A Professional Service

Facilities management professionals are responsible for services that support business. Their roles can cover management of a wide range of areas including health and safety, risk management, business continuity, procurement, sustainability, space planning, energy, property and asset management. They are typically responsible for activities such as catering, cleaning, building maintenance, environmental services, security and reception.

Some key points in the development of facilities management include the cost-cutting initiatives of the 1970s and 1980s under which organisations began to outsource ‘non-core’ services, and also the integration of planning and management of a wide range of services both ‘hard’ (e.g. building fabric) and ‘soft’ (e.g. catering, cleaning, security, mailroom, and health and safety) to achieve better quality and economies of scale.

Effective facilities management, combining resources and activities, is vital to the success of any organisation. At a corporate level, it contributes to the delivery of strategic and operational objectives. On a day-to day level, effective facilities management provides a safe and efficient working environment, which is essential to the performance of any business – whatever its size and scope.

Within this fast growing professional discipline, facilities managers have extensive responsibilities for providing, maintaining and developing myriad services. These range from property strategy, space management and communications infrastructure to building maintenance, administration and contract management.

FM and the NHS
The driver for all NHS facilities managers is to meet the government’s Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) initiative.

The NHS must achieve up to £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015, and facilities managers have a substantial role in this target. Strategic Health Authorities (SHA) have been developing integrated QIPP plans that address the quality and productivity challenge.

One of these tools is the new ‘Premises Assurances Model’ (PAM). This toolkit has been developed to give trusts a method to provide assurance that space, activity, income and operational costs of the premises meet the requirements of the efficiency programme in the delivery of improved clinical and social outcomes.

Efficient use of space is a key priority for successful FM. PAM means looking at the space within buildings, and ensuring that every inch is used in the most cost-effective way to meet the business needs. If the estate is old, delivering effective healthcare is a challenge, especially converting space in older buildings.

Case study – Lost in space?
Take a walk around your estate. How many clinical or therapy rooms are unused at the moment? How many staff work spaces are unused? How many look like they’ve been unused all day? For how much of an average week is your own work space unoccupied?

These were the questions Andrew Lawley,    head of estates and facilities at Sandwell Primary Care Trust, was asking himself not too long ago. His perception was of poor utilisation levels yet he continually had to deal with internal customers demanding still more space. Knowing that any additional space, acquired at great expense and effort, would be similarly underused Andrew searched for an alternative way. 18 months later the PCT’s headquarters building in the West Midlands accommodated 25 per cent more staff in the same space but with 10 per cent fewer desks.

Apart from meeting rooms, the workplace had previously been wall-to-wall desks save for a small, low quality, staff room. The refurbished workplace returned unused desk space back to staff in the form of high quality break-out areas, quiet rooms and touchdown spaces. The result is an open, spacious look and feel.

As a direct result of the increased building capacity achieved through a fully desk-shared environment, the PCT has been able to achieve considerable cost savings by terminating a number of building leases.

These aren’t what you would consider mobile employees. Andrew Lawley points out: “These space economies were achieved for HQ staff, employed in what you would consider to be desk-based roles – and in an environment where home working is not encouraged.”

The PCT partnered with workplace consultants, Plan B Solutions Ltd. It was Plan B’s workplace utilisation study that provided the evidence for Andrew Lawley’s perception of poor workplace utilisation. Moreover, the study confirmed the extent and areas of poor utilisation, the exact scale of the opportunity for working differently and provided the undeniable evidence for change to supporters and doubters alike.

“There’s nothing unusual about Sandwell PCT’s levels of utilisation” says David Grant of Plan B Solutions. “We’ve undertaken something approaching half a million utilisation study measurements finding that, even during core working hours, work space utilisation rates average only 50-55 per cent.”

Of course, things have changed for the PCT over the last 12 months since the Department of Health’s white paper. Since the headquarters is now a proactively managed workplace – through the use of Gingco, Net New Media’s workplace booking and utilisation tracking system – the PCT has real-time visibility of the building’s headroom and is now engaged with a number of agencies in the region to bring multiple services together under one roof.

Increased productivity
It’s a very productive roof too. The staff benchmarking work which Plan B Solutions undertook with the PCT examined workplace satisfaction and productivity levels. David Grant says: “The most satisfying result of this project wasn’t actually the 25 per cent reduction in property requirements but the substantial swing in workplace satisfaction levels of staff, and in the significant improvement in productivity indicators achieved at the same time.”

It’s interesting to observe the impact that a project of this kind has on carbon reduction. By seeking leading solutions in facilities management an organisation can remove 25 per cent of its property requirements in one fell swoop – and forever. Suddenly, changing a boiler seems a little trivial.

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