BusinessDay

IWFM calls for innovative ways to respond to Covid-19 disruption in workplace

…says Nigeria’s FM industry lacks awareness, skilled hands

The Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM), Nigeria region, has called for innovative ways to respond to the disruptions in the workplace caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tunde Obileye, IWFM Nigeria chairman, noted that other major challenges in the industry were the low level of awareness and a less qualified workforce, explaining that a lot of people in this space lack training, competence and skill set as facility managers.

Obileye, who spoke at the annual conference of the institute in Lagos with the theme, ‘Re-inventing the Workplace’ said the conference was organised to create awareness, share new knowledge, ideas and practices in the facilities management industry.

“Presently, the whole concept of facility management and maintenance culture is yet to be fully understood in Nigeria. Today’s event offers us an opportunity to engage our minds as we explore the role of facilities management in re-inventing the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic created a shift in the where, when and how we work with significant implications for workers and the structures in the built environment,” he said.

“However, there is silver lining to what we experienced,” he noted, adding, “COVID-19 presented an opportunity for practitioners to collaborate and help our leaders to understand how the workplace is changing, and how their business organizations can best prepare for a vibrant future.”

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The chairman noted further that the speed at which the change was taking place was profound at this time, adding, “around us, we are beginning to see that a lot of changes are taking place in the workplace; there is the issue of wellness, health and safety and flexibility that come with the new approach and flexible working.”

Bimbo Ashiru, Board chairman of Odua Group, in his keynote speech, said that though Covid-19 created a lot of problems, it at the same time brought out a way of understanding the dynamics of things.

“Because of the pandemic people are now used to working from home, but there must be a way that, as players in Nigeria’s built environment space, we must come around with ideas on how to turn this around; you have to create a collaborative space and hybrid locations, to maximize the potential of workspace in order to better support other teams,” Ashiru said.

He also urged facility managers present to ensure their workplace was conducive, convenient and comfortable.

“You have to create spaces for downtime, you have to open up communication, you have to host cross-departmental and social events, you have to support employees’ well-being, bring colour and nature into the office, invest in high-quality furniture and provide quality, quiet space,” he said.

Cyprian Konkwo, managing partner, Ora Egbunike & Co, while speaking on the diversities in the workplace, noted that Gen X, the millennials, Gen Z, etc all have different approaches to work and it is the duty of facility managers to ensure that despite the differences, productivity is not affected.

“When I come to work in the morning, I want to see my people face to face; that is how I was trained and how I want my work to be done, but you can’t do that for a millennial employee. What he needs is that you give him what to do and let him deliver; he can work anywhere. So, we need to design spaces that suit them, and attract them to the workplace,” he advised.

He also said that “facility managers (FM) need to initiate some wellness initiative in the workplace such as weight loss programs to address physical health, meditation programs to improve mental focus, and flexible work arrangements.

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