Use Iot, Smart Buildings, and Better Software to Ease Impact of Understaffing

Dan Teare

Facilities Management and their staff have been hit hard by vacancies and absences, and although there is no magic cure to such endemic problems – digital tools can make operations more efficient; says Dan Teare, Sector Director at mpro5.

The cleaning and hygiene industry is suffering “severe” staff shortages with the rate of vacancies has increased dramatically, according to a survey carried out by the British Cleaning Council (BCC) in January.

11 of the biggest facilities management (FM) firms reported some 1,917 vacancies in total. One firm said their number of vacancies increased by 252% in the last six months, and another by 267%. This was due to many factors – with companies reporting the main causes being foreign nationals going home, and staff finding new jobs in different industries.

As the pandemic started to recede, modernized economies have had to face “The Great Resignation”. Although vacancies in FM have been caused by some industry-specific factors, every industry has felt the impact of staff re-evaluating their career paths en-masse. Within the UK alone, the ONS reported that vacancies increased to 1.2 million as workers changed jobs in October 2021. 

Furthermore, although the isolation law is about to change in the UK as we learn to live with Covid-19, it was not long ago that isolation from the ‘pingdemic’ caused absences to reach an all-time high – with 1 in 10 absent from work due to covid.

Ultimately, whether due to a pandemic or shifts in the global economic and employment landscape, businesses have had to try and continue operating as best they can while severely understaffed – and this has impacted morale, stress levels, and results. It is therefore vital that companies, particularly in industries as labor-intensive as facilities management, employ new systems and digital tools to work more efficiently.

‘Smart buildings’, powered by the Internet of Things and sensor technologies, and all powered by adaptive, real-time software, enables FM businesses to work smarter, not harder; and ultimately be just as efficient with fewer people.

Dan Teare, Sector Director at mpro5, discussed why new technologies and the right software can ease the impact of understaffing:

“By utilizing an IoT-driven workflow management platform, FM companies can easily harvest and unify the data around them; viewing patterns and creating tasks from a centralized platform – with all the knowledge at their fingertips. Teams can instantly view and act upon this data, rather than fixed, out-of-date schedules, so they can do what it is needed to be done, rather than act upon fixed and out-of-date schedules.

For example, if a sensor on a toilet door has been opened 100 times, then cleaning staff may well need to check it is still functional and clean. Inversely, if they go to clean as their schedule insists, and no one has been in that toilet or even on that floor, it is simply a waste of their time. Viewing these patterns form over time gives you the power to predict more accurately – so your future-facing schedules can be more accurate, and peoples’ time used more efficiently. 

Dan continued: “This gives teams and business the power to prioritize jobs and the right people to do them. Teams can spend less time worrying about covering for missing staff, and instead can trust that all tasks are being accounted for and covered; improving overall operational effectiveness while leaving no gaps.”

Dan concluded: “Ultimately, it is about doing the same with less. Smart buildings, real-time data, and the ability to act upon it, gives FM organizations and their staff a better chance at effectively continuing operations – despite any vacancies or absences.

In many countries, the pandemic may feel like its gone, but the other issues affecting staffing have not – and we never know what may be around the corner. Therefore – enabling digital transformation now is the best thing you can do to operate efficiently and reduce the stress felt by current staff.”