Should FM do more to sell itself more on its role in sustaining the health of the workers it serves? Or should the profession concentrate solely on the optimisation and provision of workspace?
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9 January 2017 | FM World team
Analysis: Emphasising FM's influence
The facilities manager does more as a ‘healthcare worker’ for the workforce than a doctor, according to authors of new research looking at how buildings affect workers.
Dr Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Chan School, and the principal investigator for the recent COGfx (cognitive function) studies, said: “The person most responsible for your health is the FM - more so than any medical doctor. We spend so much of our time indoors that these people are critical. They can be thought of as healthcare workers because they are responsible for our health – and if that person is doing a good job, they are keeping everybody in that building healthy.”
FM World reported in October 2016 on research that found a positive correlation between working in green-certified buildings and cognitive function scores. Those “greener” facilities were also associated with fewer “sick building” symptoms and higher sleep quality.
The study found those participants working in green buildings showed 73 per cent higher crisis response scores.
This month’s survey had four in five respondents agreeing that FM needs to reiterate its value in sustaining the long-term health of the workforce it serves, with 85 per cent seeing the connection between the workforce’s health and their day-to-day role. Yet only 50 per cent felt that building owners are aware of this link.
Allen is advocating what he calls, buildingomics, “a new approach that examines the totality of factors in the building-related environment”.
“Through a multi-disciplinary approach, we aim to better understand the factors that influence health in buildings and unlock the ability to optimise buildings for improved cognitive function and health.”
We need innovative leaders to help tackle this challenge
Perceived comfort and environmental sustainability are no longer enough. As demanding consumers, we now want to live and work in buildings that contribute directly to our health and wellbeing.
Investors, architects, engineers and facilities managers - the people who select, design and operate buildings - really want to know which factors are proven to enhance occupant health, wellbeing and cognition. Indoor air quality (temperature, humidity, ventilation, flow rates) and eliminating or reducing harmful pollutants, certainly aid comfort. But more is needed.
To help tackle the challenges of health and wellbeing within sustainable buildings, UCL’s Bartlett Faculty is launching a new 2017 Masters programme to create the new generation of innovative leaders.
With big data and the Internet of Things, data streams from small yet accurate internet-based monitors, ‘wearables’, and mobile phone apps, the future offers great opportunity to understand, monitor, control and ultimately deliver many more comfortable, green, productive and delightful buildings.
Alexi Marmot, is Professor of Facility & Environment Planning at University College London
Let’s move away from cost
Some twenty years ago I argued that the main purpose of an office is to facilitate the business of the occupying organisation. That statement is very relevant today. A well-designed and managed office is a productivity enabler but even more so it is an environment in which we want the occupants to flourish and perform at their best.
The FM industry is ideally positioned to enhance the health and wellbeing of the occupants. It needs to move away from considering offices a cost burden (focussing on reducing space and operational cost) and shift towards viewing offices as a valuable asset where appropriate investment results in better business.
Nigel Oseland is founder of the Workplace Change Organisation and Workplace Unlimited
A huge role to play
“FM has a huge role to play in the wellbeing, motivation & productivity of staff. For example, the Stoddart Review highlighted that happier people are 12 per cent more productive, and whilst there are a number of external factors, a lot of this happiness is directly related to the immediate environment.
"Well lit, properly ventilated, and heated and clean and tidy buildings with good team working and great meeting, networking and catering spaces, will always win over dusty, miserable legacy buildings with disengaged workforces.
"The symptoms are inevitably higher staff turnover, greater absence rates (>4 per cent) and lower profits due to poor productivity.”
Julian Fris, director, Neller Davies