Michael Fallon on facilitating the reopening of our offices

Posted Friday, October 16, 2020


Everyone wants to be a 'well-being', and during these troubled times, our Wellbeing team has been busier than ever. With COVID arriving on everyone’s doorsteps, it soon became pretty clear that for some, ‘working from home’ just isn’t ‘working for them’. As a group, we have many different scenarios to consider, ranging from the multi-taskers juggling families and having to work strange hours, to those stuck in the sticks and getting lonelier by the day. These staff members needed a solution!

We asked our Group Facilities Manager - Michael Fallon how he tackled the task of facilitating getting our staff back into the office:

23rd March 2020, the day that Boris announced the UK would go into lockdown. For 3 weeks all roads were empty, and you only left your home for the essential food shop and the 30 minutes of exercise you were allowed. Quick changes were needed, to keep communications flowing between departments as well as between Clients and Crabtree, especially for those customers who preferred communication via mail.

There was an emphasis on limiting office work to a minimum, whilst keeping working processes going, and simple things such as how do we get incoming mail to the right staff suddenly becoming an issue we previously took for granted.

Days later, and the new working processes we had implemented were going to plan so that question and others that quickly cropped up seemed to be answered. Those who needed to send items from home were able to print to the office and with the help of technology, we got the mail out. Entering a PIN number on the copiers let those essential office workers print off documents, get them in envelopes, and sent out as quickly as they could.

This was the start of the new normal way of working life.

At Facilities Management School you learn about how buildings work and how to manage them but never was a global pandemic talked about. The rule book was out the window and all the pages of the new Facilities Manager book were now being written – from scratch.

As the weeks went by daily briefings from the government emerged and guidance was given advising of what would be expected when returning to work in the future. Although at times the messages were confusing, by simply sifting through the advice and using common sense to pick out salient pointers, a plan was formed in order to get the offices ready for action.

The main three items coming from documents was

  • Keep your distance with the 2-meter rule - introducing one-way systems where possible
  • Cleanliness & hygiene facilities
  • Signage & communicating the above to staff and residents

Tape and a rule were going to be needed pronto! As I set out to create a one-way system throughout our multi-location offices across England and Wales, I realised that this was going to be a big (but vital) task. Having copies of all office floor plans I could see what would work. After removing all contents of drawers from the office we then had a blank canvas to work with, and it seemed that we could leave the open-plan desk layout as long as some desks were kept as ‘no go’ areas. These were indicated by signage and IT moved the PC’s that were still in the office to the desks that were available.

Now that the office was a lot clearer and clean - with anti-bacterial spray, wipes and blue roll strategically placed around the office we had the tools there for the staff to use on their arrival. Multiple signs were created and placed in prominent areas to remind staff of what is expected of them.

We devised a rota system for staff wanting to come back to the office at staggered intervals to ensure safe distancing could be adhered to. We also worked out a car parking rota to minimise the number of staff using public transport.

All of this was then repeated in our other locations.

This process has formed the base of where we were going, things are still changing in the office environments – last week QR Track and Trace posters were introduced to the UK and another measure we are putting in place in order to communicate with our staff as quickly as possible.

Michael Fallon


Fexco Property Services has multiple offices across the country, each with their own specific requirements, some with features such as narrow corridors or lifts to accommodate, and some more open plan and easier to manage. We are still working on the new office environment, it’s definitely an ongoing task but we must continue to adapt to a constantly changing work environment, and we recognise that working as a team, it is an achievable challenge for those whose role it is to facilitate the process. Some have found the challenge rewarding, and for our Facilities Manager Michael, playing a major part in getting those staff whose mental welfare relies on the more structured day going to a place of work provides – he most definitely rose to that challenge. Thanks, Michael.


For those who have returned to the office, life has resumed some recognisable form of normal. Speaking to several staff members now happily embracing their new (incredibly clean) office environment, it’s clearly made a huge difference to their general happiness. Customer service is at the very heart of what we do in this industry, and if COVID has identified anything new for us in that respect, it is that for those working from home, they are effectively bringing customers into their home! This can have a positive or negative effect on the staff member’s home environment which needs careful management and support, together with some understanding from residents whilst we all weather the storm.


Teamwork can work well remotely, but it takes more effort than simply turning around and asking your colleague if they want a cuppa - it has to be more organised and you could say ‘formalised’, so maybe getting back into the office is something to consider, and with the right safety measures in place, it can be achieved. We will regularly provide staff with wellbeing surveys to ascertain the levels of stress that may be occurring throughout the teams, and address any issues, whether it’s generic advice about how to improve your daily life or training for line managers to help them look after their teams. On the back of the survey, a more concerted effort will be made into ensuring change is made for the better, and everyone in the business matters. It’s a holistic process, people must respond and get involved in order for it to be effective, but our end game is to provide customer service at consistently good levels.



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