staff the option of working from home, staggering workdays, and reducing the number of on-site facility management staff — all mean that the new normal for data centers is short staffing.
That situation sounds an alarm bell for facility managers. Human error is widely seen as the biggest cause of unplanned data center downtime; having fewer employees on-site raises risks such as early signals of problems being missed or the need to rush causing mistakes or oversights.
That’s particularly true if an emergency occurs, or if less experienced staff is operating the data center at certain times. In both cases, additional training could mitigate the risk of an outage.
Another danger is that corners will be cut. If changes in staffing mean that staff is on-site for fewer hours, facility managers should ensure that preventive maintenance for critical power and cooling equipment is not overlooked.
Allowing data center employees to work from home raises other issues: Facility managers should ensure that these workers have appropriate technology, connectivity, and training.
The survey was conducted in March, April, and May of this year, in the early days of the changes to buildings caused by the pandemic.
Ed Sullivan is the former editor-in-chief of Building Operating Management.