Don’t take your eye off the ball over the festive season…

As a number of businesses lock up their premises ready for a nice break over the Christmas season, the festive holidays bring a whole host of challenges for facilities managers which should be addressed in advance. Whether your business stays open or shuts over the Christmas period, there are several simple measures that can be put in place to ensure your employees and employer remain happy and business assets are protected during the holiday.

Nigel Crunden at Office Depot provides a key checklist for FMs over Christmas and discusses the role of the facilities manager during the festive season.

 If you’re closed

 When shutting down for Christmas, FMs need to be thinking ahead about a list of priorities to ensure business assets remain safe and the break goes as smoothly as possible. For FMs preparing for shutdown, contingency is the most pertinent factor.

For companies that close over the holidays, security is often the main issue for FMs as unguarded vacant premises pave the way for opportunist intruders. This is especially true if the necessary precautions haven’t been taken and as the festive season kicks in, it is only natural for employees to unwind. However, by organising priorities well in advance, this will avoid potential complacency creeping in.

Begin asking yourself key questions such as, has the intruder alarm system been tested recently? What is the access policy to the premises during the holiday period? What are the arrangements for your heating and water systems?

In the event of an alarm activation or emergency over Christmas, ensure your call to action procedures are up-to-date and employees that have a responsibility to act are kept informed about their roles. For larger businesses, it’s the FMs job to appoint a number of designated key holders if you or an operations manager is unable to attend the premises in the event of an emergency.

It may seem obvious, but as the winter months are much colder, you must ensure that the heating system is kept on a low temperature when offices are vacant to help prevent freezing pipes in sub-zero temperatures.

In terms of security, budgets might allow some businesses to have attendant’s onsite but for those firms that rely on a security system and CCTV to deter intruders, a rota may need to be put in place for regular premise checks. However, FMs and operations managers may work together to put forward a case for outsourcing security services in order to take extra precautions. This is especially true if it would be detrimental for a business where high-value stock or assets were lost.

If you’re open

For companies that are open, the facilities manager must consider the general health & safety of all employees. During adverse weather conditions, FMs need to be prepared to advise senior management on the best course of action to take. For example, for those businesses where working remotely is an option, it might be safer for employees not to travel to the workplace and work from home.

For companies where it’s business as usual over Christmas, particularly those where employees are largely office-based, initiatives such as shrinking orders for general office supplies is one measure that can be taken to reduce waste. No doubt many staff members will choose to take their annual leave over the Christmas period, so FMs may put on hold some orders so that stock isn’t wasted.

Preparing for the Christmas period largely doesn’t differ from normal business operations for those companies that are open. All the usual workplace rules apply for FMs in terms of keeping employees safe. For example, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that workplace room temperature should not fall below 16 degrees, but the rules that apply require interpretation from the FM in order to decide what’s most efficient for employees.

FMs must address priorities in advance of the Christmas period by consulting with different departments within a business in order to discuss their individual requirements and ensure the business is well prepared for this year’s festive season.

A checklist for FMs
  1. Plan ahead and always have a contingency plan in place
  2. Ensure regular alarm security system checks are planned throughout the year and especially before the Christmas period
  3. Appoint designated key holders
  4. Consider outsourcing security services where extra precautions are required
  5. Consult with senior management and operations managers well in advance of the holidays to discuss plans and additional requirements
  6. Ensure that everything is in hand with the business premises and/or buildings such as heating systems

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