top of page

Remote Working (RM), and its implications for FM and property strategies. 


Remote working obviously has very significant challenges for FM and property.  The old usage profile for 95% of buildings of five days occupied and two empty was accepted as the norm – but that was 71% occupancy if everyone turned up for the five. We are probably now looking at less than 50%. In future blogs, we will explore what organisations and their property and FM suppliers need to do to make sense of asset management and the potential impact on the turnover and profitability of the FM market.    



  

However, first let’s look at what remote working means for the worker.  


Where to start? There is so much talked about the subject. And a lot that isn’t said. 

To begin with, its often discussed as if everyone is at it. WFH has entered common usage, and everyone knows what it means! Well, I’ve not heard of hospital nurses working at home; there are many jobs for which it’s a non-starter.  


Equally, there are many roles which readily lend themselves to working remotely full-time; some of those require people to look at a screen all day. Digital nomads get to live where they want. A close family member currently chooses to live in Newcastle while on paper their place of work is London. Their immediate colleagues’ official offices are in the Bay Area and Tokyo; heaven knows where they actually live!  As I write they are meeting … in Tokyo. But that only happens for a week twice a year. Needless to say, most of their communication is electronic though there are fairly frequent Teams meetings - clearly at unsocial times for someone! 


Then there are the jobs in the middle. - those that possibly do need people to be in the same room sometimes. Many people in those roles often choose to work from home or a local hub for 2 or 3 days a week.  


Clearly, the pandemic gave people the opportunity to try a new way of working and many now prefer it – even if some of their employers don’t. This conflict is significant. It appears that some employers believe that their staff can’t be trusted to do their job unless they are physically supervised. Personally, I’ve employed thousands of people over my career and firmly believe that if there is a job for which the output can’t be measured reasonably objectively, there probably isn’t a proper job there. So, I have never had a problem with staff working where and when they want provided they achieve their allotted tasks. In Landmark and Associates we only meet on Teams; I genuinely can’t recall exactly when we last met physically, and that was for dinner, over a year ago! And we have a superbly functioning relationship.  


Clearly, if partial remote working does continue it has major implications for commercial office real estate. Some employers, perhaps the more far-sighted who want their pick of the best staff, are accepting remote working and are building new strategies around a smaller, different estate.   

 

The Future 


For organisations that embrace RM (with its possibility of cost reduction), what do they need to do to make it work smoothly and effectively? Should different (non-interdependent) parts of the organisation go into the office on different halves of the week? Or should organisations look to share with others? If not, are their alternative uses for space when not occupied?  


Do organisations need to actively provide services outside the office – furniture, IT will probably have to step up. Should employers contribute to the cost of ‘hub’ renting for those whom actually working at home isn’t always feasible or attractive? H&S applies outside the office in many circumstances.   


If organisations decide they will not go down the RM road, what will they need to do to make going to the office attractive enough that the best employees won’t look elsewhere for a job? Quality of life issues (housing and travel costs and time etc.) are a major factor for many whose employers are based in London or major conurbations.  


Whilst employers are ultimately responsible for decisions in this arena, their facilities management companies and property consultants should make significant contributions to that process – if they can step up. Whilst those providers market themselves as specialists, we rarely observe truly proactive services looking to improve their clients’ effectiveness. They need to embrace the fact that some/many estates will reduce in size and make their profits from cleverer and more sophisticated services. I’m old enough to remember the architects practice DEGW (Frank Duffy, Peter Eley, Luigi Giffone, John Worthington) in its heydays (70s – 90s). Running a large Central London estate back then I was always looking to the future - so I met Frank Duffy on a number of occasions. I distinctly recall him explaining that remote working would be a reality for many and how it should happen. Where are those visionaries now? We need them!        

   

Finally, if partial remote working is to continue, which days should it be? Personal choice or the same for all? And what about holidays? Listen to Tim Harford’s brilliant ‘Cautionary Tale’ podcast: ‘When Stalin killed the weekend’:   

or 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

Comments


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Archive
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page