Understanding the impact of COVID on Facilities Management

Remote work doesn’t apply in many industries where the workforce must be physically present to make or deliver products or services. Companies working on re-entry can learn from their counterparts that have been operating with in-person staff throughout the pandemic. Every company, regardless of its workforce type, is rethinking how to operate most effectively.

In our recent webinar, “The Impact of COVID on Facilities Management,” our panel of industry experts discussed the challenges they’re currently facing in response to the pandemic and the trends they expect will continue to influence re-entry in 2021 and beyond.

The executive panel of facilities management (FM) experts included: Pushpa Gowda, EVP of Global Technology Engagement at JLL Technologies; Bob Clarke, SVP of Client Experience & Operational Support at ABM Industries; Tom McIntyre, VP of Facilities, Retail Services, and Environmental Risk & Compliance at Albertsons; and Jack Watkinson, Executive Director of Strategy at JLL Technologies.

The webinar revealed that during the pandemic, several unfavorable cost trends have become common for FMs, including skyrocketing cost-per-event for facilities work, a decrease in low-cost work, and an increase in high-cost work. The panel also described the underlying challenges affecting FM programs today, such as:

  • Investments in health and safety represent an outsized portion of FM budgets
  • Already high demand for services, equipment, parts, and supplies due to COVID-19 continues to drive up costs
  • As pent-up backlogs of work are unleashed with each reopening, additional demand will spike, which exerts even more pressure on the capacity of service providers and manufacturers
  • Companies want to reassure employees that it’s safe to return to work

FM service costs have increased across the board, but the increases aren’t uniform. They will vary significantly, based on trades, geographic markets, state and local restrictions, demand patterns, seasonality, and many other factors. You can mitigate these cost variations by implementing some centralized controls while still allowing local autonomy where it makes sense.
Covid increased facilities work order costs nationally

The panelists also offered insights and advice to companies already operating with in-person staff or ones that will do so.

  • Focus on safety for your customers, employees, technicians, and stakeholders, and have metrics that demonstrate progress
  • Assess total cost of risk of health-related investments that produce tangible benefits for productivity and safety and instill confidence that your facility is clean and safe
  • Truly understand your vendors and what they can do for you — their core offering and expanded services — and ask for flexible contracts with clear pricing
  • Consider your new stakeholders in a post-pandemic world — insurance companies, the CDC, and other governmental agencies are part of the FM equation now, so track spending and compliance with COVID-control regulations
  • Understand spend and future capital planning with technologies that help you see and manage new scenario-planning, and recognize that lead times on new equipment affect capital planning and budget availability
  • Improve response times and reduce downtime by putting data to work in your FM program to see opportunities for improvement; separate the hype from reality, and make a useful, measurable impact on operational performance

In one poll conducted during the webinar, 76% of attendees reported that they track (or want to) COVID-related expenditures, and 55% are tracking health and safety incidents. The majority (60%) are also closely tracking their actual spend against their budgets. These responses show the strong financial pressure that COVID continues to exert on FM teams.

Poll: What metrics are you tracking or do you want to track?

Facilities Management COVID Metrics
FM teams face strategic decisions about how to use or repurpose their physical spaces. A large majority of our webinar attendees said they expect to return to an office or a hybrid workplace, while a small minority plans to go 100% virtual. Whether they worked remotely or in-person for the past year, respondents are evaluating technologies that will help them ensure employee safety, as well as solutions to manage changes in the use and configuration of office spaces.

Poll: What are you focusing on right now?

Facilities Management COVID priorities
Technology will continue to play a critical role in your post-COVID facilities management strategy, and JLL Technologies is available to partner with you to navigate the many choices you face. Book a call with one of our experts to learn more.

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