All posts by Chris Eldridge

Property management is stressful – let us help

Stress in the workplace

Stress accounts for 40 per cent of all work-related illness. With national employment at an all-time high, it goes without saying that if you want the best people to stay with you – you have to look after their wellbeing.

The effects of stress at work, cannot and should not be underestimated.  ‘There’s no health without mental health’ was the recent, central and powerful message from the UK’s Department of Health. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reported that 428,000 people in the UK suffered from work-related stress “at a level they believed was making them ill” and that stress accounts for 40% of all work related illnesses.

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Both change throughout our lives and, like our bodies, our minds can become unwell. The UK Chief Medical Officer raised concerns in a report in 2014 stating that 70 million working days are lost each year in the UK due to mental illness – of which stress, was a significant portion.

So, with stress levels in the workforce on the increase, at a time when the unemployment figures in the UK are amongst their lowest, can you afford to ignore wellbeing and still attract the right staff?  The leverage of a significant salary may not be the driver it once was when retaining or attracting the best employees; many will be looking at the ‘whole picture’.  All employers have to move with the market offering more and more money to procure the best talent, that’s just business.  However, today’s successful employers have identified that offering their employee’s job satisfaction and equipping them with what they need to complete their job is just as important as how much is in their bank account at the end of the month.

In the property management sector particularly, staff are being asked to take on more. The requirements of a modern day client have escalated significantly – more responsibility and pressure to do things quicker, more efficiently and at reduced cost. Faced with these demands, unless you change how your department works or bolster your teams, the constant fire-fighting soon becomes waring.  Quickly, staff become less happy, stop talking to one another because they are “too busy”, which in turn leads to communication failure, isolation, sickness rates rising and staff retention problems.

Consider the Gallup 12 employment survey. It’s about how you feel valued in your place of work, how you interact with your workplace and engage with others in it.  How, by being able to do your job well, you grow in confidence and are afforded opportunities to learn and become the very best version of you possible. People thrive on challenges.  Often, when they feel confident they achieve things that they thought they weren’t capable of doing. The more successful organisations encourage this – at all levels of the business – they ensure staff have time to grow and are not dragged down with mundane tasks, which often take the most time and seemingly never end.

Take your typical property manager; I’d put money on the fact that they didn’t enter this industry to spend an afternoon sorting out a blocked toilet! Moreover, these menial tasks are often those that take up huge amounts of time, not to mention the stress involved in dealing with irrate tenants and contractors that don’t understand the importance of good communication, especially is emergency situations.

Many articles relating to employee wellbeing have been written over the past few years.  Largely they concentrate on wellbeing initiatives afforded to the employee for example: Perkbox, free fruit, coffee machines, gym membership etc. These are bonuses, and yes – of course – they are important.  However this is just papering over the cracks.  Fundamentally if you are constantly unable to do your job, a Skinny Latte or a Pepperoni slice won’t give you the job satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that successfully completing tasks does.

 

So what can make the difference?

Simply put – allowing people to excel in their jobs. Being innovative as to how you can free up their time to be good at the things they are employed to do. In FM terms, this means reducing client risk, providing tenants with an excellent building experience and ensuring the building itself is maintained and managed in a way that protects the owner’s good name and makes it as desirable to potential buyers and tenants as possible.

There are options and solutions that don’t involve spending thousands of pounds on coffee machines or corporate gym memberships. In the property sector, the aim should be to give property managers and FM’s the tools to do their job successfully by reducing the time consuming and mundane tasks for them. It should be about, assisting them and providing additional resource and support, whilst freeing up their time to make them, and your business, more productive.

Absolutely employers need to take employee wellbeing seriously and it should be a major contributor to how any business sets its stall out. Wellbeing initiatives aren’t just a great idea, they are a necessity and really can improve staff morale, loyalty and absolutely give the employee a sense of belonging and value. But let’s not forget that getting the job done is the driver for any employee and the best place to start is to provide them with the tools to do it.  And only then can they enjoy the coffee machines, pizza and gym membership.

 

Galbraith use PS on residential…

Galbraith Property Services centralises its contractor management with property experts-

Propertyserve which procures, manages and delivers reactive fabric maintenance to building owners and managing agents across the UK, has made its move into the residential sector, following a successful trial with Galbraith Property Services.

Galbraith Property Services offers a professional and proactive approach to the management of portfolios across the Midlands, South East, Greater London and the South West. Properties covered include: student, commercial, residential, vacant and hotels.

Traditionally, Galbraith has always handled facilities management in-house, but as the company’s portfolio started to spread, the team was finding contractor response times were often not fast enough.

Property director Clare Johnson, said: “In most cases, reactive property maintenance means there is a requirement to get to a property and tend to any issues – quickly.

“We heard about Propertyserve and its national network of contractors, coupled with its often very speedy response times. It all sounded too good to be true, but the service proved to be successful, saved a significant amount of time for the property management team and so we appointed them to work across our portfolio.”

Chris MacDonald, managing director at Propertyserve, added: “We’re delighted to be working with Galbraith and helping the company to centralise its contractor management. This win also sees Propertyserve making in-roads into the residential property sector, an area we are seeking to expand in the coming years.

“When it comes to property maintenance issues, we provide a truly joined up service – procuring, managing and delivering services. And we strive to make the entire process as seamless and straightforward as possible for the clients – not only ensuring that reactive works are responded to quickly but also helping them to keep a track on jobs being logged and controlling costs.”

“too good to be true…”

Galbraith Property Services

Galbraith Property Services is one of the UK’s leading property management service providers, offering a professional and proactive approach to the management of portfolios across the Midlands, South East, Greater London and the South West. Properties covered include: student, commercial, residential, vacant and hotels.

The nine-year old privately owned business prides itself on its open, communicative and transparent culture, offering value to clients and occupiers alike.

Galbraith’s technical expertise means that the company can offer value at both a strategic and tactical level. And its advanced reporting structure, coupled with regular reviews ensures high standards are consistently maintained.

The brief

Traditionally, Galbraith has always handled facilities management in-house. As the company’s portfolio started to spread further geographically, they were finding contractor response times were often not fast enough.

Property director Clare Johnson, and her team realised that there was a need to centralise their contractor management, in order to speed up service response times. She comments:

“In most cases, reactive property maintenance means there is a requirement to get to a property and tend to any issues – quickly. Both we, and our tenants, cannot afford maintenance downtime.

“It was at the same time we heard about Propertyserve, and its national network of contractors – coupled with its often very speedy response times. It all sounded too good to be true, but – nevertheless – we invited the team in to provide a briefing on Galbraith. In all honesty, we didn’t expect they’d be able to manage the sheer diversity of our portfolio. They proved us wrong…”

Implementation (the solution)

Propertyserve’s access to a supply-chain network of national pre-qualified, fully-insured contractors, means that the company is readily able to support organisations like Galbraith.

Propertyserve actively manages this supply chain, ensuring they are capable of carrying out works. This – in turn – reduces risks for the client, and means that lower contractor rates are negotiated.

Clare Johnson comments: “In many parts of the country, Propertyserve has been able to negotiate rates either on a par with or more competitively than our previous contracts. Overall, our costs have been reduced, which we are able to pass on to our tenants.

“Propertyserve’s helpdesk is responsive and professional. Its systematic approach is very in line with our own business.”

Bringing in Propertyserve’s support has enabled the Galbraith FM team to focus on enhancing their own service. They are now more available to attend sites, undertake inspections and plan.

“The implementation was seamless,” continues Johnson. “We are two months down the line, and communication levels are impressive; the Propertyserve team is always on hand.”

The outcomes

Johnson cites the very fact that there have been no complaints about the service from tenants as a good thing.

“In this industry, people are quick to complain and very rarely praise you doing a good job. Since Propertyserve has come on board, we haven’t had any negative feedback.

“The online system is easy to use, and enables our team to keep a real track on the jobs that have been undertaken – supporting our own KPIs, and enabling us to truly centralise our contractor management.

Galbraith “Propertyserve has really taken the time to understand what we do in order to ensure the work they do is to the highest possible levels – never leaving us to our own devices.”

Vacancy: Part-Time Accounts Assistant

The role:

We are recruiting for a full time permanent Works Co-ordinator role which has become available within our fast growing, dynamic helpdesk team. The hours would be Monday – Friday subject to a rota of shifts to ensure the helpdesk is fully covered at all times.  These shifts are generally 8am-4pm, 9am -5pm or 9.30–5.30pm.

Salary – £18K – 20K dependent upon experience

Holiday 20 days – per annum

Responsible for assigned tasks as part of a Helpdesk Team and reporting to Team Leader.

Key Responsibilities Include:

  • Taking incoming client & supplier calls within target.
  • Taking incoming tenant calls relating to any aspect of the Property.
  • Logging new works orders with key suppliers, verbally, via Propertyserve bespoke web system alongside any other additional client programmes utilised.
  • Managing the Propertyserve bespoke system throughout the day
  • Liaising with client & supplier to ensure completion within Service Level Agreements (SLA’s).
  • Working closely with key assigned suppliers or regions to ensure KPI’s are hit.
  • Resolving emails that come into the designated Propertyserve email account to ensure KPI’s are met and all parties are updated
  • Managing the emergencies reactive jobs that are logged daily to ensure SLA’s are met and all parties are updated
  • Possible vetting of the quoted planned works for the client to ensure all details are correct

 

There is an on call element to the role which is a Saturday or Sunday from 6pm-8am the following day which is based at home where the operator takes emergency helpdesk calls and logs these throughout their shift.  They are provided a laptop and phone and they need to be at home for the duration of their shift taking and logging emergency calls. This is paid additional to the salary at £150 and is on a rota basis with the rest of the Helpdesk.

 

Essential Skills

  • Excellent communication, interpersonal skills & telephone manner
  • Self-motivated with ability to work on own initiative
  • Effective problem solving & organisational skills
  • Able to work well as part of a small team
  • Good attention to detail
  • Possess the ability to remain calm under pressure & not react adversely to customer or suppliers.
  • Excellent command of the English language written & verbal.
  • Experience in using Microsoft Office – particularly outlook, word & excel.

 

Desirable Skills

  • Experience of web based management systems.
  • Experience in a commercial property management environment/Facilities Management or building/construction environment.

Vacancy: Team Supervisor

The role:

We are recruiting for a full time permanent Works Co-ordinator role which has become available within our fast growing, dynamic helpdesk team. The hours would be Monday – Friday subject to a rota of shifts to ensure the helpdesk is fully covered at all times.  These shifts are generally 8am-4pm, 9am -5pm or 9.30–5.30pm.

Salary – £18K – 20K dependent upon experience

Holiday 20 days – per annum

Responsible for assigned tasks as part of a Helpdesk Team and reporting to Team Leader.

Key Responsibilities Include:

  • Taking incoming client & supplier calls within target.
  • Taking incoming tenant calls relating to any aspect of the Property.
  • Logging new works orders with key suppliers, verbally, via Propertyserve bespoke web system alongside any other additional client programmes utilised.
  • Managing the Propertyserve bespoke system throughout the day
  • Liaising with client & supplier to ensure completion within Service Level Agreements (SLA’s).
  • Working closely with key assigned suppliers or regions to ensure KPI’s are hit.
  • Resolving emails that come into the designated Propertyserve email account to ensure KPI’s are met and all parties are updated
  • Managing the emergencies reactive jobs that are logged daily to ensure SLA’s are met and all parties are updated
  • Possible vetting of the quoted planned works for the client to ensure all details are correct

 

There is an on call element to the role which is a Saturday or Sunday from 6pm-8am the following day which is based at home where the operator takes emergency helpdesk calls and logs these throughout their shift.  They are provided a laptop and phone and they need to be at home for the duration of their shift taking and logging emergency calls. This is paid additional to the salary at £150 and is on a rota basis with the rest of the Helpdesk.

 

Essential Skills

  • Excellent communication, interpersonal skills & telephone manner
  • Self-motivated with ability to work on own initiative
  • Effective problem solving & organisational skills
  • Able to work well as part of a small team
  • Good attention to detail
  • Possess the ability to remain calm under pressure & not react adversely to customer or suppliers.
  • Excellent command of the English language written & verbal.
  • Experience in using Microsoft Office – particularly outlook, word & excel.

 

Desirable Skills

  • Experience of web based management systems.
  • Experience in a commercial property management environment/Facilities Management or building/construction environment.

Paddling Pools to Puddles!

 

30 degree sunshine to torrential rain in the space of a week, are we really prepared for Britain’s Barmy Weather?

If like most of us you were basking in the glorious sunshine earlier this week, you probably weren’t anticipating waking up today to leaks, floods, tenant issues, stress and an all-round nightmare. Most of us were not prepared for the sheer volume of rain yesterday evening.

Whilst watching the storms and ogling at the flashes of lightning (or hiding under the bed sheets) may have been entertaining for some.  However the FM’s amongst us would no doubt have been holding their breath and praying to the thunder lords that the morning would not bring chaos and destruction.

For many of us though, that’s exactly what we woke to this morning. Dealing with the aftermath of flood damage, roof leaks, blocked drains, gutters or gullies is time consuming and costly.  Before you know it, the day has passed and everything that needed to be done, hasn’t been! Such is the nature of the reactive side of FM, versatility is the name of the game, and changing your plans, reacting quickly to events, including severe weather related damage is par for the course.

Weather Warning!

met-office-rain-fall-figures

It will probably not come as much of a surprise to learn that the extremes of weather, due to climate change, are occurring more regularly and having a significant impact on our buildings. As a result, the costs of keeping them running and open for business have risen dramatically over the last decade.

In 2007, when much of the UK was subject to flooding, the cost of repair to buildings was estimated to have been around £2 billion; almost £800 million of that attributed to commercial properties affecting  approximately 7,000 commercial buildings.  A further cost to consider is the impact on business, adding a further £160 – £200 million*.

Since 2007, rainfall has increased significantly, with seven of the wettest years on record being in the last ten. In fact, 2015 was the second wettest year on record.  Turning the attention to temperature, eight out of ten of the hottest years have occurred since 2002**.  Not surprising then that our buildings – residential and commercial alike – are feeling the strain!

Whilst we can’t stop the rain, we can minimise the damage and disruption to our property.

Picture the scenario:  the rain starts to fall and it just keeps coming, day after day. A property manager with a large portfolio of buildings located across the UK, is desperately and frantically ringing around, trying to find contractors to patch up the holes where the leaks are springing across multiple properties. Inevitably, the phone rings off the hook, time and again. To add to the chaos, the building manager is unlikely to be able to respond to the myriad calls and (frantic) messages from tenants.

For many, at this stage, it’s about survival – corners are sometimes cut in order to ensure a job is being attended. As a result, compliance and financial impact can fail to be properly addressed as you battle to get jobs underway. A contractor that can attend, and  says they can do the job, sounds just what you have been hoping for – especially when you have tenants screaming at you.  Quibbling about call out charges at that point does not even register. Iin the majority of cases cost is secondary to ensuring that the asset is protected and maintained whilst ensuring the tenant is placated and left satisfied.

The fact is that if you send a contractor to site, that doesn’t have the correct insurances, accreditations and can’t provide the necessary RAMS and Health & safety documentation, you and your business are at risk should anything happen on site.  That’s before you are billed for minimum call out charges of two- four hours!

Now, imagine an alternative scenario. A solution that means you can call just one number, to organise a pre-qualified and actively managed contractor to attend.  One where you can keep up to date with ongoing jobs in real time, wherever you are, at any time.  One with compliance and RAMS attached to each job, minimising your risk. One that automatically tells you that a contractor has been dispatched, their ETA and when jobs have been completed. One where you are still very much in control of your day and can minimise the disruption caused to your tenants by inclement weather or indeed any fabric related problem like broken windows, blocked toilets or guttering issues together with other unforeseen circumstances.

That capability exists, 24/7 across the UK for any building fabric eventuality; coping with the affects that extreme weather conditions are having on our properties.

It is vital for property managers to build a comprehensive picture around where future funds will need to be directed in any planned maintenance schedules. Managing reactive works properly, with a complete audit trail enables data to be collated and used intelligently helping overcome underlying issues with the building fabric – specifically relating to the impacts of adverse weather.

Some might say being so well prepared may take away all the fun of the reactive property maintenance roller coaster. They could even look back with rose tinted spectacles on those frantic times with a wry smile and a quiet sigh of relief that they weren’t ‘caught out’. As we move towards autumn and winter, and no doubt a new deluge of subsequent issues, I would ask whether any property manager really wants to relive those experiences again?