Diary of a Facilities Manager
Same for everyone, Mondays are always a bit of a struggle, whether I’m recovering from a weekend of decadence or in fact still reeling from the weekend work which can be par for the course as a facilities manager, it’s never going to be the pick of the weekdays.
The best, and worst, part of being involved in facilities is the sheer scope of issues and possible incidents that can confront you on any given day. They can be as minor as a bulb out to as major as a plant failure. The first person the staff of a large site will come running to if they come in to a freezing cold office or one with no power is the facilities team.
I’ve had the pleasure only last winter (2009) of just such an incident. As with this year, it was a particularly cold December and not only were the staff of my building having to hang on for dear life on the icy pavements on their way to work but also down the corridors of their own office, as some of the more dramatic staff would lead me to believe. The heating system had failed over night and the early warning BMS (Building Maintenance System) had not done its job and informed our heating specialists. A fact of life when relying on sub-contractors to react quickly and efficiently is that sub-contractors do not react quickly and efficiently, far from it. So at 10.30 in the morning a full 3 hours after the issue had been reported, the heating specialists turn up (I won’t name names) and finally fixed the issue.
Those 3 hours have to be some of the longest I’ve experienced in my job as slowly but surely the seniority of the staff complaining to me directly gets higher and higher, ending in the inevitable visit from a very cold Chairman in a scarf and coat looking for answers. Of course this is a very large building containing approx 900 staff and it takes a good 2 hours for the building to return to any semblance of an acceptable temperature.”
The fun doesn’t end there though, once the issue has been resolved there is the endless processes and paperwork involved to explain what went wrong and to explain why it won’t go wrong again, honest.
So that was a Monday, not a typical one perhaps but that’s the beauty of having such a broad role, these things can happen!
On this particular Tuesday a standard fire alarm test carried out by the onsite engineer goes badly wrong and decides not to shut off. Rightly so, staff come straight through to the facilities department, of course they can’t call as sign language is needed to communicate through the noise, it doesn’t take a genius to guess what the issue is.
For 45 minutes the alarm sounds without interruption and this isn’t a gentle ringing that wakes you up in the morning, this is a pulsing, head exploding sound that is intended to alert everyone in the greater London area that there is a fire in an old building located in The City, no-one wants another 1666. Some staff leave, some put on headphones and ride it out, but all are annoyed and looking for answers. Once again a full report is requested and assurances of no repeat performances. When working for the 7th largest financial company in the UK, there must be answers, a lot of manpower hours and therefore money has been lost by this 45 minute interruption.
A standard day today, all the staff happy, no heating issues, a well-oiled machine. Until lunch that is, when a shareholder of the company and also a close relation of the queen gets stuck in lift number 3 for 10 minutes. We stop short of opening the doors and dragging him out by his cane. Fortunately our engineer simply resets the lift and a good-humoured royal is released, no harm done.
Thursday involves an enjoyable jaunt around the London area visiting our regional sites and ensuring that everything is working as it should be. This mainly involves listening to complaints from staff and engineers a like and being advised on how things could run much more smoothly, of course this often involves huge injections of cash for top of the range automated systems. These suggestions are listened to, reported to the board and more often than not dismissed. The money available can always be put to better use. For example the artwork in the main lobby which costs the same as an entire new boiler and looks like it’s been painted by a 6 year old, definitely better use of the funds.
With some weekend office moves looming ahead, Friday is dedicated to last minute planning and most importantly placating of upset staff who will now be 1 metre further away from the tea point area and can now only see 80% of the Gherkin and not their full panorama view of the City as before.
Office moves are one of the most challenging aspects of the job as it involves immense amounts of planning and organising. Desks must be ordered, removal companies contacted and worst of all IT consulted. An often fractious relationship between facilities and IT is pushed to breaking point as newly moved PC’s won’t turn on and telephones don’t work.
With call after call from Miranda in accounts complaining right up until the last minute about her new seating position directly under the air con vent I sign off, only to come in the next day and try and coordinate the whole office move, with the one added bonus, an empty building.
Having spent several years’ at large City-based financial services firms, Adam’s current role is as Facilities Manager for the NHS. If you would like to contact him you can do so by email at firstname.lastname@example.org