The recession of 2008/2009 has put every facilities management operation under pressure. The negative growth that began in the last quarter of 2008 has left a trail of damage across the world’s economy. Rising unemployment levels and record levels of business failure and personal bankruptcy have led many to compare the downturn to the great depression of the 1930s. Public, Private and Voluntary sectors alike are faced with the need to reduce costs, improve productivity and raise performance levels. With expenditure on property and the workplace ranking as one of the highest overheads for most organisations the spotlight inevitably falls on the facilities budget.

Unfortunately this can be an area where simplistic cost reduction can have dramatic and unintended consequences. Large areas of facilities spend may be contractually or legally committed as a result of property agreements, service contracts or taxation. Health, safety or environmental regulation compliance may be compromised by uninformed budget cuts. Wholesale lowering of service levels can directly affect operational resilience, risk or productivity or may indirectly impact upon morale, absenteeism or corporate reputation.

These same issues arose during the brief recessions of the 1970s and 1980s. The pressures of these led to dramatic changes in the way facilities were managed and are often cited as the catalysts behind the development of today’s FM profession. The trend towards the outsourcing of noncore services, the move to open plan working and creation of a new breed of managers with sole responsibility for the stewardship of the workplace agenda were all accelerated by the economic pressures of the time.

However such approaches are now commonplace and most organisations have already harvested the more accessible of the benefits to be gained by reducing core headcount and increasing utilisation of their real estate. Those who have rejected such solutions will have made their decisions based on a close knowledge of what will and what will not work in their own organisations’ However many will now be under pressure to review such considerations.

The simple truth is that if different results are required then the FM professional will have to change the way they are doing things at present. Managers need to develop creativity skills to generate new solutions to old problems, they have to be comfortable taking the risks necessary to drive innovation and they must be capable of leading change when others may not be fully engaged behind it. Good management information is essential to monitor trends, identify improvement opportunities and mitigate risk. Smart systems and processes, coupled with intelligent use of technology can be applied to support change and enable a positive shift in behaviour.

This white paper sets out to explore such ideas and to assist the strategy development process of those who are facing challenges to their property management strategies in the light of the changed circumstances this recession has created.