Setting the bar for South African Standards in the workplace

Forbes magazine by Jeanne Meister, ‘the global facility management (FM) market will be worth 1 trillion USD by 2025 – and that’s just that which is outsourced

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Facilities Management in the property sector, by Abubakr Hattas, Group Business Improvement Specialist at Servest

According to an article in Forbes magazine by Jeanne Meister, ‘the global facility management (FM) market will be worth 1 trillion USD by 2025 – and that’s just that which is outsourced. Concerned with the management, operation and maintenance of an organisation’s facilities, FM is a discipline that needs to balance the rapidly changing needs and demands of the various stakeholders that it serves with effective, safe and sustainable business needs. It affects the health and well-being of all those who come in contact with an organisation; and covers a wide range of areas including occupancy costs (the second-highest overhead in almost every organisation), use of space, maintenance, security, cleanliness, the environment, and more’.

Similarly, in the corporate real estate arena, portfolios are not as simple as renting a floor, a block in an office park, or even buying a real estate property. Businesses want to focus on their customers and invest in their core areas of expertise which satisfies their customer’s needs.  As a result, they are optimising their property selection in order to rationalise cost and achieve the right size portfolios. The nature of workplace and what is considered ’the office’, has evolved to become a business within a business.

No matter what shape or form your corporate real estate takes, it requires some fundamental maintenance that ensures the space is fit for purpose, limiting the risk to its people, the impact on budgeting constraints, and supporting the overall business objectives.

With the introduction of Standardisation, the opportunity for benchmarking, outsourcing, and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a new management function has been introduced and in many cases, will result in considerate business benefits –  the greatest being that of tremendous cost savings that comes from knowing what to expect from your facilities management providers.

Stanley Mitchell, Chair of ISO/TC 267, Facility management, the ISO technical committee that developed the standard, said ISO 41001 will assist organisations in a number of ways by establishing a common approach and a set of processes that can be referred to around the world”.

“ISO 41001 is the first standard of its kind for facility management and has the potential to make a real difference to organisations by improving workforce health and safety, reducing their impact on the environment and making considerable cost savings and efficiencies.” [Source:]

In fact, this is clearly stated in the foreword of the new standards of Top Trends in FM, says Ian Entwisle, CEO of Global Workplace Solutions, EMEA, “talking to clients I’m often struck by how fast the world of facilities management is changing. Global influences such as demographic and social changes are contributing to a shift in how the workplace is viewed and what people expect from it.”

The standard, like any other measure, is only a starting point of the already established facilities services industry in South Africa. This is also an opportunity to build long term relationships between facilities management providers and its customers, through robust discussions that affect their business – that allows for a high a level of quality, transparency accountability. Facilities management however needs to be at the forefront of ensuring this value chain to the business, to give the best value possible.

The standard therefore brings with it a common language for facilities management practitioners. In other words, we now have the opportunity to manage expectations that goes beyond just saving money, but also identifies areas where facilities management adds value to an infrastructure. It is important to localise the standard though, in accordance with South Africa’s changing context and climate conditions; and workplace practices.

In its analysis, an online report on ‘top trends in facilities management, how society, demographics and technology are changing the world in FM’. “It is said that by 2020, Generation Y, will make up half of the global workforce and that people are also choosing to work for longer.” This is due to the fact that people are living longer.  “Organisations will have to balance the needs of the different generations of people.  Wellness is also a factor, in boosting productivity, attracting talent and reducing sickness and absenteeism”. [Source:]

In South Africa, there are also diversity issues to consider, such as accommodating culture and religion. Companies will have to ensure the comfort of its people, in so much as providing facilities that cater to their needs, an example of this is prayer rooms for its Muslim employees.

The integration of services therefore have a much greater impact on the general provision of services, which cuts across HR and IT; and in South Africa,  we also need to consider the local context in a manner that resonates with different cultures in the way that we communicate and through ergonomics.

Let’s add to these environmental issues that are related to an organisation’s operations, such as water and sewage, climate changes and efficiencies in resources. Standards require continual improvement, but also adaptations in the local context. South Africa is experiencing dramatic changes in its weather patterns across the country and cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town now appear to have swopped weather conditions, which impact infrastructure that was built centuries ago. Standards serve for the purpose of benchmarking, however it must always be viewed within the local context, such as the value chain of offerings, in addition to cost saving measures.




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