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Covid contingency budgets

The pandemic disrupted the entire budgeting structure of almost every organisation as lockdowns became a frightening reality. The IT/ITes sector switched to a remote work model. Many tech companies reopened after much deliberation but the fraction of those getting back to work remains less than 60%. Based on interactions with our clients, we can say that the IT/ITes sector may embrace the remote work model for the next 12 months, given the resurgence in fresh Covid cases.

A survey by Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association, the apex body of IT and ITeS companies in Hyderabad revealed that Return to Office (RTO) will peak towards the end of 2021 and will never be 100%.

Nonetheless, the other part of the pie, which is non-IT/ITes sectors such as e-commerce, manufacturing, and automobile have started to reopen with effective measures put in place. Though India has not yet reached the post-pandemic stage, we can say that the reset and recovery have begun on a full-fledged basis, though it is still clouded by the possibility of another lockdown.

Preventive or Reactive Maintenance?

Generally, there are two types of budgets from an accounting perspective: operating and capital budgets. From a facility management standpoint, a budget is generally categorised by each function: maintenance, operations, space management, environmental, and security. The facility management/maintenance budget of an organisation makes up 40-50% of operational budgets. It means that an organisation can save on 12-18% of its maintenance budgets by choosing preventive maintenance over reactive maintenance.

Re-set & recovery essentials

Facility maintenance work such as aligning labor and inventory availability, temperature screening, cleaning schedules, socially distanced space planning, and working with a facility management partner requires strategic planning and careful budget allocation. As a budget should account for changes down the road, every aspect of the building maintenance and operational management is being considered.

“The facility management/maintenance budget of an organisation makes up to 40-50% of operational budgets. It means that an organisation can save on 12-18% of its maintenance budgets by choosing preventive maintenance over reactive maintenance”

Angad Rajain
Global IFM Head & CSO, Tenon Group

Emergency Preparedness

Learning lessons from the lockdown in India and abroad, organisations have become more cognizant of the need for emergency preparedness and response. For instance, the logistics and e-commerce companies are building dedicated contingency plans/budgets for Covid response. The most apt example of such contingency is, what if there is another lockdown and they need to onboard an expert external partner for cleaning and hygiene management? They have started to invest in their in-house teams along with hygiene specialists and FM managers. On an average, the contingency budget accounts for 5-10% of the overall FM spend.

From high-to-low pattern

In pre-Covid times, there was a comparatively low emphasis on superlative health and hygiene standards. During the last year, overstaffing and over-sanitising to maintain the high levels of cleaning and disinfection became commonplace. The typical cleaning strength and the cleaning costs for an organisation increased by 10%-15% due to fear of coronavirus infection. However, this pattern has again been undergoing a significant change as both the cleaning strength and cost associated are coming down to what we call optimal levels in a Covid-secure workspace.

Businesses are now looking at using smart and sustainable technology to enhance the health, hygiene and safety of their facilities. For example, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport continues to invest in UV technology for sanitisation and disinfection. Hence, the requirement for large manpower to sanitise each part of a facility has been reduced.

Technology as a way forward

At this stage of the pandemic, the major portion of the facility maintenance budget goes to technology and digitalisation. For instance, organisations are moving away from biometric technology, which is not very fancy or luxurious for urban businesses, but is the technology of choice in manufacturing facilities or warehouses where thousands of people go out and in every day.

Such huge facilities required touchless technologies and so we have RFID readers and facial recognition systems. More examples include contactless temperature screening and smart turnstiles. Organisations are allocating budgets for tech-oriented FM solutions that allow them to do more with less.

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