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Front-line healthcare workers have repeatedly received kudos over the last 16 months, and deservedly so. They worked long hours in dangerous conditions to provide services that were critical to the success of their organizations’ core mission. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wane, a clearer picture is emerging of another group of facilities workers — maintenance and operations technicians — who confronted the same work conditions.
As companies rethink how they use office space, the outcome could have far reaching consequences for those who can work remotely and for some who have been in the office the whole time, according to Colorado Public Radio. There are thousands of people who keep offices clean and safe, who monitor mechanical systems and change light fixtures.
For many of these workers, their duties have changed. Judy Duran, senior director of property management with CBRE, says security staff had to start enforcing government orders, like reminding people to put their masks on. Sometimes, they might take a lap around the building to look for the things that tenants might otherwise notice, she said.
A similar situation unfolded in New York City’s schools, where a vast, largely unseen force of essential school staff never left New York City’s 1,800 school buildings, according to The New York Times. A network of cooks, custodians, maintenance workers and nurses kept city schools clean, functioning and ready to welcome children back. The city would not have been able to safely reopen schools at all without the grueling, dangerous work done by employees in cramped basement offices, boiler rooms and kitchens.
Dan Hounsell is Senior Editor, Facility Market.