Blog, Cleaning, Facilities Management, Mechanical & Electrical (M&E)

Hard and Soft Facilities Management – What’s the Difference?

Commercial and business premises have a number of requirements to keep them running and operational. These will vary depending on the nature, size and location of a property or building, but as a minimum will need to ensure they comply with any legal requirements around facilities.

The role of facilities management ensures that a building continues to run efficiently by maintaining legal compliance and good building maintenance, but how is that remit defined?  The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Act is in place to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of employees is covered on a daily basis.  The Act states that provisions must be made for:

  • Humidity
  • Lighting
  • Cleanliness
  • Toilet and washing facilities
  • Rest and eating facilities
  • Temperature
  • Ventilation
  • Workspace dimensions

Hard and Soft Facilities

These facilities are often further divided into two categories: soft and hard.  Both sets of services are crucial in ensuring that buildings are managed effectively; in turn, they help to maximise business productivity and deliver employee and occupant satisfaction.

Hard facilities

Hard facilities relate to the physical building and cannot be removed.  These services ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees is adhered to and most are required by law.  This typically includes:

green plants on white concrete floor

Soft Facilities

Soft services are the facilities and services that tend to make the workplace a better place to be in, whether making it safer and more secure, a more pleasant working environment or of growing importance, more efficient.  Examples of soft facilities management include:

  • Landscaping
  • Window cleaning
  • Cleaning
  • Security
  • Post management
  • Waste management
  • Catering
  • Car parking

Facilities Needs Assessments

The extent to which these provisions set out in the Act must be met is not defined and so many organisations will undertake regular Facilities Needs Assessments to highlight what is needed in a particular scenario.  The Act recognises that not all buildings need the same facilities support and so these assessments are a key enabler to defining the requirements and as a result, setting the facilities management remit.

Facilities Needs Assessments are a simple process to complete requiring only minimal resources.  A simple template can be used to capture the output of the assessment, which should consider all aspects of the business and review which facilities already exist.  The Assessment should look to question:

  • Are the existing facilities sufficient and efficient?
  • Are further facilities required?
  • Do any existing facilities need maintenance or are there any duplications that need removing?

It’s important to consider the nature of the business as certain spaces will need different services. 

woman placing sticky notes on wall

Sharpening the role of facilities management

There are many different factors that can influence the needs of a building and so regular building assessments are key.  They are a helpful resource to look at broader building requirements, such as security and even building efficiency.  Advances in technology mean there are increasingly innovative ways to deliver, and manage, facilities and the assessment process can help identify areas that would benefit from a new or different approach.

It’s also critical that buildings are assessed in light of the Covid-19 health pandemic to ensure adherence to government requirements for health and safety.  Changes and enhancements may be needed to both hard and soft services and facilities to help minimise the spread of harmful germs, from air conditioning filters through to deep cleaning and even simple things like the availability of cleaning and sanitising products.

There is no one size fits all approach to managing a building but following the provisions legally set out and ensuring regular facilities needs assessments are carried out will ensure that premises stay well maintained and run efficiently, creating a healthy and safe environment for those who occupy it.

Step by Step Guide to Switching Facilities Providers

We speak to businesses every day who feel they ‘don’t want the hassle’ of switching suppliers or are unsure about the terms of their current contract. That’s why we’ve created a Step by Step Guide to Switching Facilities Providers. See our three simple steps to switching your supplier and how easy it can be to make a significant positive impact on your business.
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