Essential Workers: Facility Managers' Expanded Role During the Pandemic
New ways of interacting with departments and expanded responsibilities must be part of a total strategic plan based on the organization's pandemic response priorities.
As facility managers step into an expanded role in helping organizations reopen after the pandemic lockdown, they are interacting in different ways with a range of essential players in facilities:
- Top leadership, to understand key decisions such as when facilities will reopen, proximity requirements and the ways they will be reinforced, and occupant-density requirements
- Legal, to understand areas of risk and ways to manage them.
- Human resources, to understand messaging to employees, as well as potential sensitivities. For example, human resources is a key resource in communicating receipt of a positive COVID-19 test result.
- Marketing and communications, to discuss messaging about proximity etiquette, hygiene, resources available and rules.
- IT, to understand potential impacts on software and hardware security, such as employees working remotely, employees returning from a work-from-home environment to potentially connect to the company network, and employees returning with IT equipment that needs to be quarantined.
In building a strategic response, managers not only must coordinate with others outside the traditional facilities bubble. They also need to keep high-level strategy in mind.
In other words, be careful of jumping straight into the tactics, such as changing filters and installing hand sanitizer stations. These actions might be fine, but managers need to focus on a strategic plan that is informed by the organization’s priorities. The plan should address three key areas:
People. Address essential functions, organizational priorities, communication requirements, legal requirements, human resources requirements, training needs, staffing plans, people-related policies and procedures, and management of contractors and vendors.
Place. Address requirements of facilities and facility systems, as well as space use and management.
Process. Address aspects of risk management, policies and procedures, measurement and monitoring, and resource management.
One proven resource for helping facility managers successfully walk through the interactions and integrations with various departments in developing facility response plans is the strategic framework developed by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). The free resource serves as a guide for facility managers to address organizational needs.
The key to keeping people safe as the nation continues to cope with the coronavirus pandemic is a solid facility management program. Unlike any other crisis that has affected facilities, stepping outside our facilities bubble to work closely with others to build a comprehensive strategy is critical to success.
Managers must orchestrate many moving parts. Working with other key players in their organizations, they can navigate the best response and build a reasonable plan that balances safety concerns, local mandates and requirements, facility constraints, effective communication and the messages that meet the overall needs of the organization.
Laurie Gilmer is vice president and chief operating officer of Facility Engineering Associates. Gilmer is a published author and instructor and is the first vice chair of IFMA’s board of directors. She also serves on the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council’s Building Operator Certification program advisory committee and the National Visiting Committee of Building Efficiency for a Sustainable Tomorrow (BEST) Center.
Laurie Gilmer on 21st Century Management
The challenges facing maintenance and engineering managers in institutional and commercial buildings can seem never-ending and daunting. To help managers address these issues, columnist Laurie Gilmer, vice president and chief operating officer of Facility Engineering Associates, has offered insights and information in her columns that are based on her experience with organizations and associations. Among the topics she has covered in her columns:
Best practices. Managers have to understand organization and department needs in order to implement the most effective practices.
Technician training. Aging workforces are prompting managers to research and implement new strategies for training newer technicians.
Facility resilience. A closer look at the role of managers in helping their organizations prepare for, respond to and recover from a crisis, as well as return to full operation.
IoT. Managers who understand the potential benefits of the building Internet of Things (IoT), can drive improvements within their facilities.
New technology. Managers selecting emerging systems and products need to separate shiny new gadgets from technology that delivers tangible benefits.
To read Gilmer’s columns, click here.