Magenta newsletter summer 2021 – industry update

For the Magenta newsletter summer 2021, I’ve compiled a short update on workplace and FM.

With the worst of the pandemic over, companies are beginning to plan for life after the crisis. For real estate and facilities management teams, this means preparing buildings for their colleagues’ return, transforming the workplace and operational strategy so that it supports the new demands, rebuilding supply chains broken by the virus, and so much more.

Occupiers returning to buildings will have very different expectations to what they had 16 months ago. For one, the pandemic has forced the public to develop a greater appreciation for the factors that can impact both physical and mental wellbeing. People don’t want to live or work in buildings that are bad for their health. They want to breathe in clean air. In a recent report, the Royal Academy of Engineering said that good ventilation is essential to the safe use of buildings and public spaces, warning of high financial and health costs if nothing is done. 

Employees also want more flexibility. This summer, Apple made the news when it announced employees could work remotely after the pandemic but only for a maximum of two days. Staff signed a letter soon after criticising the company for disregarding their flexible working needs and warned it could lead to an employee exodus.

An opportunity to reinvent

As we come out of the pandemic, summer conferences have brought together speakers and delegates to try to understand the next chapter. The new new normal. i-FM hosted its second Workplace Futures conference of the year, where presenters spoke about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for facilities managers to take the initiative, claim a leadership role and reinvent the workplace. Much of that reinvention would have to look inward, speakers said, because the FM industry is moving from “how” to “why”. If people can choose where they work in the future, FM needs to help build the workplace’s value proposition.

Similarly, at this year’s RICS Global CRE and FM conference, the programme explored what it means for these two disciplines to “reflect, reset and recharge”. There’s huge demand for new ways of working, speakers said. All sorts of organisations are thinking about giving employees more flexibility, introducing coworking space, adopting a hub-and-spoke model in which central offices are joined by a network of smaller satellite offices, and more. But for any of this change to be effective, CRE and FM leaders need to lean on their expertise across people, place and technology.

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Simon Iatrou