Terms like “furlough,” “layoff” and “essential/nonessential” have been dominating headlines in the age of COVID-19. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape the world in which we live and work, some Americans struggle to find work, while others are busier than ever. To make matters even more challenging, cases are spiking across the country, causing many government officials to roll back the phased reopenings that had allowed many jobless workers to return to the labor force.
To say that retailers have been feeling the impact of these trends is an understatement. Operations and facilities management (FM) teams, in particular, have had to adapt to a whole new way of working. These professionals are faced with the daunting task of keeping employees and customers safe while also performing scheduled maintenance, responding to work orders and orchestrating new cleaning and sanitation procedures.
For retailers who have already reopened or plan to, tackling a mounting backlog of work orders won’t be so easy with a reduced facilities staff. At a time when thinking and acting strategically is key, your organization may struggle to find the time, resources and staff needed to put a sound strategy in place.
But even if your team’s stretched thin, there are steps you can take to keep your stores up and running without sacrificing quality or safety.
At NEST, we’re big advocates of smart technology. Even before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, FM technology was changing the game for facilities teams charged with maintaining multiple locations. Now that COVID-19 is part of our lives, at least for the foreseeable future, technology is playing an increasingly important role in how large retailers with a national footprint function.
Facilities software enables leaders at both the store and corporate levels to retrieve real-time information, helping to reveal actionable trends in your data. Tracking FM activity digitally also frees up your team to focus less on day-to-day logistics and more on strategy.
Facilities managers who are used to being in the field, traveling to different store locations and meeting with regional department leaders have benefitted from FM technology, too. Video chats and phone calls have replaced hugs and handshakes, and even though the virtual experience isn’t the same as an in-person meeting, these tools empower facilities managers to maintain working relationships and reopen their stores with confidence.
Shift Responsibilities to Meet Demand
As the shopping experience changes, so will your employees’ experience. Many facilities managers have had to expand the scope of their typical work to include duties such as securing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for fellow team members. Some went from facilities managers to purchasing agents overnight. When staffing becomes a challenge, you should focus on upskilling the employees you have, being sure to provide the support, tools, technology and training they need to succeed in their expanded role.
Finetune Your Emergency Response Plan
If you didn’t have an emergency response plan in place before the pandemic struck, creating one should be at the top of your to-do list. But this (like most things) is easier said than done: Due to prolonged store closures, most facilities teams are still putting out COVID-related fires and chipping away at their backlog of maintenance requests. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave much time for long-term planning.
It’s also important to note that emergency response plans aren’t just for pandemics. As the east coast prepares for a particularly aggressive hurricane season, organizations will need to prepare their facilities for tropical storms and other events beyond COVID-19. This makes emergency response planning crucial for retailers seeking to reduce their risks on multiple fronts.
An FM partner with insight into your brand and operational data can help you overcome these challenges by taking over the day-to-day while your facilities team creates a plan for tomorrow.
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