Isn't it ironic - FM Insights from Elliott Chase

For all the terrible outcomes associated with Covid-19, it is arguable that a handful of businesses are seeing some benefit arising from the situation.

 

Video meeting and webinar platform providers, for example – that’s obvious. Survey writers, for sure – we’re receiving results releases at about the rate of one a day; sometimes several a day. More importantly for our industry, cleaning and hygiene service providers may never have been in higher demand. These businesses and their people have always been critical – the pandemic has underscored that point and reinforced it with unique emphasis and urgency.

It is ironic that such a crisis should also bring new market opportunities to some. Not an unknown phenomenon, of course: think of all those aphorisms about ill winds, doors closing and doors opening, meat and poison etc. Broadly speaking, there were two phases to this opportunity spotting. First, a veritable avalanche of advice – about closing down buildings, then re-opening them; about managing and communicating with remote workers; supporting their wellbeing; advising on and taking up various financial schemes; more recently, preparing for the return-to-work.  The second phase, which came as an overlap, part inspired by the great focus on healthcare facilities and part by beginning to think about re-occupying other types of workplace, brought out the cleaning advice and service offers. Fogging systems appeared seemingly from nowhere, becoming available pretty much everywhere – even from some companies that previously had no track record in cleaning. And ‘no rmal’ cleaning services, anecdotal evidence suggests, are in demand as never before.

 

It is not my intention to be dismissive of this. There are genuine needs here. The advice is valuable to organisations coping with unprecedented conditions. And thorough, professional cleaning is essential for two very good reasons: first, the virus lingers on in our communities and effective cleaning is a great contributor to stopping its spread; second, people returning to work (or coming into any new environment) want and need the reassurance that they will be safe doing so.

 

These needs translate into market opportunity. It would be easy to see this as harsh, cynical or even heartless. But, fundamentally, it is not. It is simply the way the world works.

And it’s not just FM, of course. Covid-19 has opened a door for management consultants with their return-to-work guidance, property advisors with insights on replanning office layouts, suppliers of plexiglas screens and social distancing markers (a double opportunity there as 2m was reduced to 1+) and more.

 

But for FM, there’s an extra point to consider. Facilities management as a whole has enjoyed a new recognition of its importance and the value it adds to individuals, organisations and society at large. The challenge for the industry, and the institutes and associations within it, is to build on that recognition for the benefit of FM overall. A part of that challenge will be to retain the focus on the crucial ‘big-picture’ issues – social value, sustainability, wellbeing and the like – while also meeting current pressing needs for ‘commodity’ services such as cleaning and hygiene.

 

Speaking this week as he assumed the role of board chairman at IFMA, JLL’s Peter Ankerstjerne said: “Workplaces today have the potential to help organisations deliver on broader business objectives – such as employee productivity, financial performance and brand promise. Facilities professionals are increasingly called on to produce a safe, desirable, flexible work environment that attracts and retains high-performing employees, while managing the fundamentals of compliance and cost efficiency. We are entering a new chapter, with an opportunity to elevate facilities leaders’ role in enterprise business performance.”

Cleaning is and always will be critical. But Ankerstjerne is right: the broader Covid-19 market opportunity lies in building recognition and appreciation of what facilities management has to offer. It would be ironic – and unfortunate – if we missed this opportunity.

 

 

 

Elliott Chase


Managing Editor, i-FM


elliott@i-fm.net


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