Could Money-Saving Measures be costing you a Fortune?
Plenty of research has been done in the last decade to prove that a comfortable working environment with high quality services has a positive impact on staff performance. When times are good it’s easy to indulge in statements about your organisation’s enlightened attitude toward their workforce with a range of seductive facilities. But in the current age of austerity, FMs are fighting an increasingly tough battle to consolidate employee expectations with an ongoing pressure to trim the fat.
In a downward spiral of cost cutting, it can be hard to identify which quality services and facilities for the workplace are really are worth paying for. Does is really make sense to invest in ergonomic office design when staff should just be grateful for work?
If you want to reap the rewards of fewer sick days and better workflow the answer could be yes. But the evidence to support your argument will have to be compelling. By devising a workplace strategy that clearly establishes the areas in which investment is truly beneficial, you have the ability to improve both the bottom line and the productivity of the company (and in turn gain increased recognition for facilities management as a value adding service).
Are you sitting Comfortably?
The budget for furniture and refurbishment is probably one of the first to be slashed when capital expenditure comes under scrutiny. The temptation is understandable - there are plenty of bargain basement products available that closely resemble premium ranges. But saving a few pounds in the short term can be a false economy. As flexible working practices filter faster into industry, the requirement will be for furniture that can be easily and regularly moved around and adjusted to meet individual needs. Durable materials with better functional ergonomics will cost more, but they will withstand the wear and tear of constant relocation, delaying the need to provide replacements.
It’s also worth remembering that lower back pain accounts for more sick leave and disability than any other medical condition, costing UK business a fortune every year. Well designed workstations that genuinely support the physical needs of users should not be substituted with those that simply look like they do. As most firms are actively trying to reduce their floor space, a decent chair with adaptable features and good lumbar support will also go a long way to make employees feel valued and looked after, even when office density is increased and assigned desks are removed.
Wake up and Smell the Coffee
Revisiting catering provision and subsidies is another potentially valid target for savings, but FMs should proceed with caution before lowering or changing the standard of what is available, or risk paying a serious price in the form of lower productivity and morale. According to a survey conducted by uSwitchforbusines.com in 2010, 25% of employees say the company they work for has taken steps to cut the cost of refreshments in the past year. One in ten says the cutbacks have changed the atmosphere for the worse at work, while 19% says it has left workers feeling jittery about the future.
It is proven that companies with good staff retention statistics continually out-perform those with high attrition rates, and if internal communications are well managed, the minimal costs of providing a decent cup of coffee can make all the difference in keeping a loyal staff.
Employees are also more brand-conscious than ever before, and if they don’t have access to good quality refreshments in-house, they are likely to leave the building to buy them – trips that add up in terms of time spent away from the office. A recent study carried out by PiMS Workspace found that 35% of employees regularly leave their workplace to buy drinks from a branded outlet and 52% of respondents would be prepared to drink fewer cups at work in exchange for a better quality brew.
Gear up for Cyclists
The pressure for companies to provide adequate facilities for cyclists is set to increase, and it will be down to the FM to make it happen. But this needn’t necessarily be viewed as yet another financial burden on your overstretched budget. The rewards for providing a few basic facilities for cyclists will more than outweigh the initial costs. As well as the obvious - improving productivity and attendance with a fitter, healthier workforce, its good news for corporate social responsibility (the average person making a typical daily car commute of four miles each way would save 0.5 tonnes of CO2, or 6% of their annual carbon footprint by switching to cycling).
By reducing the number of cars at the workplace, you may also free up valuable land for development or subletting. The cost of cycling equipment can be treated as capital expenditure, meaning employers can claim capital allowances against it and by showing your organisation’s support of bike riders, your company brand and image will be invigorated.
Build Better IT Infrastructure
There is little argument that IT is the central driver for change in the modern workplace. Perhaps less well understood is the importance of the FM in maximising the benefits of interactive mobile technologies. Just as it is vital for the IT professional to keep abreast of new advances, the FM needs to ensure the building infrastructure can support new technology, with sufficient resources to cope with changing demands as the workforce becomes more fragmented. Flexible working practices will guarantee a reduction in accommodation-based commercial overheads, so the return on investment will be swift and impressive.
Perhaps even buy in new technology that might amalgamate several functions (e.g. a Multifunctional Digital System for scanning, printing and photocopying), improving the business’ perception as a forward-thinking, and cutting edge organisation.