Facility management has become much more important now than ever: Pradeep Lala

In the wake of Covid-19, the work-from-home has become a New Normal for the workforce employed with corporate houses. While it might have become a permanent normal for some, most of us have gradually started going back to the office. However, with the new Covid-19 mutant virus and a sudden increase in Covid-19 cases, most of us are very apprehensive of going back to the office.

With the rising Covid-19 cases and government directives, the corporates also have to follow various safety provisions before asking the workforce to join work from the office.

In an exclusive interaction with MediaCatalyst, Mr. Pradeep Lala, MD & CEO of Embassy Services Private Limited, shares his views on the safety and hygiene protocols followed by offices and the design changes implemented in offices ensuring better social distancing.

Here are the excerpts from the interaction with Mr. Lala.

  1. Now that the Indian workforce is slowly coming back to offices, what safety and hygiene protocols must be followed by the corporates?

Among the various kinds of commercial office spaces, Business Parks and IT/ITES parks signify complex implementation of new age protocols. Since these large spaces involve multiple stakeholders, numerous people, entry/exit points on multiple gate, block and floor levels, large food courts and recreational areas, the efficiency of running the safety & hygiene functions can be quite challenging. Temperature screening through a contactless and automized machine is done to ensure smooth flow of people in a manner that avoids crowding. Self-declaration by all personnel entering the premise allows for contact tracing and visitor management procedures. Distance demarcations are provided to ensure social distancing is maintained. Sanitization with specialised chemicals has increased in frequency to cover critical areas such as knobs, buttons, railings, kiosks, etc. which are frequently accessed. The auditing parameters and scrutinization procedures for safety & hygiene practices have also been reset to be compliant with certified standards of facility management. 

  1. What design changes do you recommend to manage social distancing better at the workplace?

There are multiple changes already made across facilities to ensure more space availability between people. Redesigning of the standard desk spaces is one critical area that needs to be relooked once 100% occupancy is established. While some facilities might decide to go away with recreational spaces, it defines the aura of a workplace so decreasing the capacity would be a better option. Likewise with cafeterias, food courts, etc. which definitely need to remain as a provision to employees but redesigned to ease crowd flow patterns. Many also find it convenient to have a pre space booking option for desks and recreational facility usage. Given the trend, co-working spaces or open offices with hybrid work modules will be the future of office spaces.  

  1. What according to you would the ‘Workplace in the post-Covid world’ look like? What is the role of facility management here?

The most apt word for this would be – hybrid! With contactless technologies available to us and remote workability becoming the need of the hour, the new age facilities are already in the midst of a significant shift. We can already see a strict and compliant method with which employees and employers engage at the workspace. The role of the facility management has become much more important now than ever. Ensuring that all protocols are being followed and high standards are met requires digital implementation for data collation and remote monitoring of assets. Using technology to aid the conventional FM functions is the ultimate gamechanger for the industry and will contribute to more safe, efficient and transparent operations.  

  1. Is there any special training being given to facility managers to cope with the new normal?

Proficient training programs are given to all staff for various functions. Most important of the many is soft skills training to make employees returning to work feel safe and happy being back in the office. Staff are thoroughly trained and audited on use of PPE kits, effective sanitisation, etc. They are given in depth training in crisis management which involves handling of suspect cases, communication protocols, transport procedures, etc. which are extremely important since the virus is still around and having a set plan of action is critical for a safe future.