FMs and the future of our offices

How will charity facilities staff manage changes to the workplace? Sean Bridge, facilities manager at Business in the Community, says consultation will be key.

A group of people sitting in a cafeteria.

How will our working environments change when the pandemic lockdown ends? (Photo: Hatoriz Kwansiripat via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Sean Bridge

You will have either read, seen a headline or even spoken about what the new office world will look like. I’m sure you’ve seen terms like “hybrid working”, “flexible working” or even “smart working” – but have we actually sat down and thought what that means? 

You will have seen major corporations across the UK and Europe say we’re not returning to offices until late 2021 or even 2022, you might have even seen companies say certain aspects of their business won’t ever return to an office. 

There is so much information and so many articles out there discussing what the next three to five and even 10 years might look like for offices, but what does it mean for facilities or workplace teams up and down the country? Will we have to diversify and become relationship/contract managers for serviced offices? Will our roles become more heavily focused on health & safety and supporting remote-working colleagues? Or will our office usage revert back to pre- pandemic levels? No one knows the answer to any of these questions but it’s certainly worth thinking about. 

Responding to the pandemic

Business in the Community (BITC), is the oldest and largest business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business. BITC inspire, engage and challenge members and mobilise that collective strength as a force for good in society.  As a charitable organisation we have consulted, listened and worked with our colleagues throughout the pandemic to ensure they are supported whilst working from home, this is both from an ergonomic viewpoint but also from a mental health and wellbeing viewpoint too. As we navigate our way through the roadmap, we continue to speak with our staff body of over 200 colleagues across the UK to ensure we fully understand how they are feeling about working from home and a potential phased return to office working. 

I have found talking to peers in other charities so helpful throughout this pandemic, it’s reassuring to know other facilities professionals are having similar issues and to be able to share resolutions has been invaluable.  

The importance of listening 

Whilst many charity facilities teams are reviewing their COVID-19 risk assessments and procedures, they will also be speaking with their  directors and executive  to develop  their property strategies and portfolios, this is where the diversity in a FM role is at its peak. FM teams have the in-depth knowledge and day-to-day experience which will be invaluable when exploring the various options for property strategies. Some FMs will be thinking of downsizing offices and employing more home working practices, whilst others may be in a position to sub-let to other charities.

The path to a new way of working will be different for each charity across the UK, but all colleagues should be consulted throughout. Whichever route charities take it is vital that all employees have a chance to contribute to how the organisation develops their approach are spoken to prior to major decisions being made, balancing your operational needs and your employees’ needs is going to be tough but it should be at the forefront of organisations’ thinking as we near our return.


About the author

Sean Bridge (sean.bridge@bitc.org.uk) is Facilities Manager at Business in the Community (BITC).

He says: 

I have worked in facilities teams in the not for profit sector for 13 years, I absolutely love my job with BITC and am very excited to be returning to the office, even if it does mean dealing with unblocked toilets in the middle of doing a risk assessment or updating a strategic document. I am also currently working with the Charities Facilities Management organizing committee, the group has been invaluable to me since the beginning of the pandemic and I’m passionate about spreading the word and increasing our impact in the facilities world.

Tags COVID-19