Summer offers organisations the chance to take advantage of reduced occupancy and good weather to carry out essential business maintenance. This year is already shaping up differently and has left many businesses reconsidering their maintenance plans for the year ahead, says Carlo Alloni, Managing Director of Technical Services and Integrated Facilities Management at Mitie.

Looking beyond the short-term issues of adapting to the ‘new normal’, facilities managers need to consider the long-term impact of removing maintenance from the agenda this summer. Avoiding important works can lead to problems, such as broken or inefficient equipment, further down the line.

With a government roadmap in place to ease lockdown restrictions and get employees back to the office, facilities managers must think about what adjustments may be needed to ensure a safe return to workplaces amid COVID-19. Many workplaces are currently still empty or operating at very low occupancy, so now is an ideal time to not only prepare for a return to the workplace, but also to undertake important planned maintenance without causing downtime or disturbances.

Given that many workplaces, such as offices, will have been closed for weeks, if not months, maintenance plans this summer will need to dedicate enough time for a thorough inspection and testing of all key systems and emergency features. For example, ensuring that heating systems are compliant with gas safety regulations and that all safety systems – emergency lightning, fire alarms, extinguishers and emergency generators – are working properly.

“With an uncertain time ahead

it’s time to switch focus and future- proof workplaces.”

Speaking of safety, businesses that haven’t already done so, need to use this time to ensure the workplace enables social distancing. While some may be able to install simple measures or workplace policies, such as one- way systems or plastic dividers between desks, for many companies a large-scale redesign will be required.

Given that requesting employees to walk around the workplace with a measuring tape is not a feasible solution, leveraging technology will be vital to minimise the spread of COVID-19. This is where the Connected Workspace pays dividends. By installing sensors in key points throughout the office, such as desks, meeting rooms, kitchens and washrooms, large amounts of data can be gathered and monitored to support social distancing guidelines.


This can include monitoring occupancy levels throughout the site, both for desks and meeting room space, as well as tracking air quality and traffic patterns throughout the site. This information can be used to organise sites more efficiently, ensuring that there’s enough space for social distancing and that employees are protecting themselves from infection by maintaining a two-metre distance. As well as assisting with social distancing, these sensors can also feed data into the Building Management System (BMS) in real-time, so that HVAC systems and thermostats can be controlled and altered accordingly. This can often result in these systems working more efficiently and using less energy, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions and saves money, both of which are important considerations for businesses right now.

Many FMs will already be putting extensive cleaning measures in place for key touchpoints, such as desks, lifts, coffee stations and meeting rooms, to limit the risk of COVID-19 infections. However, it’s vital not to overlook other areas that could also spread the virus. Summer maintenance plans this year should prioritise the sanitation and change of filters in air handling and ventilation systems to reduce the risk of airborne transmission. Water hygiene measures, such as disinfecting and refreshing water systems, water features and taps, should also be high on the agenda, to ensure any bacteria that may have accumulated during the lockdown is removed.

Switch-on to remote monitoring Once the basics are covered and essential maintenance to ensure the workplace is safe for employees to return to work completed, it’s time to think bigger. Summer always provides the ideal opportunity to undertake proactive maintenance and projects – whether that be an upgrade of equipment or installing a new roof. This year should be no different, however with an uncertain time ahead it’s time to switch focus and future-proof workplaces.

One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of doing so is to embrace technology – not just by using online tools such as video conferencing, but by taking it one step further so that tech is embedded throughout the building itself. As the nation faces an uncertain future, with more potential lockdown restrictions ahead, it makes sense to invest in remote building monitoring now.

Similar to the building capacity sensors installed in desks and bathrooms, remote building monitoring uses sensors

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