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Roy Parrish - interview with

Fitting out for generational change within the office environment


Our MD, Roy Parrish, was interviewed by - the online presence for Facilities Management Journal. In the interview, Roy steps into the shoes of an FMJ facilities manager and discusses how the role has been affected by generational change within the office environment.

FMJ: How does it feel to be in the facilities manager's position?

Roy Parrish: It feels great to be in the FM's seat, when usually I'm talking from the design perspective. I can champion the role of the FM in the design and fit-out process.

FMJ: What experience do you have prior to this?

RP: I have 15 years experience in design and build organisations managing fit-out projects, with three years running my own design and build business Ranne.

FMJ: What skills do you think are imperative to the facilities manager's role?

RP: An FM is a juggler both of a myriad of tasks and projects and also of people. They need the diplomatic skills of a top ambassador; the listening skills of a therapist; the customer service skills of a five-star hotel's concierge; combined with the energy and stamina of a top athlete.

FMJ: What major challenges do you envisage facing?

RP: From my experience running fit-out projects, I've seen close hand many of the challenges FMs face: the constant complaints about it being too hot or cold, the moans about a bin not being empty, or the restaurant running out of jacket potatoes. But I think the main challenge for FMs is to go beyond fire fighting and the day-to-day reacting to issues, and try to be more strategic selling the FM message to the board and trying to influence the bigger decisions around company strategy.

FMJ: How are you going to deal with the reality of a reduced budget?

RP: Most of us in the FM sector have been living with a reduced budget for the past five years. When it comes to fit-out projects, it's about specifying different materials and using good design to create simple and cost-effective, yet clever ideas to make the most of the cash you have.

FMJ: Is there anything you would like to change?

RP: I'm bound to say more collaborative working with design and build companies. There's a massive frustration, both from the FM and the fit-out firm, that more facilities managers are not involved with projects right from the outset. Often we find ourselves talking to the FM, and that makes for an easy, sensible approach to the project. But sometimes it's a board director (or the director's PA) and that can be a more challenging experience. We need FMs there right from the start to ensure a successful outcome for everyone.

FMJ: How can you influence the company from your new position?

RP: It's the simple things that influence people at work the paycheck, an interesting job, a pleasant working environment and good food. Fortunately an FM has control over two of those areas and is therefore a key cog in most organisational wheels.

FMJ: How can suppliers better serve FMs?

RP: As a supplier to FMs, who often comes in after other suppliers have let the client down, I would say it's more transparency and increased innovation.

FMJ: What would your big idea be?

RP: I would want to introduce more consultation before all projects. People are often too quick to jump into the sexy bit of the project the design, furniture and fabrics. But they need to sit down first and talk seriously about why they are doing what they're doing and what they want to get out of it.

FMJ: How has the emergence of Generation Y changed organisational approaches to design and fit-out?

RP: There's a widely held belief that Generation Y isn't interested in offices, and that it prefers to work flexibly by both time and location. The time flexibility is certainly the case, but Gen Yers are big fans of the office. Unlike the veterans, the Baby Boomers and even Generation X, they may not have plush, comfy homes to work from. They'll often be in house-shares, perhaps with people working different shifts to them, and therefore they consider work to take place in an office with perhaps a bit of catching up in between times on the great technology they embrace. They also go to work to make new friends and have influenced an increasing socialisation of the workplace Gen Y has literally broken down barriers with the removal of individual offices and increasing use of collaborative spaces. Even reception areas are seen as a place to meet people, to touch down and work and to be social.

FMJ: When it comes to designing office space, how do you cater for the wide range of skill sets and learning styles present?

RP: The key is to provide a range of options. It used to always be about a desk and a chair. And of course for many people they prefer that way of working. But organisations also need to offer quiet spaces for reflective work (perhaps in small booths); confidential spaces for those one-to-one discussions or private phone calls that it wouldn't be appropriate to have in the open; flexible, collaborative spaces which can be increased and decreased in size depending on the size of the project team; flexible break-out areas with a range of different types of seating to allow people to relax or brainstorm. And it's important not to forget older workers who may have specific requirements when it comes to lighting, for example. Above all, it's essential to educate people how to use the space, to provide a space etiquette. Failure to do this can mean that some of the space just doesn't get used as people are unsure of whether it's ok to, for example, sit at a cafe-style table with a report to read. Will people think that they're not working?

FMJ: What will the office of the future look like?

RP: There are two ways it could go. The office may get smaller with less permanently-resident staff and more collaborative space as people will use it as a drop-in or touch-down space rather than a place to go to every day. And because of this it will be heavily branded to enable people to live the organisational ideals.

Or it could become like a village, where people can live, eat, socialise, work and sleep in the same environment. It will be the space where everything happens.

You can read the original article here.