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Building Re-commissioning

Building Re-commissioning

APSE Solutions have been evaluating and working up our response to the ‘new normal’.  The following consideration is the result of an in-depth discussion about building re-commissioning between APSE Solutions Senior Consultant Ben Parsons and Associate Consultant Sarah Jowett. Sarah explains more in this article.

So, it’s a given that we are living in very strange times. If one thing is certain though, it’s that local authorities are the masters of change – we have been doing it for ages. For us, change is the only constant. The only difference this time is the speed of change during the COVID-19 pandemic which Local Authorities are not always known for!

Reaction was quick, services reviewed, the vulnerable supported. Staff have tested technology to the limit and, on the whole, feedback seems very positive. Yes we can work from home but one has to ask if this truly sustainable in the long run. 

Mental health and wellbeing have been highlighted, rightly so, as a key factor with the new work environment. Work isn’t just about money but about social interaction, enjoyment and achievement. Work is just better if people talk, often unplanned, and exchange information. With lockdown restrictions now being eased in parts of the UK our ‘new normal’ is set to change again.

We are now in the position of wanting to open up sites again to colleagues and possibly customers. There are many reasons for this – function, service delivery or mental wellbeing of employees; no matter what, the work place needs to be safe and staff need to feel secure. 

With increased restrictions, expectations and guidance now out there, re-commissioning sites is a complicated process and needs proper thought and planning. This is where APSE can help by guiding members through a checklist of considerations and actions. The checklist helps to ensure that the implementation plan will work, you need to start by focusing on what has been happening before you can plan what will happen now and how that will be implemented, ensuring suitable checks and balances are embedded.

A high-level overview of the steps involved in re-commissioning your sites follows, picked up in much greater detail in the checklist: 

Step 1 –   Feedback and Review

  • You need to understand how the different services have coped during remote working.
  • Which services have remained in situ?
  • What have been the issues for employees, customers, HR, Risk, ICT and FM services for example?
  • What is your corporate view of service delivery and how accommodation can facilitate it going forward in the short / medium term?

Step 2 –   Planning

  • Which services need access to sites and facilities, how many and how often? What is the programme or phasing?
  • How will you control, allocate and record access?
  • What will the work environment look like?
  • How will the new environment work?  What are the rules?
  • What facilities will be available and when? (catering, meeting rooms, visitors, etc)
  • Cleaning and hygiene- changes to service delivery / contract and materials. Agree a standard that is relevant and available
  • Reviewing your risk assessments - What does risk look like now and what control measures will you implement? There will be significant change to how you function and therefore control risk.
  • Policy review – implications that arise?
  • HR – changes to and impact on employee management and wellbeing (including those who are shielding or anxious)
  • Budget requirements
  • Journey to work implications
  • Formal signoff of proposals (Cabinet / SMT/ TU)

Step 3 –   Enabling

  • Changes to workspace (layout, signage, alterations, desk booking, waste streams, limitation of numbers, welfare facilities, etc)
  • Changes to culture 
  • Changes to staff working pattern (extended, allocated, etc)
  • Agreement of contracts/provision to support re-commissioning (eg cleaning, catering, building maintenance)
  • Monitoring and enforcement protocols
  • Methodology – storage, who will action, availability of supplies and contractors

Step 4 –   Implementing

  • Communication to staff about the new workspace and working environment / culture and expectations
  • Planned, managed approach
  • Clear contact points and guidance
  • Nominate clear contacts and ways of communicating for employees
  • What level of enforcement will you have?
  • Monitor and Feedback initial occupation
  • Notify the public / residents about your plans and access to public buildings

Step 5 –   Monitoring and Review 

  • How will you obtain feedback and monitor use?
  • Do new systems and processes need to be updated or changed?
  • Are there unexpected risks or hazards that need attention?
  • Monitor suspected symptoms and manage contact – who will do this and how often?

Some authorities are also voicing opinion about an asset review – do you need all those sites? Can employees work differently? Taking an initial view, it is sensible to ask those questions and certainly a strategic, asset review is a sensible step. Doing it too soon however, may compete with and influence the wellbeing of employees, re-population of buildings and finding the ‘new normal’ of service operation. The message here is see if remote working is feasible longer term for your organisation and to what degree. APSE can support an asset review when the time is right for you.   

There are many sources of reference on the internet – HSE, APSE and professional organisations all have guidance:

No matter how or what you decide to do to re-mobilise your building assets, just remember that your actions, scope and pace has to suit your organisation, culture and the way you work. Just because another authority has done it one way, it might not work for you. These are challenging times so it is helpful to know that support is out there; so please do not hesitate to contact APSE Solutions. Email: bparsons@apse.org.uk or call 07824 310 712. Ben would be only too happy to discuss the support approach required.




Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.






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