Before 2020, the FM sector was evolving rapidly as it got to grips with continuous digital advancements and the growing need for sustainable solutions and practices. Fast-forward to 2021, and with almost 12 months experience dealing with COVID-19 restrictions, priorities have shifted significantly for FM leaders and professionals.
The way organisations across all sectors operate has been effectively turned upside-down, meaning the workplace we return to will never be the same again. As a result, the FM sector has seen some immediate and most likely permanent changes that will impact everything from day-to-day operations to training and development.
While we understand the difficulty of predicting the future during times of uncertainty, our experts have pulled together some key insights on what 2021 could have in store for the FM sector.
While no one wanted to see COVID-19 restrictions extend in 2021, the reality is that with full vaccine roll-out estimated to be completed around autumn time, social distancing remains a priority for FM. Even when the UK’s population is vaccinated, it’s safe to say that the public’s attitude to health and wellbeing will remain heightened as we prepare for the next winter season.
Of course, many companies will likely continue to operate remotely, but those seeking to return to the workplace will lean on FM to ensure complete management and compliance with social distancing measures. As with other aspects of FM, technology will enforce these protocols, with sensor technology and analytics used to monitor aspects of work life, such as desk occupancy, bathroom entry and cleaning regimes. Additionally, we will see sensors deployed to measure and manage temperature and humidity to minimise the chances of spreading the virus through the air.
Social distancing and the application of sensors bring us onto the broad area of technology, which enables and enhances the ability to monitor spaces remotely. A feather in FM's cap is its adoption of IoT technology, with sensors already used for lighting, HVAC, asset tagging, inventory monitoring and security.
The pandemic has increased reliance on IoT applications, particularly in healthcare, logistics and manufacturing. With an increasing number of office spaces being transformed into ‘meeting hubs’ in the last 12 months, intelligent scheduling and occupancy management tools ensure the optimum and safe utilisation of shared indoor areas. The advantages are two-fold, with employees able to view availability in real-time and identify free spaces, and employers armed with accurate data on how their workplace is being used.
The development of green buildings is not a new concept and falls on the building sector. However, professionals in FM will continue to lead the enhancement of sustainability for older buildings. There will be an increasing requirement for professionals to track energy consumption across seasons, usage and occupancy situations, with steps taken to address any energy leaks and prioritising assets that make facilities more environmentally neutral.
Another shift we expect to see is towards utilising more green-focused contractors for any maintenance tasks. This will ensure the use of clean products and energy-efficient tools and provide insights and guidance into further improvements managers can make to ensure a greener facility.
When it comes to spending in this area, reducing a building’s carbon footprint will be a top priority, meaning investments in better HVAC units, motion-sensor lights and insulation strategies. For those organisations further down the line with their carbon strategy, a switch to smart metering or even solar or geothermal energy sources could be on the cards for 2021.
Workplace diversity reduces employee turnover and ensures various perspectives, leading to greater innovation, faster problem-solving, higher employee engagement and enhanced company reputation. Like many sectors, FM will increase its focus on diversity this year to tackle issues regarding an ageing workforce, growing skills gaps, and the sector's image as white and male-dominated, particularly when it comes to mid- and senior-level positions.
For the vision of increased diversity in FM to become a reality, businesses need to rethink hiring and onboarding strategies, ensure robust training and development programmes are devised and accessible to all, reassess talent supply chains and invest time in promoting inclusive employer messaging.
For more FM industry insights and advice from the experts at PRS, stay tuned to our blog. Alternatively, if you're looking to connect with top FM talent or are an FM professional looking for your next exciting role, get in touch with our team today to find out how we can help.