As the UK continues to battle COVID-19 the healthcare sector is still seeing the strongest growth in demand for FM services, followed by other public sector industries including education.
With the ever-changing circumstances entrenching the UK high street, the retail sector remains the weakest performing category with respondents reporting a steep decline in FM demand for the second report in a row.
To assess how ready buildings are to respond to the newest Government guidance, 51% of survey participants report that the buildings they are involved with are now fully setup to operate with social distancing measures in place. On a scale of 1 to 6 (1 being not at all prepared and 6 being completely prepared) the average rating came in at 5.4. This is up from a rating of 4.7 out of 6 returned the last time the survey was conducted back in May.
When looking to the next twelve months, workplace and relocation management is now expected to see the greatest growth, with cleaning and strategic planning and project management also returning strong expectations for expansion. There is no anticipated growth across the catering sector for the year to come.
Looking at potential job prospects, the survey highlights that despite the weakening in the UK labour market since the onset of the pandemic, +11% of respondents reported an increase in FM head counts in the three months to August. To note, however, this has subdued from previous surveys, when the net balances were +28% and +47% respectively.
Respondents to the survey are less optimistic for the year ahead as -19% of participants expect a reduction in head counts over the coming twelve months. They also anticipate profit margins coming under further downward pressure in spite of expecting workloads to increase in the year to come.
On a less positive note, investment into apprenticeships and training seems to have lost momentum given the current economic climate. Whereas resources dedicated to both areas had seen solid growth earlier in the year, the latest returns point to a much flatter picture.
As the UK tries to return to some semblance of normality and businesses look to plan for the future, attitudes towards sustainability continue to come more to the forefront of business decisions. In this survey, 63% of respondents now cite sustainability as being the most important issue for clients, up from 56% in the past two reports.
Alongside this, health and wellbeing, as well as energy management, were seen as the fastest rising areas of sustainability over the past twelve months.
Paul Bagust, RICS Global Property Standards Director commented: “It is clear that the world of FM is dynamic and evolving but also at a crossroads. Even before Covid-19 rapid progress in technology, the environment, and the changing nature of work meant that the role and expectation of buildings was changing. These trends have simply been accelerated.
“The future will require tremendous innovation, use of technology, data analytics and leadership to ensure our buildings – whether they be schools, hospitals, offices or retail – are environments that are, of course, safe and secure, but also perform to a high standard in terms of environmental and social impact. And of course, delivering experience will become more critical.'