The Long-term Impact of COVID-19 on Facilities Management
Facilities management is an enormous global industry that encompasses everything that ensures the functionality, comfort, safety, and efficiency of buildings – both commercial and residential. It’s therefore unsurprising that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on facilities management.
But to what extent did the crisis affect the facilities management industry, particularly regarding possible long-term impacts? This article will provide insight into what will probably be some of the leading long-term impacts on the industry due to COVID-19.
Remote work becoming the new norm
Some organizations may have allowed remote work prior to COVID-19, but it was hardly widespread. The pandemic completely changed that. Months of lock-down and enforced isolation meant huge numbers of employees became used to working full-time from home. In the meantime, many buildings sat empty or near-empty, with a resulting paradigm shift in what constitutes a viable workspace.
Crucially, expert analysts acknowledge many more people will work remotely post-COVID than did before. McKinsey and Company noted in a February 2021 study that industries that require close personal contact will be the most disrupted and might need to adopt new practices, policies, and technology.
These new practices and policies will likely be up to facility managers to review and implement.
Even if this change in how and where people work occurs for many as a part-office, part-home hybrid work model, the implications on facilities management will be immense. For example, the way in which office space is maintained and utilized, or even if there is a need for office space, will change post-COVID, and will thus be discussed in the following sections.
COVID-19 will result in significant changes to the way in which physical aspects of buildings and offices, i.e. the ‘hard’ facilities management are effectively managed.
It’s not surprising there will be an even greater emphasis on sanitation in the aftermath of a global pandemic. The ‘virus-proofing’ of offices has become a common buzz phrase. There will be a greater, ongoing demand on facilities management service providers from clients regarding the supply of hand sanitizers and masks, as well as high-frequency cleaning to disinfect common high-touch or high foot traffic areas.
This greater emphasis on sanitation will have to be effectively absorbed into planned maintenance schedules, which is why having a comprehensive, intelligent computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) will be more important than ever for facilities managers.
Different Space Utilization
There will be a shift to more dynamic space usage and allied work-flow considerations in most workplaces due to often dramatic changes in how, where, and when people work, including far more prevalent ‘flexiwork.’ Concepts such as distributed offices, whereby people work in smaller, defined clusters or teams, will become more appealing. That way, employees can still collaborate meaningfully without being over-exposed to too many people.
New Leasing Realities
One ‘soft’ facilities management issue that will change due to COVID-19 is that of leasing. A massive downturn in leases and property sales during 2020 had a huge impact on the industry, with S&P Global Ratings commenting: “The global recession, sparked by record job losses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, will hurt demand for office real estate, with occupancy and rental rates to come under pressure.”
Even as office rentals tend to be more stable, since corporate clients usually take long-term leases of up to 10 years or more, NPR noted how many Manhattan-based corporates were asking themselves” “Do we really need so much office space?” Short-term leases for retail spaces and ‘wait and see’ client attitudes will become more normative, as will allowing commercial tenants to have other ways of distributing their rental burden, such as subletting.
Facilities management professionals will need to remember these key changes to the industry arising from COVID-19:
- How, when, and where people work will change dramatically, with hybrid work models as the new norm.
- Changes in work patterns will have resulting shifts in how commercial and retail spaces are used.
- Sanitation will become even more prevalent and demanded by clients.
- Iron-clad, long-term lease agreements will not be the overwhelming norm – more innovative, shorter-term leasing alternatives will prevail.
- Intelligent, user-friendly CMMS will be even more essential.
It makes sense that a global pandemic would have major impacts on the way in which people live and work. After all, people spend an average of 87% of their time inside buildings. The implications for facilities management will be will be felt by the industry for years to come.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of 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.Back