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Difficulties are opportunities in disguise

Pradeep Lala

In a succinct analysis of working during the pandemic, Pradeep Lala, MD & CEO, Embassy Services Pvt Ltd distills the lessons learned during the past year into clear, actionable recommendations that can be adapted across the facility management industry.

“Whilst we responded to the initial days of the pandemic with more of prescriptive solutions to problems, true strength always lies in prevention. Having a team of experts in Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) is integral to overall governance.” 

On World FM Day 2021, we must remind ourselves that we are a privileged sector which pursues a genuine purpose. Standing by humanity as an epitome of resilience, it is indeed a privilege to have a job that pays to serve mankind. Our continued efforts to sustain wellbeing amidst the pandemic is a testament to our collective importance.

The past year has been all about evolving and adapting to everchanging ambiguities. There is so much we have learnt though, for a foreseeably better and more sustainable modus operandi. As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure business continuity and help humanity fight the pandemic, here are five key learnings that may help our businesses thrive:

Environmental, Social & Governance norms

Whilst we responded to the initial days of the pandemic with more of prescriptive solutions to problems, true strength always lies in prevention. Having a team of experts in Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) is integral to overall governance. Members of this field have access to updated and expert advice on norms pertaining to EHS.

Organisations seldom find the need to acquire global certifications (examples: British Safety Council, LEED, IGBC, CII, etc.) for their facility. We learnt that those who did have these in place had much better infrastructure to deal with operational hardships caused by the crisis.

Another critical area which is under constant evolution is control of the quality of air being circulated by the AHUs. Many organizations have already replaced existing HVAC systems with the latest technologies and surely, more will follow.

Risk Management

RM in the pre-pandemic era aligned with aspects of fire & safety, EHS, medical emergencies, theft, etc. However, today it requires a detailed module on Crisis/Emergency Response at par with that of a global pandemic. We learnt that exigency plans specially targeted at reducing impact and footprint are most critical. This was done through contact tracing (bolstered by the use of AI recognition and surveillance devices), creation of isolation wards, readily equipped and designated personnel to support transition, liaising with local hospitals and govt authorities through preset communications channels, redesigning of workspaces, social distancing demarcations – all of which are part of the SOPs that direct RM today.

Technology for facilities management

We learnt how to manage facilities when even reporting to the facility wasn’t possible. With the technology tools that are available to us today (such as IoT based sensors, unified digital dashboards, BEACONS, etc.), we could monitor performance of assets and consumables such as diesel, manpower, HVACs and other utilities through remote access in a digital ecosystem.

Bigger players with data centers, server rooms, and global standards of facility management also use these tools for proficient asset management. Many others still use conventional paper-based and manually driven methods of facility management. The latter surely faced more difficulty in ensuring process continuity; they must invest in having these technologies in place.

Emergency fund allocation

Having a fixed monthly allocation for emergency/crisis situations (at least to safeguard salaries and sustain basic infrastructure that drives customer delivery) is absolutely necessary. Planning yearly budgets by prioritizing this additional tab will ensure employee and employer wellbeing in a crisis-like situation.

Housekeeping & Hygiene

Cleanliness and hygiene are clearly not judged based on our visibility; after all, an invisible virus has shredded our entire ethos. We specifically learnt to address the hygiene issues of commonly touched points like railings, buttons, knobs, etc. which were not seen in the same light as before the pandemic; hence the importance of having an extremely compliant and proactive housekeeping team. When a team of professionals pursue ‘ethical hygiene,’ it surely provides the most realistically safe environment to work and live in, thus ensuring overall wellbeing of our people.

Often, opportunities come in the guise of difficulties. Learning, Introspection, Persistence and Consistency is our only way forward. Stay safe, stay strong!

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