Great Adaptations

by Katie Lee

— By Jill Woodside —

Facilities management during crises: Best practices to succeed.


Numerous risks surround facilities management and those problems swell during major facilities management crises. The COVID-19 crisis is the most obvious, but its impact on facilities management is a true Black Swan event. According to James M. Berklan of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, the costs of PPE have increased over 1,000% amid

Jill Woodside, CW Facilities Solutions

the crisis, and while it’s easy to only associate that cost with direct care workers, what about the PPE that facilities management custodial professionals need? The COVID-19 crisis is the motherload of all possible disruptions. Its effects will last for months. Guests will expect a cleaner, sanitary and distanced interaction. It’s the new normal, and managers need to prepare for that reality. Facility leaders take the time to follow these best practices can help mitigate losses and achieve successful outcomes throughout the “Great Adaptation.”

Stay Apprised of Guidance From Governing Bodies

The first step to overcoming obstacles in facilities management during crises lies in following the advice and guidelines issued by governing authorities. Such authorities may include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and others. Keeping informed is essential to avoiding unnecessary risks and adhering to public policies. Consider implementing additional signage to keep customers informed of your measures as well.

Set Clear Expectations for Performance Through the Crisis

Staff members should have a clear framework of expectations for performance and duties throughout the crisis. This may include the elimination of unnecessary items from the workflow. However, avoid elimination of items entirely, opting for a rescheduling that does not cause undue harm. Additional examples of clear expectations might include focusing on the health of your customers, emphasizing the use of PPE and setting a schedule that does not interfere with social distancing guidelines.

Assess the State of Field Service Vendors That Work With Your Company

Next, facility managers should review the available field service vendors that work with your company to determine what resources are available for addressing needs. This may include cleaning crews to handle floods through additional maintenance personnel to address physical damage. It all depends on the cause of the crisis and the immediate needs listed within the disaster preparedness plan.

Take the current COVID-19 situation. When authorities lift the restrictions regarding business closures, does your vendor possess the capabilities to set a store up for success, such as enabling social distancing with appropriate signage and more? Even though social distancing might be a temporary measure, the effects on customers’ need to maintain social distancing are likely to last well beyond the reopening of businesses.

Increase Security Standards Across Physical & Virtual Spaces

Increased security remains a critical step in maintaining physical and digital assets throughout facilities management during crises. Ensure all systems are thoroughly secured, and this is even more important when disruptions force staff to work remotely and rely on personal devices to complete duties.

Follow the Chain of Command in All Activities

Regardless of what happens, all staff is expected to follow the chain of command within the facility. This is specific to the type of facility and industry. For instance, health care professionals may need to perform additional duties as directed by the facility administrator or local health department.

Maintain Communications Within a Centralized Platform

Centralized communications also go a long way in minimizing disruptions throughout crises. Instead of trying to share information with sub-par emails, work with a computerized maintenance management system to address all work orders and scheduling needs throughout the duration of the event.

Scale the Workforce Accordingly

Even if typical field service vendors are unavailable, your organization must have the capability to rapidly scale the workforce accordingly. As a result, it is best to work with a crisis management expert throughout the event as well. Also, companies should have a preferred partner, such as a facilities management servicer that can assist with all needs from maintenance through the rollout of new facility assets and equipment, like sneeze guards.

Put These Practices Into Action Now

The type of crisis may vary, such as weather-related events or a complete disruption to public policies. Regardless, the time to start planning for crises is now. Depending on your location, your facility could already be in crisis management mode, but your C-Suite is all ears, says FM Link experts: “Most executives will welcome and give serious consideration to facilities planning efforts that will save substantial dollars over a 1- to 5-year period.” Above all else, each crisis is an opportunity to learn and be better prepared for the next event.



— Jill Woodside is senior managing director of CW Facilities Solutions, which specializes in on-demand facility maintenance and project management services through a national network of facilities contractors. Visit or email [email protected].




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