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A world of change – FM insights from Elliott Chase

wellness in facilities management

A World of Change - FM insights from Elliott Chase

Remember all that talk from early last year about the ‘new normal’ – when would it get here, what would it be?  Well, strangely enough, it’s here – this is the new normal.


The change has crept into place without anyone paying all that much attention.  Conditions that seemed extraordinary last March are still with us: the precautions, the stay-at-home advice, the close-down of so much of the economy, the dependence on healthcare services and all the other essential support sectors.  The only big difference is that science has delivered the near-miraculous development of multiple effective vaccines… which brought with them the realisation that no matter how good a vaccine, it is not a magic solution to the underlying problem.


So somewhere along the line – maybe in the autumn when we began to realise that Covid-19 is defiantly persistent – present conditions became our normal, the way we live and work today and for the foreseeable future.  That future may change again towards the summer, or next autumn, or sometime after that. The fact is, we may have hopes but we don’t know.  And for quite some time in this uncertain, rapidly changing world, ‘normal’ in any case has been whatever prevails (broadly) for ‘a while’. 


Our annual FM Business Confidence Surveys, along with various other studies of attitudes and expectations across the business world, have found respondents at all levels, and in various disciplines, expressing concern about uncertainty at least since the 2016 Brexit referendum.  And you can add to that the past decade’s changes in workplace technologies and demographics.  All of these are ongoing, of course.

So with this, now overlain with pandemic restrictions and the shift to working from home, all with us for the foreseeable, we have a new normal. Sure, it will morph into something else eventually; but for the time being it is, as the philosophers say, what it is.


Happily, change and uncertainty are amongst the things that FM does best.  The pandemic has impacted every FM, in-house or outsourced, with all called on to respond to a new set of needs – in many cases, radically different needs.  Across the discipline, there have been challenges and tragedies, but also opportunities and successes.  The challenges include providing safe and secure workplaces for current conditions, or where these places are closed, protecting the sites and ensuring they will be ready for future occupation. In parallel, there is another sort of challenge, attracting increasing focus as current conditions persist: what is FM’s role in supporting a remote workforce, especially one that is by necessity working from home, where facilities, equipment and technology may not be optimal with potential consequent impacts on comfort, productivity, morale and wellbeing?


For service providers there are the additional challenges of competing for work in an even more than usually difficult marketplace, along with understanding and responding to the pressures that clients are experiencing in their own particular markets.


But, as noted, there are opportunities, too – rethinking the ‘business as usual’ approach, finding new solutions to new (or even old) problems, and pursuing (often technology-based) innovation.  There have also been welcome opportunities to demonstrate just how much value good FM can contribute and how much of what we do is truly essential work.


One thing that is missing in this new normal, though, is the opportunity to share ideas and experiences in traditional ways.  There is great value in such sharing, of course, which is why our annual industry conference – Workplace Futures – is going ahead next month. It will be virtual for the first time, but we are hosting it on a platform that preserves as much of the ‘real thing’ as possible – the opportunities for interactions, for meeting, for discussion and for learning.


The theme is exactly what our new normal is about: impact, challenges and opportunities.  A great panel of speakers will cover the state of the market, current research, trends shaping the industry, the effects of change in property and technology, projected futures, plus first-hand experience from a range of leading service providers.


Workplace Futures takes place 23 February.  Full details of the programme, along with booking information, are here.  Join us to share insights into FM today and where it’s headed tomorrow

Elliott Chase


Managing Editor, i-FM

wellness in facilities management

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