The evolving role of facility management

Caroline Fitzwater on the changing role of FM post-pandemic.

You know, I never chose facilities as a career – I sort of fell into it.

In fact, facilities wasn’t a career – and certainly not for women.

My first role was as personal assistant to the managing director in a small IBM reselling franchise (now known as Channel Partner).

We had a four-person office with a small workshop and one meeting room. My PA/office manager role included cleaning the shared toilet, kitchen, and offices, providing customer catering, maintaining office equipment and stationery supplies, marketing mail outs and an accurate database, even ensuring the company vehicles were always clean as well as registered and insured.

A truly all-encompassing role that set me up to understand that variety can be the spice of life; there is never a dull moment in facilities, something always pops up and usually when you least expect it.

I have spent most of my career working for professional outsourced services as both service provider and business owner, in large and small organisations across EMEA and APAC. Working in service industries developed my overarching passion in life: to help people develop and grow.

Most of my experience has been in facilities, the built environment – now often referred to as workplace. Facilities management (FM) is all about providing support services to the people in our buildings – FM touches everyone, everywhere in some way, every single day.

The art of balancing changing priorities is a daily requirement. Flexibility is a general expectation, you must be prepared to ‘spin on a penny’ and deal with multiple different projects, challenges, and stakeholders.

If you are flexible, like problem-solving, working with people, creating sound working partnerships, providing the best practical and safe customer experience, and a healthy and sustainable environment for people to live, work or play in, where diversity is encouraged – then FM could be the career choice for you.

FM is generally broken down into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ services. Hard services relate to the physical fabric of the building and encompasses services that ensure the safety and welfare of people in the building such as air conditioning and plumbing. Soft services relate to the day-to-day building services such as cleaning and security.

A trending term for User Experience is UX and is now a major focus for most roles: how you make your customers ‘feel’ when in your buildings.

Since the sudden and impactful COVID-19 pandemic burst upon us, cleaning has never been as important as now.

For the first time in forever, building occupants want to see the cleaner cleaning. FMs had grown used to having to get cleaning completed out of hours, minimising interruptions to office workers.

We had to ensure cleaners (typically) did not come on site before 6pm and were off site before 8am and all deep cleaning of carpets, floors, kitchens, and storerooms was to be done at weekends.

That has changed and office occupants want to be reassured by the regular presence of a cleaner in uniform, with their spray and wipe in hand.

Finally, the day has dawned for cleaner recognition and acknowledgement – make sure to recognise and appreciate your favourite cleaner(s).

Put a note in your calendar now for the next national Thank Your Cleaner Day on 20 October 2021 and arrange a few nice treats as a thank you for looking after you and keeping your environment clean and safe.  And make sure you put in an annual reminder and get your clients and colleagues involved too.

Today there are choices, an FM Diploma and an ISO accreditation that support a career in facilities. For more information on facilities generally, a good starting point is the Facility Management Association of Australia (FMA link).

The FMA is the peak national industry body focused on the present and future of FM in Australia. From the website you can select your home state and find a local networking event – often free for new members.

Take a friend, meet the FM crowd, and find out more.

Caroline Fitzwater is director of Caroline Fitzwater Consulting (CFC) and will be presenting at the ISSA Cleaning & Hygiene Expo in Sydney on October 12-13. 

To register for the ISSA Cleaning & Hygiene Expo click here. 

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