Comment: FM industry and risk assessment post COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has steered FM managers away from the traditional routine cleaning, says Michael Nicholas, general manager, Tafawuq Facilities Management
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has paved the way for a ‘new normal’ in which public safety and health remain at the core of everyone’s priorities. Navigating through this new reality requires a broader risk management approach during and in the aftermath of the global health crisis, and risk professionals should now consider a host of fresh factors to create a strategy that is responsive to the needs of the times.
In the business world, resilient leadership is pivotal in implementing a risk management plan, a core performance driver, and in achieving company growth despite enormous challenges. Resiliency is also the key to successfully adapting to new ways of working that require minimum-to-zero risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. The possibility of being exposed to the virus in offices still exists although the Emirates has to a great extent brought the spread of the disease under control by implementing precautionary measures.
Given this new reality, employers have strengthened their collaboration with their facilities management (FM) service providers to minimize exposure and ensure the protection of the people in buildings and facilities. FM companies have a significant role to play in the success of any risk management strategy to be adopted in the present circumstances.
Changes in FM processes
During this pandemic, FM companies that are managing and maintaining properties with thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of staff and tenants have had to reinforce essential safety protocols to help control the threat of the disease. The reinforcement as part of a risk assessment strategy entails changes in processes to allow FM companies to continue delivering integral services despite limited human interactions and other challenges.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has steered FM managers away from the traditional routine cleaning, knowing that the old system is not going to work anymore. In this regard, some FM players have responded by introducing new sanitation and disinfection products or techniques. At Tafawuq Facilities Management, for instance, we have innovated our sanitation and disinfection products to address the current demand. The Public Health and Safety Department of the Dubai Municipality and Abu Dhabi Municipality have approved our new products, which are effective in disinfecting coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS-cov and COVID-19.
Apart from implementing systems that work, the adoption of new risk management techniques is critical as we find ourselves facing a turning point in history. These flexible risk management methods can be further strengthened by taking an agile approach to business continuity and deploying a long-term resilience plan.
All these new approaches and plans, however, will not work without complementing them with the right employee training. FM employees are constantly being trained for their protection while performing their duties and tasks. This is important to enabling employees to effectively respond to fast-evolving situations. In conducting a risk assessment, FM managers can even build a dedicated program forming teams able to tackle various types of risks.
Role of technology
Further, since the start of the global health crisis, FM personnel have been relying heavily on technology to provide the needed solutions while protecting themselves and that of the companies they are servicing. Modern tools and innovations are utilized, for example, to enable FM providers to check the building airflow systems to ensure proper air circulation.
More than ever, FM companies have been harnessing the power of technology to assess risks and create data-driven analyses and insights for high-level decision-making processes.
In the case of Tafawuq, we have been actively incorporating next-generation technologies into our processes even before the pandemic in line with our commitment to innovation. Last year, we rolled out our paperless mobility maintenance solution, Tafawuq GO. Not stopping there, we also introduced our cleaning equipment fleet, which includes a new intelligent cleaning robot solution. These solutions have helped lower business costs and led to higher operational efficiency.
Our ongoing efforts have only intensified during this crisis. Knowing that modern tools are crucial to our operations amid the situation, we have deployed new technologies supported by our work-from-home system as part of reducing risks, protecting the health of our employees and helping our clients by cutting operational costs.
The move to maximize the benefits of technology is in keeping with the Get Wonky business culture implemented by our parent company, Eltizam Asset Management Group. Get Wonky focuses on the personal and professional development of our people, protection of their mental wellbeing and eliminating risks in the workplace, among others. At a time when we are facing a health crisis of this magnitude, the initiative becomes more crucial especially in terms of boosting the morale of our personnel who bravely perform their job as frontline workers ready to help safeguard the wellbeing of the people in the communities we serve.
Crisis communication initiatives
FM managers have also stepped up their crisis communications efforts to make sure that every stakeholder is fully informed and empowered towards making the right decisions during and after the pandemic. Timely communication with tenants about the evolving and rapidly developing safety protocols helps guarantee the success and effectiveness of precautionary measures.
Developing flexible contingency plans - which include a broader risk management tactic that incorporates digital solutions - is critical in today’s era of high interconnectedness. Doing so can help companies hurdle unexpected obstacles as they forge new business paths during these unprecedented times.