Pradeep Lala is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Embassy Services since 2013. In a short span of time, he has taken Embassy Services to become one of the largest business units within the Embassy Group. He began his career at Ingersoll Rand where he worked for over 14 years. In early 2000, he founded the Horizon Group to become their channel partner for the Indian region. He then worked tirelessly to establish a strong leadership for the firm which continues to scale new heights independently.
Much around the conversation on work modules, what is most certain is that office spaces are here to stay. As organizations indulge in a hybrid model exploring work from home and the office, this seems to be the best foot forward with current ambiguities of a third wave coming in. While this will delay a transition back to physical workspaces, seeing ourselves in pre-pandemic routines is bound to happen. Until then, a work culture based on trust and a proclivity for sincerity is one to embrace in the current situation.
Although work modules are rather subjective and a decision in progress, the role of the Facility Management is explicit and integral to a business regardless of this decision.
The FM teams need to be prepared for all uncertain situations that embed themselves into the new working modules. Be it preparing the workspace for a 100% occupancy, tweaking existing schedules basis a fluctuating occupancy, or managing critical infrastructure even when there is no occupancy, the role endows critical actions that ensure seamless business continuity. Among the plethora of tasks, cleaning and hygiene protocols, IAQ (indoor air quality) and security & surveillance top the list of priorities for a safe transition back to the workspace. These in addition to accelerated interest of organizations in areas of ESG (Environment, Social and Governance), Risk Management, and Compliance. The role of FM in supporting businesses to achieve these evolved practices of property management is paramount.
Fluctuating occupancy rates require flexible services:
A large chunk of FM work is highly dependent on the occupancy levels at a facility. Many parameters are pre-set based on consumption patterns fixed on occupancy. In a flexible workspace, the supply of utilities will require a planning basis of a fluctuating number which might get complex. It is like organizing an event where you are unsure how many guests would show up.
FM Managers will use the help of technology to determine the average occupancy and deploy necessary measures. Workplace management tools like pre-booking meeting rooms, pre-set rosters, pre-booking of workstations, food services, etc. help ease this issue. FMs having experience with co-working spaces that thrive on this work model would find it easier to deploy measures for a flexible workforce.
Ensuring a safe and secure facility for everyone:
People are more hygiene conscious than ever today. The health and wellbeing of employees is the primary concern of employers. FMs play an important role in ensuring a hygienic environment through stringent sanitation and disinfection, using certified and effective chemicals. The FM workforce also has the added responsibility of ensuring self-safety while they safeguard others. It requires added measures, complacent training, and strict audits. The use of PPEs and following SOPs furthers a compliant, hence safe workforce.
AI-driven and cloud-integrated thermal screening devices help a great deal by reducing human interaction at gates and lobbies. An automated setup ensures lesser risk for security personnel. It also proves a quality surveillance measure for large business parks where thousands of people transit every day. QR code-based attendance/visitor management systems, contactless elevators, food vending machines, sensor-based taps and dispensers, etc. are few provisions that reduce the risk by contact transmissions.
Maintaining 100% uptime of servers and critical infrastructure:
Regardless of where employees are working out of, the entire cyberinfrastructure of a business is located safe within the office. As an FM, it is a responsibility to monitor the temperature and humidity of the server rooms and maintain 100% uptime of energy for these resources. This requires organizations to always lease a space that can ensure a secure environment without which business continuity can be at high risks. This is an extremely critical area which ensures the requirement of an office space.
Any work culture that embraces productivity, safety, and retention is worth delving upon. It is indeed subjective as to how different environments drive the productivity of people across various professions. Understanding this and providing the required infrastructure and support for employees to further their goals is an employers’ responsibility.
That being said, the infrastructure and environment the office provides can never be replaced. With grave dangers to data security in a ‘work from home’ setup, and dependable infrastructure predominant in the physical workspace, it is indeed the more workable and dependable work format organizations can thrive on. The office also represents the culture of an organization. It would be rather difficult to bestow organization values and culture in a setup connected through virtual platforms. Moreover, making business relationships with clients and stakeholders would always require an address that displays the exuberance of the office. These are the notions that have helped the commercial office sector evolve and transform to drivers of economic growth.
Beyond these, we also have added responsibilities as citizens driving the micro economy. There are multiple businesses dependent on an office going culture. We cannot ignore this. It is important to weigh them in on our decisions as well. Especially around large business parks, there are ample small support businesses that thrive only on the working population, and the effects of the pandemic have been devastating on this front. Only the return to the office can recoup this sector which consists of a majority of our population.
While most certainly the priority for people at the moment is safety, we all need to look at things from a holistic perspective, taking into account the needs of the employer, the employee, and the people around us. Together, we can thrive.