Business Continuity Planning a Strategic Must in Facilities Management during Covid-19

Business Continuity Planning a Strategic Must in Facilities Management during Covid-19

The outbreak of the global pandemic known as Corona Virus (COVID-19) has brought uncertainty across the world and actions taken to reduce the impact by world health organisations, countries and governments have been unprecedented. We asked Eoin O’Sullivan, lead tutor of Strategic FM, Strategic Management of the Workplace & FM, and the Workplace Risk Management modules on the MSc & BSc programmes in Facilities & Workplace Management at the Portobello Institute, to share his views on planning for business continuity during these extraordinary times. This is an unprecedented time for those of us involved in the provision of Facilities Management (FM) services and functions. FM must manage organisations at both strategical and operational levels and contribute to its successes but must also react in difficult and uncertain times that we experience now.

Business & Continuity Planning in Facilities Management Covid-19 

In the past we have experienced issues such as adverse weather and events that have affected the facilities and buildings that we mange. FM must apply business and continuity planning strategies for these unforeseen events that may or may not be beyond our control. These strategies focus on;

  • Prevention (Risk Management Plans)
  • Preparedness (Business impact analysis)
  • Response (Incident response plan)
  • Recovery (Recovery plan)

Adapting to the Containment Phase in FM

Currently, COVID-19 has had a severe impact on business and the operational function of facility management has had to rise to the challenge. We have had to adapt quickly in the ‘containment phase’ to offset the effects of the spread of the virus within our organisations and the greater community e.g.

  • Hand sterilisation on entering and exiting the premises
  • Public display of COVID-19 protocols
  • Further allocation of resource in sterilisation of ‘touch points’
  • Enhanced visitor/staff access management
  • Social distancing in the workplace
  • Provision and support of remote working
  • Well-being for those working from home

FMs must react quickly to the “Delay Phase”

Now as we enter the ‘delay phase’ FM has had to again react suddenly as we move to align FM with recent HSE and Government public health measures. FM has on one hand had to facilitate staff and services in the frontline to adjust e.g. healthcare, nursing homes and laboratories. But on the other hand, many organisations have had to severely reduce staff and production while some have had to close their doors altogether, this too has implications for those involved in facility management e.g.

  • Remote working considerations e.g. equipment removal requests, ergonomic considerations and the collaboration and connection of remote staff
  • Make buildings secure and safe
  • Gas, water systems and electricity safety in the absence of maintenance and staff
  • Emergency cover and on call lists of staff and contractors
  • Travel to work lists for ‘essential staff’ members
  • Budget recalculations

FM helping to prepare for the Potential Surge

As COVID-19 enters the ‘mitigation phase’ there will be further change required from FM as we prepare for a ‘potential surge’. The HSE and the relevant government bodies will need more buildings, equipment, PPE and people if the impact of the surge is realised. Temporary treatment facilities for those affected will be required and the management of these buildings, its plant and equipment will be required. FM can help here, with its knowledge and expertise and we may be called upon to assist in these turbulent times for the greater good of society.

The role of Facilities Management in “Returning to Normal”

When all this is over and as we start to re-enter the workplace, FM will have a distinct role to play as we prepare buildings for the safe and secure return of staff to work.

Finally, as part of the continuous learning process FMs must review and critique business continuity plans for these ‘one-off’ events. We now realise that life and work may never be the same again and that these events could potentially go from being ‘the exception’ to becoming ‘the norm’ as the world and planet we live on continues to evolve. FM as a critical function of business both operationally and strategically must also evolve and prepare for these occurrences now and into the future.

I would like to thank everyone for their continued work and efforts in keeping Ireland a safe and secure place to live for all its citizens.

Also, it is important for us all to continue to follow the Health Service Executive (HSE) and governments directions as the country and the world around us continues to adjust. 

‘Stay safe and protect others around you by playing your part’


(Lead FM Tutor on behalf of Portobello Institute)

About the author

Eoin O’Sullivan began his career in 1990 in mechanical services working on construction projects in the greater Munster area, including the Apple Inc. site, Cork Airport and Debeers, culminating in 2000 as a mechanical project supervisor. He went on to take up a position in a large private healthcare facility in Cork in which he began his journey in Facilities Management. In this role he was responsible for some key aspects of strategic management and operational functions. In the last few years Eoin continued that journey, moving to a large University to become a significant member of the FM team sharing his experience and vision with the organisation.

Eoin describes himself as a keen advocate of continuous personal and professional development and feels businesses today recognise this aspect and rewards it.  He has achieved multiple qualifications in areas such as; mechanical services, process and chemical engineering, electrical and gas systems, leading empowered organisations, IOSH accreditation and project management.

Eoin’s vast experience in these subjects, coupled with 10 years construction experience, and over 20 years of facility management, allows him to cultivate rapport with students and develop course work and material based on practical experience in the workplace. Read more about Eoin here

Study Facilities Management with Portobello Institute.

Portobello Institute has been offering professional qualifications in the area of Facilities Management for almost 20 years. Commencing with qualifications from ILM & IFMA, the Institute now offers students the opportunity to study from IWFM level 3 right up to an MSc in Facilities & Workplace Management.There are advanced entry opportunities for those with trade qualifications on the BSc (Hons) Facilities & Workplace Management programme. Click any of the links below to visit the web page for these programmes.

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