The Facilitator

The FM COVID-19 Diaries - Part II

It is Thursday morning, and I am on Week 9 of working remotely since my NYC HQ was officially shuttered in late March. 

Or is it Week 8…starting to lose track…..

The questionable “lockdown” isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Squeezing in a pre-dawn, 5-mile run each morning in the largely empty streets before heading into my basement office/guitar room for a majority of the day with my wife working in the main, second-floor office and the kids hiding in their rooms engrossed in what 21st-century teenagers are doing these days (home schooling, video games, etc.).

Yes, one day blurs into the next, and sometimes you need to ask yourself if it’s a weekday or weekend.  Each trip to Home Depot to buy materials to catch up on home projects or to the grocery store to replenish all the food your kids eat in amazing proportions are becoming more and more surreal (over-the-top protective gear, lines outside stores that seem longer due to 6-foot social distancing rules, limited folks allowed inside the store, directional lines in aisles that many of us screw up, self-righteous looks from mask wearers to those who aren’t ) but again, not as bad as one would think. Thank God for grocery store delivery services….if you can get a delivery appointment these days.

Then, out of left field, I got sideswiped by a pulmonary embolism (aka, a “PE” or, a blood clot in the lung) a few weeks back that landed me in the hospital for two days. The pain was the worse I ever felt but nothing blood thinners couldn’t clear up. This PE even left the medical professionals perplexed. The probable cause is due to a very mild case of COVID-19 that is apparently causing blood clots in otherwise healthy people. I am being tested for antibodies in near future but am back to running 4 to 5 miles a day.

And, oh, did I tell you that I resigned from my current company of seven years this week due to a new Facilities opportunity? Very interesting time to happen….more on that later.

Despite what some of my colleagues believe, my professional life remains busy with a lot of the same responsibilities and a few new ones. I still have office renovations across the country (Chicago, Ill.; Clayton, Mo; Plantation, Fla., just to name a few) where we continue to legally maneuver around State COVID-19 mandates that seem to change by the hour in order to complete as much work as possible while employees work remotely (i.e. out of the way). Any window of opportunity, even a crack opened, is golden. 

My primary goal these days is to make sure whatever offices remain open have adequate medical supplies. This includes masks, gloves, etc., and slowly grew to include gowns, face shields and even some requests for spray disinfectant for incoming mail. 

As you can imagine, this process can be challenging, tedious and frustrating because the Global demand is surely beating the supply to a pulp – constantly working with multiple sources to ensure the chances of obtaining such supplies that much more successful. 

For example, when Amazon does have the supplies you need within a reasonable lead time, your orders are quickly and inexplicably canceled, leaving you guessing why. And sometimes you are approached with some of the most ridiculous “buying requirements,” leaving you to wonder if the person on the other end of the email giving you such offers is doing so with a straight face or just drunk (something like: “you must buy a minimum of 10,000 face masks at $13,000”). 

I did figure out a nifty backdoor trick that has proven to be effective: opening up “medical supply cabinet” accounts with a national provider across all 40ish national offices that will make my organization a “preferred vendor” Instead of shipping everything to the NYC HQ then shipping them out, local reps for the distributor will drop the supplies off.

I am constantly stuck in between balancing employee health and safety, not blowing the still-unknown budget for such medical supplies and not being stuck with a large surplus of supplies once this phenomenon is over. In other words, typical Facilities Management, COVID-19 or not! Like most challenges, I finally gotten down medical supplies to an exact science with a little old-fashioned “thinking outside the box” approach on which Facilities Managers often rely.

I find myself philosophically pondering a lot over this global pandemic like only a Facilities Manager would, finally putting my college degree to work. 

Us FMs find ourselves in a unique situation. We are trained to rightfully treat safety/health issues with top priority and urgency, yet we are also trained to not jump over the side of the ship at the first sighting of an iceberg. We are taught to step back and assess every situation, no matter how large or small, and analyze it as pragmatically as possible. We are also taught to question approaches, solutions, etc., and to determine whether they will work. 

Without going into detail, my pragmatic side has really questioned a number of “solutions” implemented on all levels to tackle this virus, but then you are quickly and constantly smacked in the face that people’s lives and health are at stake. 

Indeed, it’s an interesting rock (health/safety) and hard place (pragmatism) in which a Facilities Manager is stuck these days.

Paul Haley, CFM, FMP, Facilities Manager at EHE Health, Professional Development Committee Member/ CFM Certified Instructor Candidate, Communications Committee Member  

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