In recent years, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has recognised the need for a complete transformation of their estate, which included approximately 170 offices nationwide, some of which were legacy sites from the 1960s and 1970s. The main objective of this transformation was to consolidate the estate to create modern, adaptable and future-fit workspaces by working strategically with a range of partners.
Atalian Servest and HMRC began their partnership in 2018, when Atalian Servest was awarded a soft FM contract across four campuses in the estate. Since the initial award, Atalian Servest has been awarded additional soft services and hard services contracts, considerably increasing the total number of mobilised sites.
The last 16 months of the contract has created significant challenges, largely due to the Covid-19 requirements and response. The scope of delivery quickly changed from transforming the footprint of the estate with staff moving to new locations, to completely adapting cleaning, catering and workplace design, which Atalian Servest supported.
Establishing an effective partnership approach when operating a complex and multi-faceted contract has many benefits to both parties. Never more so than when Atalian Servest and HMRC had to, almost overnight, redevelop the workplace to be Covid-secure.
Facing the pandemic as partners
In partnership, Atalian Servest and HMRC developed and implemented a range of enhanced service delivery provisions that ensured the safety of all building users. As a very public-facing organisation, it was essential that HMRC was leading the way and setting best practice examples in ensuring its building users remained safe and secure.
Each building within the estate represented a unique set of challenges based on a variety of factors, such as the age of the building, landlords and the type of work being conducted on-site.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, it became clear that one of the most important elements of any FM provider’s approach to workplace redevelopment was enhanced sanitisation, to include additional touchpoints and deep cleans.
At HMRC, the introduction of Hygiene Stewards provided a visible cleaning force that gave building users the confidence that their working environment remained safe. This decision was beneficial for all stakeholders, and with the full support of HMRC, a number of the Atalian Servest catering team members who would have been placed on furlough were able to be redeployed as Hygiene Stewards.
The flexibility and adaptability in the service offering has been crucial to the success of this workplace redevelopment. As with any new service delivery, Atalian Servest has engaged in continuous dialogue with HMRC to review the processes in place. As government guidelines have changed, and building occupancy has fluctuated, the Hygiene Stewards have been able to focus on different areas of each site, by ramping sanitisation services up and down to suit requirements.
Protective workplace design
A key element of the workplace design was the procurement and installation of signage, barriers, transparent screens and hazard tape. With these items in high demand, HMRC drew on Atalian Servest’s strong supply chain to deliver at short notice.
The layout of several areas in each building made it challenging to enforce social distancing, and to overcome this challenge the Atalian Servest accommodation team worked closely with HMRC to create enhanced CAD drawings. This allowed for strategic planning and space management, by identifying areas where additional corridors and passing places could be created. It also allowed for the positioning of retractable barriers, to help enforce single-flow systems by blocking entry points.
Furthermore, desks were also marked up indicating which ones were available to use, with additional desks being completely removed to enforce social distancing. This also enabled booking systems and desk allocation to work effectively, ensuring users were booking and using the correct spaces. In addition to making physical changes to the buildings, HMRC created an employee Covid-19 secure building guide that covered new protocols for different building use case scenarios. This included the appropriate and safe use of smoking areas, meeting rooms, lifts, toilets, useable desks, informal break-out areas and car parks.
Due to the essential nature of the work at HMRC, all buildings remained open during the height of the pandemic, although at a significantly reduced capacity. Recognising how important it was to understand the occupancy rates, HMRC turned to Atalian Servest to find a solution that would allow occupancy analysis on a continuous basis. Atalian Servest was able to draw on the expertise of its security division which carries out daily headcounts for all four of HMRC’s Newcastle buildings: Benton Park, Durham House, Waterview Park and Tyneview Park.
This data was, and continues to be, invaluable information for both HRMC and Atalian Servest. When there is a significant fluctuation in occupancy, the management teams can come together to review and, in some cases, change the service delivery to ensure building user safety is never compromised.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the effective partnership with Atalian Servest has meant that HMRC has been able to continue with its transformation despite the uncertainties of a global pandemic. The two organisations have also worked collectively to deliver safe working environments for HMRC employees across the estate.
The partnership approach has provided a transparent and flexible approach to HMRC’s workplace development as it moves beyond the pandemic. This will be increasingly important as HMRC continues to develop a hybrid model of working, allowing employees to split their time between office and home-based working. Atalian Servest will continue to offer flexible, consumption-based services based upon occupancy rates as this develops in the future, while exploring and implementing innovative solutions to new challenges.