The Science of Service Podcast: Facilities Transformation

Just as our world is changing faster than ever before, so too is the world of facilities management. Technology is rewriting the rulebook, transforming how and what FM companies deliver.

To answer rapidly changing customer needs, Mitie developed the Science of Service, wrapping technology and innovation around core services like cleaning, security, waste management and more.

Join the Workplace Geeks, Ian Ellison and Chris Moriarty, and their guests, as they explore facilities transformation in collaboration with Mitie and its high-profile partners.

Meet the hosts
  • Ian Ellison, host of the Workplace Geeks podcast
    Ian Ellison
    Workplace Geeks
  • Chris Moriarty, host of the Workplace Geeks podcast
    Chris Moriarty
    Workplace Geeks
22 Apr 2024

The Science of creating healthier and more sustainable spaces


Have you ever wished you had a robot to do the cleaning? For some, it isn’t just a pipe dream.

In this episode, Chris and Ian explore the leaps in technology that are driving innovation in hygiene. They visit John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to learn more. Thanks to the convergence of data analysis and technology like service ordering apps, patient experience is being transformed. Our hosts also discover the power of robotics in hygiene and patient care, as well as the rise in eco-friendly cleaning solutions. This revolution isn’t just enhancing efficiency, but also improving patient outcomes.

Contributors and speakers
  • Alice Woodwark, Managing Director, Mitie Communities
    Alice Woodwark​
    Managing Director, Mitie Communities
  • Jacinto Jesus, Operating Director, Healthcare, Mitie
    Jacinto Jesus​
    Operating Director, Healthcare, Mitie
  • Heather Downes, Head of Innovation and Product Development at the Cleaning and Hygiene Centre
    Heather Downes​
    Cleaning & Hygiene Centre of Excellence Manager, Mitie
  • Andrew Sharp, Account Director for John Radcliffe Hospital, Mitie
    Andrew Sharp
    Account Director for John Radcliffe Hospital, Mitie
  • Derrick Andrews, Head of PFI, John Radcliffe Hospital
    Derrick Andrews
    Head of PFI, John Radcliffe Hospital
Read more

Have you ever wished you had a robot to do the cleaning? For some, it isn’t just a pipe dream.

In this episode, Chris and Ian explore the leaps in technology that are driving innovation in hygiene. They visit John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to learn more. Thanks to the convergence of data analysis and technology like service ordering apps, patient experience is being transformed. Our hosts also discover the power of robotics in hygiene and patient care, as well as the rise in eco-friendly cleaning solutions. This revolution isn’t just enhancing efficiency, but also improving patient outcomes.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Alice Woodwark, Managing Director, Mitie Communities
    Alice Woodwark​
    Managing Director, Mitie Communities
  • Jacinto Jesus, Operating Director, Healthcare, Mitie
    Jacinto Jesus​
    Operating Director, Healthcare, Mitie
  • Heather Downes, Head of Innovation and Product Development at the Cleaning and Hygiene Centre
    Heather Downes​
    Cleaning & Hygiene Centre of Excellence Manager, Mitie
  • Andrew Sharp, Account Director for John Radcliffe Hospital, Mitie
    Andrew Sharp
    Account Director for John Radcliffe Hospital, Mitie
  • Derrick Andrews, Head of PFI, John Radcliffe Hospital
    Derrick Andrews
    Head of PFI, John Radcliffe Hospital

“The cleaning industry has never moved so quickly. Since the introduction of robotics, it’s allowed us to actually start moving forward with that smarter way of working.”
Heather Downes, Head of Innovation & Product Development, Cleaning & Hygiene Centre of Excellence, Mitie

Episode links

Mitie’s Cleaning and Hygiene Centre of Excellence

Mitie secures new £92.5m contract to support the John Radcliffe Hospital​

Case study: Deloitte – service excellence & sustainability


Episode 5: The Science of creating healthier and more sustainable spaces


Chris Moriarty
Ian Ellison
Alice Woodwark​
Jacinto Jesus​
Heather Downes​
Andrew Sharp
John Lear
Derrick Andrews
Robert Malpas

Ian Ellison: How much do we take our health for granted?

None of us want to be ill exactly, but how many of us are aware of the secret work around us to make sure that our healthcare environments, which need to be seriously clean, are being managed to the desired standard? Because it can mean a matter of life and death.

When you’re sat in an emergency department waiting room, are you even aware of the workforce, the tools, the products and processes that operate daily to make sure that when people are at their most vulnerable, there are no microbes or bacteria making things a whole lot worse?

And beyond the cleanliness of these environments, how is technology evolving to support clinical teams taking care of all the non-clinical tasks that distract from patient care, and collecting data to make informed decisions and maximise limited resources.

It’s not just clinical environments that have to take a forensic approach to health and hygiene. The pandemic highlighted how any environment where people come together needs to be mindful of the spread of germs. And so more companies are demanding increased levels of service than ever and are adapting brand new technologies, not only to reduce the spread of infections in workplaces, but to enhance the workplace experience.

And how do we balance these new products and technologies against the need to be more sustainable? Such as the impact on the environment of many of the chemicals deployed in the past. Today, we’re starting to see cutting edge science unfolding a new era in health and hygiene for all of us.

This is the story of these new technologies. This is the Science of Service.

Chris Moriarty: Hello and welcome to episode five of The Science of Service Podcast. I’m Chris Moriarty…

Ian Ellison: And I’m Ian Ellison.

Chris Moriarty: And welcome to today’s episode, which is exploring the hidden world under the surface. As we’re looking into the Science of Service in the world of health and hygiene.

Now, this is our fourth deep dive of the series following our original invitation by Mitie CEO, Phil Bentley, to get out and explore the Science of Service with Mitie clients and sector experts. Now, if you do want to go back and listen to previous episodes, now would be a good time to do it and we’ll wait for you here.

Right. Hope you enjoyed them. Now, today’s episode revolves around a hospital. John Radcliffe Hospital, part of the Oxford University Hospitals, but first, Ian, we need to set the scene, don’t we?

Ian Ellison: Indeed we do, Christopher. So this episode in some respects is the most important of all because the healthcare environment is one where I think you can make the case that facilities management cannot be positioned as a non-core service because it’s so integral to healthcare, hygiene, and the patient experience. And as we’re about to explore today, it can be directly linked to patient outcomes.

Now, obviously we don’t always choose to end up there, but most of us at some stage in our lives have had to go to hospital. Whether it’s the maternity wing welcoming in a new life, the A&E department because of a mishap, or for some elective surgery, these spaces are always on, always working and always need to be operating to a number of standards to make sure they remain healthy and hygienic environments for a very good reason.

And all of this, whilst the UK’s National Health Service, the NHS, is under extreme pressure through increased demand on their services and strains on their limited resources. Now, at this point in previous episodes, we often turn to an external expert, and we have one of those for you. Don’t fret, a proper cleaning boffin, by the way, but we’re going to save him for now. Because instead we’ve got an equally expert voice, someone who sits on the Mitie executive board and is called…

Alice Woodwark: Alice Woodwark, and I’m the Managing Director for Mitie Communities. So I look after Mitie’s work in local public sector.

Ian Ellison: and that includes hospitals like John Radcliffe. So, to start with, it might be worth us getting our bearings on how an organisation like Mitie supports a vast, multifaceted organisation like the NHS.

Alice Woodwark: When you have a health service that is really needs to transform, which is what we’re talking about at the moment, with the pressure that everybody is under, that’s the moment at which you need everyone firing on all of their cylinders. And the advantage of having a partner like us working in a healthcare setting, is that we are focused on specifically what we do. We are not expert in how you get a great oncology outcome. And, at the end of the day, that’s what our trusts should be focused on. So, it neatly allows expertise to be focused where expertise is going to be most effective. We know our world really well and we can deliver that hand in hand with partners who quite frankly have other things that they need to be focused on.

Chris Moriarty: Right. I’d much rather know that a clinician of some description that was focusing on making me well again, rather than some administrative task. It’s about getting the right expertise in place for the right job.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, but we all know from what we read and see in the news that the healthcare system is under enormous pressure, which has made that focus on the best use of resource even more critical.

Alice Woodwark: The pressures that the NHS are under at the moment, we’ve not, we’ve not seen the like of it. Um, certainly in my working lifetime. It’s a moment where we know we have to change some ways that we’re working. We know we also have to be the best version of us that we can possibly be to support a healthcare system that is under enormous amounts of challenge and that makes it a time actually when our work is more important than it’s ever been and the contribution that we can make to society and to the success of our clinical friends is more than it’s ever been.

The dominant themes in healthcare at the moment remain clinical outcomes, and also throughput. You need people to get through the system. There are all these stories about we need to get people flowing through a hospital. And we are everything in that environment other than the doctors and the nurses. So we create that flow.

These are people who really know that the way you’re treated as you go through this environment have massive outcomes on how you’re going to do and whether we’re going to see you back there again. So you need that combination of the human and the process, and that’s where the work that we do becomes really important. So that’s what my clinical colleagues talk to me about the whole time.

Chris Moriarty: That’s interesting. So what Alice is talking about is the entirety of the experience, the whole system. So clearly the health aspect of that is critical. You go to these environments to get well, but the experience you have in there, the speed in which you go through the various stages, whether that’s down for an X-ray or onto a ward, getting checked out. These are all critical, in a time of strained resources, to get right.

Ian Ellison: Indeed, and just to develop this thinking a bit, there was a book written in 2010 called ‘Transforming Healthcare’ by Charles Kenney. It was essentially a case study of a particular cancer care centre in the United States, the Virginia Mason Medical Centre, and the management there, headed up by this chap called Dr. Gary Kaplan, they were really struggling. The centre was failing and they ended up having to look beyond the healthcare sector to find a viable solution. This journey completely reframed their thinking about what is and what isn’t acceptable in a healthcare environment. And they basically learned that service efficiency, effectiveness, and patient experience are all interlinked.

Chris Moriarty: So we’re talking systemically then. Okay, so let’s catch up with someone who lives and breathes this every day. So let’s go to John Radcliffe Hospital and catch up with Mitie’s principal client there, called…

Derrick Andrews: My name is Derek Andrews. I am the PFI contract manager for the trust, for soft FM services, working out of John Radcliffe Hospital. So it’s Oxford University Hospitals Trust. And within that trust, there’s four main hospitals, um, three in the Oxford area.

John Radcliffe Hospital is the large, uh, accident emergency general hospital that most people will find in a city centre somewhere. Um, it, covers a diverse range of services, um, from both medical and surgical, as well as emergency services, trauma, children’s hospital, various things like that.

I think our biggest challenges in the hospital, particularly in, uh, John Radcliffe is, getting access to the areas, particularly in some very fast-moving environment, like a, an emergency department. It’s ensuring that patients have moved on time. And when they are moved, we can get in there to clean it, ready for the next patient.

What we’re trying to do is be as efficient as a service as possible because every efficiency that we make has a knock-on effect to the patient care in the end. Um, and so we try to lighten the load as much as possible from nursing staff, but in particular, so that they are able to do their core job.

Ian Ellison: That turnaround seems really important. It’s one thing getting a patient ready to go home, but they also have to turn beds around too, and that cleaning part sounds particularly important.

Chris Moriarty: It is. In fact, it’s not just about running a mop around. There’s a really specific set of standards that they have to meet.

Derrick Andrews: We in the NHS have national standards for cleanliness, that then translated into a trust policy that then gets inserted into the service level specifications with service provider. So, it may be, uh, it may be a television, it may be a bed, it may be a chair, it may be uh, heart monitoring or nurses equipment.

Ian Ellison: And each one of those have a standard.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. And as you can imagine that all has to be documented and recorded. And that’s another task on top of the core activity itself.

Derrick Andrews: The main amount of monitoring in terms of cleanliness is done by the service provider. However, my team get involved in that as a check and balance to make sure that they are auditing to correct levels. We work very closely with all our service providers to ensure that they are auditing to the correct levels and auditing the right amounts every month.

Chris Moriarty: This is more than just a form on the back of the door saying someone has checked the area every hour. This is a very rigid, very clear set of standards of cleanliness that have to be met. It’s an industry of activity in and of itself. And earlier we were talking about scant resources. This all feels very labour intensive.

Ian Ellison: Well, Chris, there’s a new workforce on the way that’s transforming the way Mitie are approaching this.

Chris Moriarty: Do, do you mean..?

Ian Ellison: Oh, I do think so.

Chris Moriarty: You mean we’ve waited five episodes and I finally get to talk about…

Heather Downes: Since the introduction of robotics…

Chris Moriarty: Robots!

Ian Ellison: You got it.

Chris Moriarty: So who are we talking to now?

Heather Downes: I’m Heather Downes, Head of Innovation and Product Development, and I run the Centre of Excellence in our Birmingham office.

Ian Ellison: So Heather here leads Mitie’s innovation work around their cleaning solutions.

Heather Downes: The Centre of Excellence is, um, is a unique R&D facility where we’re not able to just showcase some of the most innovative solutions within cleaning, but actually give live demonstrations, review the efficiency and the productivity of those solutions that have been put out into the, uh, into the client’s environments as well.

The cleaning industry has never moved so quickly. You were lucky if you were able to get your hands on a ride-on scrubber dryer or a walk behind machine. And since the introduction of robotics, it’s allowed us to actually start moving forward with that smarter way of working, allowing the autonomous machines, or smarter machines, to do a lot of the harder, more time-consuming duties. Which then gives the cleaning operatives to focus on the need.

The majority of work within the cleaning teams is floors. So if we can remove that from the operatives front, give that to the robots, it then allows us to work on all of the high profile areas, touch points, frequencies can be improved, you’re elevating your cleaning service. So more frequency of cleaning within the washrooms, detailed cleaning, deep cleaning, periodic cleaning. For me, we always look at the cobotics very much in, you know, they’re working in collaboration with the cleaning teams, allowing us to then focus on those details.

Chris Moriarty: Cobotics. Sounds like something we’re going to hear a lot about in the future.

Ian Ellison: Isn’t it? So Chris, I know that since the moment we started this series, you wanted to see the robots. Well, guess what I’ve sorted for you? A visit to John Radcliffe Hospital where two of these robots have been installed by Mitie.

So you’re going to get to see them in action. But you’re not just there to see that, you’re also going to see how technology is transforming their service as well. what Alice and Derek were talking about earlier,

Chris Moriarty: Understood. So who am I looking for when I get there?

Ian Ellison: You need to ask for the Mitie lead, his name is…

Andrew Sharp: Andrew Sharp, Account Director for John Radcliffe.

Chris Moriarty: Lovely stuff. Right, well let’s go and have a look at it then. Um, and I guess this is the first thing you notice when you’re in a place like this is, there’s a lot of people, and I guess, obviously there’ll be quieter times, but it’s never off, right?

Andrew Sharp: No, it’s never off. It’s never off. It’s consistent all day.

Chris Moriarty: Do you know roughly what the sort of numbers are?

Andrew Sharp: I would say roughly around 5,000 people will walk through this hospital a day.

Chris Moriarty: A day?

Andrew Sharp: A day.

Chris Moriarty: And all going to different places, all…

Andrew Sharp: So multiple, you know, we’ve got three different, three different wings. Um, we’ve got, we’ve got a full maternity wing. We’ve got a main building block, uh, which sort of looks after all of operations from respiratory and things like that. And we’ve got the West Wing, which is the new PFI building was built about 20 years ago.

Um, that’s got all of the children’s wing and a heart and everything else that’s built into it.

Chris Moriarty: So shortly after arriving, I was introduced to…

Robert Malpas: I’m Robert Malpas, Portering Manager for John Radcliffe.

Chris Moriarty: Robert, another member of the Mitie team, has pioneered a new service in the wards. We called it the Portal Project, which is essentially a service ordering system for teams working on the wards themselves. Now that might be food, sample collection, bed cleaning after a patient has been discharged… but it’s another example of an improvement to the experience, an increase in efficiency, and it’s also a source of data for the overall work that goes on.

So he took me to the emergency department to take a look.

Robert Malpas: Right at the beginning when Mitie first took over this contract, we didn’t have a massive amount of data to go through. So we met with the matrons for the area, like the senior staff, asking them what they want to see on it. So they give us a list of tasks that most frequently booked, but then within a couple of months, you notice there’s certain things that weren’t being booked. So we took it off and then we’ve added certain bits.

Andrew Sharp: You know, we come in with technology and they’re like, “don’t really want that. Don’t really want that. We don’t know how to use that”. Um, but, you know, you’ve got to get people to buy into that process. Once they’ve bought into it, they could see, the benefits down the road of how they were going to use it, uh, where we’ve got people in radiology, we’ve got a static, but we also got people with mobile tablets that are walking around. They’re booking people in as they’re moving. They’re booking people as they’re moving out. They’re booking people.

So they reckon that the footfall has gone up by sort of, three or four times, just from them having the ability to be able to walk, book, walk, book, people coming in, people going out.

Chris Moriarty: Right. Wow, so you’ve seen it in the performances. So, yeah. Well, let’s go and take a look.

So it’s probably just worth pausing there for a second. What Andrew is saying is that this app that Mitie have built is allowing medical teams in the ward to book Porter services. So when we say Porter, we essentially mean the people in the hospital environment that move patients, equipment, and medical supplies around the building.

According to NHS careers, these folks are the heartbeat of NHS hospitals. And here we are with a tool that means that there is less wasted time in the process, which means that they can get more patients seen too.

Ian Ellison: And this focus on efficiency, effectiveness, and experience doesn’t sound dissimilar to our transforming healthcare case study that we talked about earlier.

Chris Moriarty: It’s almost like Lean Six Sigma for hospitals. Anyway, Robert shows me one of the portals and it looks like any other tablet you might have seen with loads of apps on it for each of the different services that this particular unit requires.

Robert Malpas: Yeah, so that’s what I was saying a second ago about, like, the tabs on it. So these are like the most frequently booked jobs for the area. You’ve got the full ad hoc catering menu on there. You’ve got discharge cleans, terminal cleans, and then portering tasks. So your patients in and out, like specimens, anything like that. You just click the button. They’ve got a specimen that needs to go to the labs – it’s booked it in a second. That’s now a live job on our system.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Robert Malpas: Once a porter gets assigned to it, you can see that. But you’ll be able to see a porter is on his way.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Robert Malpas: To do the job for you.

Chris Moriarty: Gotcha. Yeah. So, I mean, that looks just like all the different things… like, you know, like this sort of tile setup. It’s dead easy.

Robert Malpas: It’s simplicity at it’s finest. Yeah.

Chris Moriarty: So this is, so if you take through the process, and uh, someone’s talking to a patient said, “Can I get you some lunch? What do you fancy? Right, yeah, no bother”. And either they’ve got it on their, on the tablet, like you mentioned, or they can come here and just order one. And then that will then appear almost like a, these delivery services we’re used to. “Which bed do you want it to go to? That’s them over there”.

Robert Malpas: Yeah, so you just literally put the patient’s name and the bed number, it becomes a live task.

Chris Moriarty: Oh, so then, like, for something like that then, when it’s to a patient…

Robert Malpas: Yeah, we will take a name, for audit purposes…

Chris Moriarty: Ah, gotcha.

Robert Malpas: And the bed number.

Chris Moriarty: Oh, cool.

So whilst we were recording, one of the nursing team actually came across to tell us how amazing this was. Completely unprompted, she just saw us recording, and wanted to tell us that…

Diane: This is the best thing. Since they’ve come, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Chris Moriarty: So, you’ve worked here a while then, have you?

Diane: I’ve been in the Trust twenty-eight years.

Chris Moriarty: Twenty-eight. Okay, that is a while, that qualifies as a while.

Diane: On the wards, almost ten years down here.

Chris Moriarty: Right, and doing this sort of role, okay, and how, what difference does something like this make, in real terms?

Diane: A big difference. It helps the flow from ED onto us a lot quicker, because we’re able to order the beds discharged a lot quicker, so it makes a massive difference.

Chris Moriarty: And I guess there’s a lot of, a lot of, um, in the past when everything was very manual, a lot of lost time.

Diane: It was, yeah.

Chris Moriarty: Something doesn’t turn up, you can’t track it, you don’t know if someone’s, you know, with all of this, it’s kind of all been tracked at every stage, right? Yeah,

Diane: Looking for the domestics, we don’t have to anymore. We just literally go there, book the discharge, they’re, they’re on the job.

Chris Moriarty: Wow.

Andrew Sharp: So again, all the domestic staff, um, carry their PDAs on them. As soon as Diane hits that discharge clean or whatever it may be, the domestic knows exactly where it is, what bed it is, and they’re straight there to clean it and clean it out.

Chris Moriarty: So this is when a patient’s left, and you’ve got to turn it over, basically.

Andrew Sharp: So it’s called the patient pathway. You know, the patient pathway, Diane’s saying, from ED all the way through to the systems before they get up to a ward.

Chris Moriarty: And without getting too kind of into the biggest picture, that’s going to be, because like ED departments in particular, I’ve been to one recently, right, you know, where I live and there’s a lot of demand. Like the, you know, struggling. And I guess it’s helping with that as well, which is, is, you know, you’re, you’re the worst, you know, it’s bad enough not having a bed, but imagine having a bed that hasn’t been cleaned yet and someone’s got to wait. What we’re doing is we’re minimising that time for the patient experience as well.

Diane: Yeah, exactly.

Robert Malpas: So we’ve done a little bit of a trend at the beginning and on average to book a, any task, it was like two and a half to three minutes to call the help desk. You’d have to wait for them to answer the phone, take all your details, but this is, you’re talking seconds. Yeah. So we’re giving a lot of time back to the clinical staff.

Chris Moriarty: And I guess you sort of said about from an audit purpose, from a contract point of view, you’re also tracking that performance, right? Because I guess a job is open, so that’s still saying ‘specimen’, you know, we can still see that job’s there until someone comes down and closes it, i.e. that’s been picked up now. And you can start to look at response times, turnover, all that sort of stuff.

Andrew Sharp: Correct, correct, correct.

Robert Malpas: So what you can see now is a porter has actually been assigned to it.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. It’s going to come down and we’re going to, “Oh, we’re just doing a podcast. Sorry about that”. Yeah.

Andrew Sharp: From a contractual point of view, you know, there’s the contractual point is, is huge. There’s, there’s so many KPIs that are attached to this contract. There was also so much data that’s not been captured in the Trust prior to us arriving where it’s been a lot of pen and paper where now they can see it real time. We do a report every month and they can see it digitally. They have a dashboard that they can go to.

Ian Ellison: Wow.

Chris Moriarty: I know, right? We get to see some cool tech and workplaces that make things a little easier, perhaps a little more pleasant, but this is probably the starkest example of where technology is making a demonstrable difference. Tangible and important difference. It was sort of inspiring talking to people in the ward about the difference this is making in a part of the hospital that if you’re unfortunate enough to need, you really want firing on all cylinders.

Ian Ellison: We often talk about workplace experience when we’re chatting about offices and the like, but here it’s as much about patient and visitor experience and how all of these little improvements are linked directly to health outcomes. It goes back to my point about how core these services are in a healthcare environment. They’re set up to remove waste, improve experience, and ultimately free up the medical teams to shine, which is something we all want.

Anyway, I know I warned you about getting distracted by robots. But you did actually go and see them, didn’t you?

Chris Moriarty: You mean Superman and Minnie Mouse?

Ian Ellison: What?

Andrew Sharp: We branded them because we use them in a children’s hospital.

Chris Moriarty: Oh, wow. Okay.

Andrew Sharp: So it’s there for a bit of a theatrical sort of scenery part for the kids to think, you know, while they’re coming into hospital. To see Superman rolling up and down or Minnie Mouse rolling up and down. It eases the pressure. So there you go. There’s Superman. Doing his thing.

Chris Moriarty: There he is.

Andrew Sharp: So you’ll see how much, uh, how many people pass comment as they walk past. You saw this little lad, he’s still looking at him. You know. Ha ha ha. So it’s, uh, and it says autonomous cleaning in progress so it tells you there’s a robot around. Yeah. Um. It’ll navigate around, um, and it’ll start to talk to you. It’ll come over this side now.

Chris Moriarty: Tell you to move.

Andrew Sharp: So, it’ll tell us to move. You have to map these out. Um, so they’re physically mapped and we map it out ourselves. So we have to clear the area. Then we wheel it to a certain point, press the button and it will recognise GPS. And once it’s mapped, you can pretty much leave it to do itself.

Chris Moriarty: What they do each night is kind of mapped out.

Andrew Sharp: Yes, yes.

Chris Moriarty: I guess it’s like each, do they do every corridor every night? Or is it..?

Andrew Sharp: They do certain corridors every night. So they won’t be able to do every single corridor, which is the amount of corridors that we’ve got. But, um, it will be on certain levels during the day.

Chris Moriarty: So that’s, that’s just, it spotted me and it’s, what, given a sort of six, six-inch birth, foot berth around me, got on with it and it’ll, I take it it’ll remember that now.

Andrew Sharp: Correct.

Chris Moriarty: And be like, right, I need to nip back and do it where those, those two idiots with the microphone were.

Andrew Sharp: So, so it shows like, on the, um, on the email printout that you get, it highlights in a light green pattern. On the map. So it’ll give you the map of this. Look at the map…

Chris Moriarty: Then it’s sort of showing you all the bits.

Andrew Sharp: It’ll show you where it’s gone and you’ll see where it’s zigzagged across again, where it’s obviously something that’s come in its way and it’s come back and re-cleaned that area.

Chris Moriarty: And would there ever be a situation where maybe it said that “I couldn’t clean that last night” and that will, that will instruct like a, an operative on the, on the shift to go up, or is it generally…

Andrew Sharp: It’ll generally do everything it’s put down do. But it could be, it could be a fault in the charge or something. Somebody’s put it out and not realised it’s not fully charged.

Chris Moriarty: Right. Gotcha.

Andrew Sharp: That doesn’t happen very often. It doesn’t happen at all. But you know, we fill out the water and it does, it does its work.

Chris Moriarty: And what difference has that made? To things like rotas…

Andrew Sharp: So it’s not about labour saving. It’s just about making sure that the job’s being done efficiently. Which allows us to concentrate on the corners and edges to make sure the place is absolutely spotlessly clean, 100 percent, not just somebody walking around with a mop.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew Sharp: Which we do have in areas. On these large corridors you’ll have somebody here for many hours, just walking up and down. You want to, you want to pre, uh, work the floor first. You want to sweep it and make sure the debris off it before the robot can start.

Chris Moriarty: And how was it when, you know, you’ve got a cleaning workforce, right? And one day you’ve come down to them and said, “right guys, we’ve got these”. What was, you know, what was that kind of initial reaction like?

Andrew Sharp: The initial reaction was quite, quite receptive actually. Yeah. You know, it’s not about, we’ve always made the plea that it’s not about removing labour. It’s about making sure the detailed part of the clean is being done properly.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Sharp: It’s not just in there to do a quick slap and dash and get out the door. It’s about the robot doing its work and that’s about doing the corners and edges and that’s one…

Chris Moriarty: And was that, I mean you’ve mentioned that at a couple of times, corners and edges, was that historically a challenge?

Andrew Sharp: Very much so, very much so. I mean, a robot doesn’t do corners and edges. Uh, it’ll only do a floor base, the way you set it out to clean. But where all the, the bits behind the doors, the bits behind the, the chairs. It’s where we need to clean. Just to make sure the clean is being done a hundred percent.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. But before you had the robot, I mean, I, I guess what that meant is that your guys are having to do the big space and the corners and edges, and then there’s always a risk of… missing stuff. I’m not saying you did miss stuff, but there’s a risk of that. It introduced a risk to it. Whereas if all they’re doing is the corners and edges, it’s much more focused, right?

Andrew Sharp: You’re not missing anything.

Chris Moriarty: And again, you’ve got an audit trail, so you’re saying about your reports in the mornings…

Andrew Sharp: Correct, correct. We’ve got audit trails that we can prove, you know, how much water it’s saved us. What time it’s taken out of our workforce, but you know, if you think from the front door all the way down there to that, those doors down there, you know, it’s about a quarter of a mile.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Andrew Sharp: That’s a quarter of a mile that somebody’s got to stand and walk up and down and clean.

Chris Moriarty: So there you go, Ian. What do you make of that?

Ian Ellison: Yeah, it’s pretty impressive actually. So having listened to that, I thought I’d have a catch up with…

Jacinto Jesus: Jacinto Jesus, and I’m the Operations Director for Healthcare.

Ian Ellison: …Who has responsibility for a number of these healthcare contracts at Mitie to really understand the impact it’s having from his point of view.

Jacinto Jesus: This technology has really enabled us from going from, um, what we call predictive, um, uh, cleaning, um, or predictive portering, to being demand led.

The information wasn’t available in real time that we can make those critical decisions, and now that information is available to us so we can actually make those decisions. In any workflow, you’ve got bottlenecks. So you want to try and remove as many as possible and make it as smooth and as efficient as possible. And that demand led data, or that technologies, is really allowing us to do that because we are making it more efficient. We are saving time.

Um, some of our systems, which is actually really interesting, is actually um, promoting wellbeing for our staff. Because it’s invisible, you know, you know, it’s… patients and staff and visitors walk through the hospital, they don’t see any of this. Um, but, and that’s the beauty of it because we want to do things without… most times without people noticing, without disturbing them.

Chris Moriarty: And did you ask him about robots? You had to have asked him about robots.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, of course I did.

Jacinto Jesus: I think that we are at a very early stage of the introduction of robots into the cleaning service, and even into the other services. So, for example, the robots that we have a John Radcliffe, they are just fantastic because they go on and do the work that they do, um, while our staff can focus on, you know, critical touch points whilst the robots are cleaning the floors

But for us, for the cleaning environment is fundamental and critical to have more of these machines around. Um, the water saving is just incredible. The machines we use has got a four-stage filter built into the machines and it saves 70 percent of water in comparison to a traditional scrubber dryer.

John Radcliffe is a great case study for this, is that we want to move away from facilities management to transforming facilities.

Chris Moriarty: I’ve heard that before…

Ian Ellison: You have. This all really connects with the central theme throughout this series about technology and data better supporting human expertise. And along the way, making us more efficient and able to add more value to the environments we’re talking about. This is exactly what Phil Bentley was talking about in episode one.

Chris Moriarty: Science and service facilities transformation. So we’ve talked a load about the service in this episode, but it’s probably about time to get knee deep in the science.

Ian Ellison: Right. Alice can lead us into that.

Alice Woodwark: I really think that the advent of robotic and technology led cleaning is going to do for hygiene, for our industry, what the microscope did for doctors.

I mean, if you think about it, before they had that microscope, they thought they were doing the right thing. They hoped for some good outcomes. Once they could see the impact of what they were doing, they knew that they were doing the right thing. And for us using this technology, the robots show us exactly where they’ve gone and they record the data that tells us how effectively they’ve cleaned.

And for the first time, cleaning has genuinely become a science. We can show you how clean something is. If you come to our Centre of Excellence, we can show you all of the UV technology that will quite scarily tell you exactly how clean any surface, any set of hands is. And we’ve never had that before.

And so actually, it completely revolutionises the way you think about cleaning. Because rather than doing a rote set of things, and hoping for the right outcomes, because a lot of clean can’t be seen, and we know that, we’re now in a place where we can show you and prove to you the effectiveness of the tasks.

And of course that means we can do that more efficiently, more effectively. I think that’s going to fundamentally change the way that cleaning works.

Chris Moriarty: That’s really powerful. So is that the same as the Centre of Excellence that Heather was talking about earlier on?

Ian Ellison: One and the same.

Heather Downes: I think from a testing point of view, whilst the technology has been available and would have been used within certain environments, such as healthcare or food, where the demand was there, we wanted to be able to provide the other sectors, such as corporate and professional, those opportunities to see and feel assured by that level of cleaning that was being done.

So it’s, again, it’s just elevating that service. Some of it isn’t new technology, some of it is old tech that we’ve just adapted and we’ve started to introduce. You know, ATP testing has been around for a really long time but there was never really a call to action to understand the bacteria that was on the surface.

Ian Ellison: ATP testing?

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, I didn’t know either, but I looked confident and nodded, but afterwards I was able to catch up with…

John Lear: My name is John Lear. I’m one of the Technical Directors at Biological Preparations Limited. I’m the Director of Microbiology and Research and Development.

We are a biotech company specialising in the, the use of biology, across a number of industries really. As far as cleaning goes, we offer biohygiene, which is our range of, uh, sustainable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. And really in terms of Mitie, so Mitie have been a customer of ours for a while.

And for the last two years, well a little more than two years really, I’ve been providing really sort of scientific and technical support to Mitie, uh, and assisting them in that way really.

ATP testing is quite a useful little method as long as you understand the sort of the limits really, and it’s, it’s a measure of organic soiling on a surface. So you, you can use, uh, use ATP testing like, like I do, when, when I come to Mitie in order to, to check the efficacy of your cleaning processes.

Heather Downes: Through the pandemic, people needed that assurance because they weren’t coming into the workplace, and to give our clients assurance that their workplaces were safe enough for people to return. This was a measure that we looked to introduce.

We’ve had to start looking at the science behind the chemicals that we’re using because of the detrimental impact that they have, not only on the users, the people in those environments, but ultimately the planet. That we’re referring to plant based solutions, water based solutions, that are still achieving the same results, if not better, because of that environment. And really, that’s the first thing that kind of comes to my mind is when we’re looking at science is we’re really scrutinising even down to what we’re spraying on surfaces. Is this the right solution? Is it still receiving the same results as what we were doing before or better?

Ian Ellison: Wait, what? Are we talking about natural cleaners here?

Chris Moriarty: Yeah… so John talked me through what his company does other than explaining ATP to people like us. And it involves using good bacteria to combat bad bacteria. So earlier when Heather mentioned how this technology has been around for a long time, she really wasn’t kidding.

John Lear: Bacteria were among the earliest, most primitive, uh, organisms on the planet. So the technology has already always been there. They have been there doing their thing since the dawn of time, but our understanding of that and how to harness it has not come really until the sort of latter half of the century and, and really sort of, intensely into the sort of latter quarter.

Basically, we make products containing bacteria, enzymes, plant extracts, uh, other environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions, and biohygiene really has taken that a step further. Bacteria and other microbes, uh, break down organic matter in their, in their immediate environment. And that’s how they sustain themselves, if you like that sort of thing. That’s how they, that’s how they nourish themselves. That’s what they do.

I mean, indeed, if they didn’t do that, then we’d all be like neck deep in our own waste by now. Uh, and that is a process that happens, of course, quite naturally in the environment, but we can harness that. We can take control of that, by incorporating bacteria and other microbes into cleaning products.

So, uh, specifically, if you like, so if we take a washroom cleaner, for example, then that, that formulation will contain bacteria, contain beneficial bacteria. When we use that product in, uh, at the site of application, in the washroom, to clean, those bacteria will proliferate, proliferate, they will grow, they will form a beneficial population.

And, uh, what they like to do specifically is to grow in films called biofilms on surfaces. And, so they will do this, they will form biofilms on surfaces and they will degrade organic matter in their immediate environment. And by doing that, then, they provide a long-term cleaning effect and one of odor reduction because they’re breaking down the organic matter that causes soiling and that causes unpleasant odors.

Ian Ellison: So what with enzyme powered cleaners, robots, service ordering apps, and data everywhere, the whole face of health and hygiene could be about to be revolutionised. I put that to Alice, about what she makes of it all and what it means for the future.

Alice Woodwark: We need the best of the technology that we can get our hands on. Both to make us as effective as possible, but also tell us things that we might not be aware of by doing things, I guess, in a more traditional way. Data can tell you things about how well you’re doing your job, how well your patients are doing in a clinical environment, and then if you look at the service side, that’s what brings it to life.

I love a robot, but it’s never going to always be about the robot. We know, and it’s proven, that if you have great service in a clinical environment, people’s recovery times are faster, people’s experiences are better, they will get better quicker. And so there is this human side to it that is always going to be integral to what we do. We are often the first and the last person that a patient will see in, for example, a hospital setting. So having the human wrap around a really strong technology core, I think is fundamental to what we do, both in terms of clinical outcomes, but also in terms of the productivity, the effectiveness of our work.

So if you take something like technology that will allow us to identify and then report how much of a meal a patient has eaten, then that is important for all sorts of things. Clinically, that’s great because you know things about their nutritional balance that you might not otherwise know. It’s going to be someone like us that’s doing that data collection. That’s effectively a non-clinical task, but it feeds right into your clinical outcomes. And it also allows us to manage the efficiency of feeding people in hospitals. At the end of the day, we need every penny that’s going into the hospital system to be as effectively spent as possible. We all do as citizens.

And so if we can find ways of making something like patient feeding more efficient and effective, because we know where the food needs to go, where the food’s being consumed, then that will also help us as well. So I would say that actually the way that data and technology works is very much interlinked and hand in hand between our clinical partners and us as the supporting cast that works around them.

Chris Moriarty: What a lovely way to end the episode. And like we said, our last deep dive into the Science of Service and what an adventure it has been. We’ve looked at climate, security, workplace experience, and now health and hygiene. We’ve seen robots, data, newfangled technology. But we’ve always seen that paired with human endeavour, creativity, and expertise. This truly is the Science of Service transforming facilities as we know it. I’m really going to miss our little adventures.

Ian Ellison: Well, don’t get too emotional yet, Chris. We’ve got one more episode for you lovely folks. Next time out, we’ll be heading back to The Shard to speak to the members of the Mitie leadership team that we spoke to in episode one, and some new voices, to reflect on the journey that CEO Phil Bentley originally sent us on.

Chris Moriarty: Speak to you then.

08 Apr 2024

The Science of transforming estates, workplaces and customer experience


After the Covid-19 pandemic emptied offices and drastically altered our ways of working, organisations were forced to adapt. But four years on, what’s next for the modern workplace?

Chris and Ian explore the transformation of workplace experience, the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the rapid digital adoption driven by the shift to hybrid working. They visit Royal London’s head office to explore technology’s role in creating a seamless employee and visitor experience. They also get a glimpse into the future, where technology and AI will continue to shape the evolution of the workplace. This brave new world could offer even greater flexibility and enable colleagues to be even more creative.

Contributors and speakers
  • Mark Caskey, Managing Director, Projects
    Mark Caskey​
    Managing Director, Mitie Projects​
  • Simi Gandhi-Whitaker, Strategic Workplace and Technology Director at Mitie
    Simi Gandhi-Whitaker​
    Strategic Workplace &​ Technology Director, Mitie​
  • Simone Fenton Jarvis, The Human-Centric Workplace​
    Simone Fenton Jarvis​
    The Human-Centric Workplace​
  • Leigh Fyffe, Head of Estates and Facilities​ Transformation, Royal London
    Leigh Fyffe
    Head of Estates and Facilities​ Transformation, Royal London
  • Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People and Transformational HR Ltd
    Perry Timms
    Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People and Transformational HR Ltd
  • Peter Henderson, Operations Manager for Royal London, Mitie
    Peter Henderson
    Operations Manager for Royal London, Mitie
Read more

After the Covid-19 pandemic emptied offices and drastically altered our ways of working, organisations were forced to adapt. But four years on, what’s next for the modern workplace?

Chris and Ian explore the transformation of workplace experience, the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the rapid digital adoption driven by the shift to hybrid working. They visit Royal London’s head office to explore technology’s role in creating a seamless employee and visitor experience. They also get a glimpse into the future, where technology and AI will continue to shape the evolution of the workplace. This brave new world could offer even greater flexibility and enable colleagues to be even more creative.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Mark Caskey, Managing Director, Projects
    Mark Caskey​
    Managing Director, Mitie Projects​
  • Simi Gandhi-Whitaker, Strategic Workplace and Technology Director at Mitie
    Simi Gandhi-Whitaker​
    Strategic Workplace &​ Technology Director, Mitie​
  • Simone Fenton Jarvis, The Human-Centric Workplace​
    Simone Fenton Jarvis​
    The Human-Centric Workplace​
  • Leigh Fyffe, Head of Estates and Facilities​ Transformation, Royal London
    Leigh Fyffe
    Head of Estates and Facilities​ Transformation, Royal London
  • Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People and Transformational HR Ltd
    Perry Timms
    Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People and Transformational HR Ltd
  • Peter Henderson, Operations Manager for Royal London, Mitie
    Peter Henderson
    Operations Manager for Royal London, Mitie

“I think the place of work suddenly became, ‘why on earth would somebody want to come here if it’s just grey lines of desks and all the usual paraphernalia’? People’s expectations are, if I’m going to come, it’s got to serve my needs. It’s got to be worth it.”
Perry Timms, Transformational HR

Episode links

The science of transforming estates, workplaces and customer experiences​

Webinar: Are your people thriving with hybrid working?

How to design the perfect workplace | Mitie

Mitie secures Integrated FM contract for Royal London Group | Mitie


Episode 4: The science of transforming estates, workplaces and customer experience


  • Chris Moriarty
  • Ian Ellison
  • Mark Caskey​
  • Simi Gandhi-Whitaker​
  • Leigh Fyffe​
  • Simone Fenton Jarvis​
  • Perry Timms
  • Richard Anderson​

Chris Moriarty: Work. A major part of our everyday lives, the idea of exchanging labour for pay has been etched into human civilisation for centuries. But despite major jumps in technological capability, in recent times, the basic principles of work have remained pretty constant. But in 2020 the world of work changed.

[From recording] Boris Johnson: Good evening. From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction. You must stay at home.

Chris Moriarty: The pandemic meant that the bustling office emptied as people were forced to work from their homes. A huge global homeworking experiment forced organisations to adopt digital technology at an unprecedented rate [you’re on mute…] and demonstrated to both employees and employers that there was another way to work.

And as the world slowly unlocked and office work became viable again, organisations were faced with the question of whether they would return to their old normal or embrace a new hybrid future. All of which has left organisations scratching their heads about what’s best for both organisational and individual performance.

Alongside this is the rise of employee experience as a central facet of the employer offer. Premium services, first class hospitality, community management. All ideas that have gathered momentum in the years preceding the pandemic are now at the heart of the conversation about enticing employees back into the corporate workspace.

Today we see the amount of data plotting the employee experience reaching peak levels. Utilisation, sentiment, environmental conditions, service provision. All of these threads generating millions of data points that are forming the basis of the decisions that organisations make when they’re creating their workplaces.

This is the story of that digital workplace. This is the Science of Service.

Chris Moriarty: Hello and welcome to episode four of the Science of Service podcast, brought to you by Mitie. I’m Chris Moriarty.

Ian Ellison: And I’m Ian Ellison.

Chris Moriarty: And we’re the hosts of the Workplace Geeks podcast. But in this series, you join us on a journey of discovery as we take up Mitie CEO Phil Bentley’s invitation to explore the story of how leading businesses are using the very latest technology and combining it with human endeavour to make radical changes to their organisations.

Now you’re more than welcome to focus on this episode, but equally, if you want to join us on every step of this journey feel free to pop back to episode one and work your way back to where you are now. Anyway, today we explore how all of this relates to workplace experience. So Ian, out of all the topics we’ve talked about in this series, it’s probably fair to say that this is our strong suit.

Ian Ellison: Indeed it is, Chris. So in both our current and past roles, we’ve been close to the ideas that have evolved around the modern workplace and its increasing importance, particularly regarding the so-called war for talent. Although I also think it’s fair to say that right now, the modern workplace is under more scrutiny than ever, involving questions about how people do their jobs, the role workplace plays, and the importance of this thing that we call workplace experience.

Chris Moriarty: Well, right. So, let’s dive straight into a story of a workplace team that is navigating all of that. Mitie introduced me to their client at Royal London and I caught up with…

Leigh Fyffe: Leigh Fyffe. I am the Head of Workplace Estates and Strategy at Royal London. Royal London’s the UK’s largest mutual life, pensions and investment company. One of our key drivers is to give people financial confidence and make them feel financially secure.

Ian Ellison: So it’s fair to say that Royal London represent what many would consider a traditional office environment. Which is arguably the most common ‘knowledge work’ environment, to use a term that’s been around since the 60s, to essentially recognise the diverse workforce that have to think and solve problems for a living. But their offices at Royal London are pretty large and spread across a number of sites.

Leigh Fyffe: We’ve got just under 5,000 colleagues, nine different properties across the UK and Ireland. They’re of different ages, they’re of different sizes. What we try to do from a workplace perspective is, when we’re fitting them out, we try to fit them out in a way that we’ve got a consistent workplace experience for colleagues though.

So it doesn’t matter if our building is a 1980s building or if it was just constructed two years ago. What we’re trying to do is make that workplace experience for colleagues consistent. It’s not all the same though. What we don’t want is each Royal London building to look exactly the same. It’s got to be appropriate for the location that we’re in and we’ve also evolved the design.

Chris Moriarty: So how does a workplace team like that manage all these different threads? They want consistency and experience, but with local design. And workplace practices change, experience expectations evolve. How do they stay on top of these things and make sure that they are managing experience, tweaking it where necessary, and then making sure that they are managing that real estate effectively and efficiently?

Ian Ellison: Well, Leigh and her team are constantly in communication with the community they’re supporting.

Leigh Fyffe: We also have a team within my workplace team that focuses on continuous improvement, workplace excellence. And what does that mean? So, we’re looking at the customer journey. We’re looking at all the different touch points.

We’re regularly going out and, kind of, surveying colleagues. We use our Yammer channel to get very quick feedback, but again, it’s insight that you don’t get just from talking to people. So we started that process quite a number of years ago. And then just as we were about, eight months before we were due to move in to Alderley Park, the pandemic kicked in.

Chris Moriarty: Oh.

Ian Ellison: Yeah. Almost overnight, every workplace in the country closed across the UK, and pretty much around the globe, as organisations, great and small, started to work out what they needed to do to keep work happening.

Chris Moriarty: So with that in mind, how did Royal London adapt?

Leigh Fyfe: We managed to get people working remotely within a couple of weeks, which was really quite incredible.

And there was a huge amount of learning came out of that. A really strong, positive culture before the pandemic. And we managed to maintain a lot of that when we were all working from home. So we as an organisation, rolled out hybrid working because we wanted people to still have that benefit of working from home if that’s what they wanted to do, but also make sure that they were still attending the office a certain amount of time to allow other colleagues to benefit from their knowledge and from that whole kind of collaboration and learning.

And we’ve rolled out quite a lot of technology to support workplace and provide us with that data that we can then interrogate so that we can make informed decisions in terms of what we want to do with the workplace going forward.

Chris Moriarty: It was a remarkable time and perhaps one that people don’t want to dwell on, but many believe it has the potential to totally reframe work itself. And there’s already research being published that suggests work patterns have changed for good.

Chris Moriarty: So to help us understand the wider implications of that I enlisted an old contact of ours who’s recently been inducted into the HR magazine hall of fame for his insights into this change.

Perry Timms: Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer of People and Transformational HR Ltd. Um, work in the organisation design space, which I guess has a strong correlation to the workplace design space, because we do the intellectual design and then people do the actual workplace design.

Chris Moriarty: So first I tested the water about how high up the corporate ladder the discussion about new work practices were.

Perry Timms: You’re right to describe it as a central issue and it is still something that people are grappling with and they’ve got very almost like ‘fudge like’ solutions at the moment.

Ian Ellison: The idea of workplace experience being at the top of the agenda is fascinating given how many would suggest it was taken for granted in the years gone by. So accepted was the classic Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, that it rarely needed thinking about, unless maybe it was time for an office move.

Chris Moriarty: I spoke to Perry about this and how linked the world of workplace experience was to things like talent recruitment and retention. How was it pre-pandemic, and how is it now?

Perry Timms: I think pre-‘19 it was, um, quite underplayed except for people who wanted to lead with it as a sort of representation, I suppose, of their culture. So, you know, the famous Google slide and all that kind of thing. So those sort of things tuned me into a little bit of, um, the workplace experience was becoming more of a thing.

Um, as a sort of, ‘come work here because doesn’t it look and feel great’. But I think it did change after ‘19. So I think the place of work suddenly became, why on earth would somebody want to come here if it’s just a grey lines of desks and all the usual paraphernalia. People’s expectations are, if I’m going to come, it’s got to serve my needs. It’s got to be worth it. That is a genuine shift I’ve seen.

Ian Ellison: Okay, that outlines how important all of this is. So whilst you were catching up with Perry, I caught up with some of the team at Mitie to understand how that is shaping how they support their clients. What does workplace experience look like to them, and what role has technology played in that? I spoke to…

Simi Gandhi-Whitaker: Simi Gandhi-Whitaker, Strategic Workplace and Technology Director in Mitie.

Richard Anderson: and Richard Anderson, Solutions Director in Connected Workspace within Mitie.

Simi Gandhi-Whitaker: We’ve been, uh, evolving our workplace strategy over time. How do we use technology and data and workplace insights to really drive behaviours and changes?

Ian Ellison: And given what we’ve heard from Leigh about how quickly a change was required, insights that drive behaviour seems really quite important. And Richard suggested that some companies were more prepared than others.

Richard Anderson: And I think we were in a world where we were helping customers plan, uh, a move in their workplace, um, protocols from say fixed to agile. And that was quite a big step. And then overnight we, we leapt into hybrid for all. So those, some were already on the path and were designing in their strategies for how to work in a new way, others just weren’t ready. So that initial shockwave, I think, has lessened, has calmed down.

Chris Moriarty: So as that calms down, I guess attention moves to what a new normal looks like. And we know when organisations want to make big decisions, they’re keen to do it with as much data as possible. So how ready are they to get hold and make sense of that data?

Ian Ellison: Well, you remember when we spoke to Cijo, Mitie’s Chief Technology Officer, in the first episode? He spoke about the investment that Mitie has been making into technology, and this has put them in a really strong position to help with that data collection.

Simi Gandhi-Whitaker: We probably measure data today in Mitie for clients in the region of nearly a billion square feet. So Royal London actually were really early adopters of using our technology and how it can enhance what they’re doing. So they’ve kind of come along with us on this, um, on this roadmap. So we are in the right position to be advising them and guiding them and giving them that data.

And I think the technology has been a real game changer and enabler for us around, what to do with that piece of real estate. How to evolve the design of it, how to create that commute-worthy space.

Chris Moriarty: So that’s the rub, right? We’ve heard Perry talk about how the pandemic has shifted the power dynamic between employee and employer. We’ve seen how quickly organisations have had to pivot to support remote working. Employees have enjoyed that flexibility and now it’s become a central thread in talent acquisition. But organisations have to offset that against very large, very expensive pieces of real estate that might not be as full as they used to be.

So what Simi is talking about there when she says commute-worthy spaces is making sure that organisations are providing spaces for employees that work, that are enjoyable, that are attractive.

Ian Ellison: And not only that, the role of the workplace team becomes even more important as they manage the ebb and flow of these experiences, as they iron out wrinkles, as they jump on the problems that crop up.

Chris Moriarty: So we’ve heard from Leigh, and Simi has mentioned there about how Royal London have embraced technology really early and used it to help shape workplace experience. So I thought I would have a little nosey around their new office in London at 80 Fenchurch Street, or ‘80 Fen’ as the locals refer to it, to see how this all looks in practice.

Now, on arrival it looks like what you would expect from any financial institution with a nice office in the City of London. Nice atrium, lovely front of house, a swipe card that not only let me through the gate but also recognised who I was, where I was going, and called me a lift and pointed me in the right direction. And delivered me to the floor without me pressing a button.

Now that’s the landlord’s experience, so nothing to do with Royal London or the Mitie team per se, but it forms a crucial part of the experience.

Peter Henderson: It’s one of the decisions that was made by the Royal London team when they come in, uh, when they were looking to, to bring this building into their estate, is what’s it look like for our customer?

As they’re coming to our floors, we’re on the top five floors of this building, so they’ve got to go through that landlord security. They have to use our lifts before they even get to us. What does that look like? So the fact that you’ve got a smart swipe, which tells you which lift you need to get in, so you can’t get lost. You won’t accidentally stop off on the floor and wonder where, where you’ve ended up, um, is really important.

I’m Peter Henderson, the Operations Manager for Royal London with Mitie. Uh, we’re currently in our 80 Fen office. We’re going to do a building tour, looking at the customer journey and how we look at the data.

So, you’ll come out onto this floor once you’ve gone through, uh, that check in experience. And the first thing you’re going to see is our reception team. You know someone’s looking after you from the get go.

Chris Moriarty: So at this stage, we’re looking at where Royal London hosts their clients. So it’s got an amazing view of the city, a great outdoor terrace, lovely refreshments – but as nice as it was, I wanted to see the experience that employees are getting. So I asked him to take me down to the floors below.

Ian Ellison: Now that’s interesting, because there’s sometimes a sense that a lot of effort is put into the experiences for the spaces for customers, whereas employees get forgotten.

Chris Moriarty: Now, that’s certainly not the case here, as you’re about to find out. And a quick note to listeners on this one; Peter will mention customers, but in this context, he’s talking about Royal London employees, as we’re looking at it from a Mitie perspective – Royal London is their client. But one thing I think you’re about to hear is how seamlessly that blends together. So let’s pick back up with Peter, on my tour, who whipped out his phone to show me how people working at Royal London can use an app, which was developed by the team at Mitie, to manage their workplace experience.

Peter Henderson: So, um, within the workplace, we’ve introduced an app called Aria. And Aria is an app that all of our colleagues have access to. And within that app, if we have a, one of our customers has an issue, and they need to raise it to our attention and for all intents and purposes, they can’t find a member of our team – they’re busy supporting someone else on the other side of the building – but they need to raise a job to our attention. They can raise a job via the Aria app. They’ll go in, they’ll raise their job, and then they’re able to track it through.

Chris Moriarty: So, it’s got some prompts here as well, so, you know, it’s kind of like classic kind of chatbot type experience as well. Like, you know, what is it you want to do, and it’ll start walk you through it as well.

Peter Henderson: Yeah, absolutely. So, they’ve partnered it with, um, AI, as that’s coming into prominence now, so that the questions it asks you and prompts you for are much more intuitive. I’ll ask you a set of four, maybe five questions. It’ll give you a job reference, and then you can track that job through on the app. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t see a member of our team later and go, oh, just so you know, I’ve raised a job. They go, great, I’ll see if I’ve just picked it up. And they’ll still be able to action it, but it just, some customers love the surety that an app provides. Others want to talk to someone face to face. It’s an extra option. Yeah. But that provides a data stream that goes into our, our Maximo system, and then from there we can look at any trends that are pulling through or there’s a reactive issue.

‘That light on the 13th floor, that’s always out. Maybe we’ve got a little bit more of an issue there than just the bulb that keeps going. Let’s have a look at that’. So that feeds into that data and we can start making informed decisions. We can start looking at that. Trying to address things that are underlying the issues that have been raised. Um, but also the app does provide the option to order your coffee.

Ian Ellison: Wait, what?

Chris Moriarty: Right, you heard it. You can order your coffee, and we’re not just talking about paying at the till with the app. We’re talking about pre ordering your coffee for later in a day or on the way to a meeting. The future has landed, and it looks like a flat white you ordered an hour ago in time for your one to one.

Sorry, Peter. Continue.

Peter Henderson: Some people are very organised, don’t have time for a stop and a chat. Need their caffeine hit. They’re up at God knows when in the morning. They just leave the house, they don’t have a coffee. So what we have here is an online system where if you’re of that mindset, you as someone who likes to order your coffee and needed that hit, you can do it using the app. You’re able to select the location and the time that you want your coffee to be… or it doesn’t have to be coffee…

Chris Moriarty: Well, but that’s even, you’re saying about the location. That’s even before you’ve got here. So it’s not like once you’re in. So if I’ve come up at Liverpool Street and I’m looking at it and going, right, I’ve got about 10 minutes before I’ll be in the office, I’m going to walk there, I’ll pre order that so it’s there waiting for me when I arrive.

Peter Henderson: Absolutely. Um, so I don’t have to spend that time queuing that you’d normally have to do first thing in the morning.

Chris Moriarty: So you’re also getting as well, though, you’re getting a load of, going back to what you say about Aria, about from a ticket point of view and knowing what the trends are. You’re also getting a kind of, with this, a bit more of a kind of consumer-based type trend data where you’re getting, you know where your peaks of coffee orders are.

Peter Henderson: We’d be able to look at trends, such as a lot of people ordering their coffee in advance.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, right, so you know that two hours in advance is the most common for, you know, for whatever reason.

Peter Henderson: Absolutely, so you can start understanding your peaks and troughs as they’re coming through. And then if we want the trial stuff, again, that provides the data that backs up a trial, so that if we need to put a business case together, we go, hang on, we’ve been harvesting a bit of data, this is the business case combined with some observations that we’ve had as well from the industry and some insights. Um, and it gives, it gives our client confidence going yeah, do that. Let’s give it a go and see how it goes, as opposed to someone just going with their gut.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, did you order a coffee earlier on? Do you think it’s sitting there waiting for you?

Peter Henderson: I hope so. I did. I did. Yeah, brilliant. Thanks. Sorry. I’m late. Oh, no, that’s good. Thanks Syrus.

Chris Moriarty: So there you go. So that’s a collection point for it.

Peter Henderson: Yeah, this is a collection point for the coffee.

Chris Moriarty: So it’s not got your name on it.

Peter Henderson: And, and what we found with the barista on this site, because it’s a smaller site and the barista service has been a new thing that we’ve introduced since we moved into the building last year, people love the experience.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Peter Henderson: They love it, they love to come across for a little chat. For them it’s, it’s an ability to step away from their desk, enter a different zone for five minutes and then come back.

Chris Moriarty: One of the things I noticed is that you’ve got very high utilisation here, you know, there’s so much talk now of empty offices, hybrid work and all the rest of it, but it’s busy here, right? And you’ve got these sensors as well to tell you exactly how busy it is.

Peter Henderson: Yeah, absolutely. So we, one of the things that came out of Covid was we did want people collaborating back in the office. Royal London recognised that you can be isolated at home. They’re a collaborative mutual company. They want people working together.

So what we have is sensors under every workstation and some of our touchdown spaces, and in every meeting room, so that we can understand how is our workspace being used? And that data helps us to drive decision making around, well, that neighbourhood, does it need to be that size? Because that team only comes in on a Monday and Tuesday and they’re finding difficulty finding desks on a Tuesday.

But perhaps that neighbourhood can be changed, and we can do it on a Thursday and Friday. And we would have those conversations with our customer based on the data that comes back from their sensor for utilisation.

Chris Moriarty: How do you use that information, that data alongside all the other data that you’re collecting on site?

Peter Henderson: That data feeds into our Mozaic platform under a new element called Spaces, which Royal London was the first people to trial, and they have a huge appetite for new technology and innovations, providing they’re relevant to them, of course. But from that information, the workplace experience managers within Royal London, who are responsible for engaging with our customer and managing those neighbourhoods, they’re able to have conversations with data to back it up.

So if a customer comes to us: “My team doesn’t have enough space, they’re always coming in and they’re not able to book any desks.” That workplace experience manager is now able to log into Spaces. They’re able to say, “Well, hang on, let’s isolate the utilisation for your team. What days are your team coming in? If your team were to come in a little bit later, or if your team were to change the days that they come in on a daily basis.”

We’re looking at occupancy and utilisation. We’re looking at that in our restaurants. So we have a restaurant in Alderley Park, near our Manchester office. And that occupancy data is cross-referenced against sales data within the restaurant. And then if we do promotions, we say, well, when are we going to put our promotions on? We want to do it when there’s maximum occupancy. We’re looking at the footfall, right? We’re not…the obvious thing is we’re not going to do something on a Friday. But do we do it on a Tuesday or a Wednesday?

We can use that, we use that data and we go, well, actually, it’s better to do it on a Tuesday. Because we’ve got more people coming in. We’re not looking to scrutinise people in a Big Brother way. We’re using it to make smart decisions.

Ian Ellison: Now that’s interesting because what Peter’s talking about there is data with purpose rather than data for data’s sake.

Chris Moriarty: Absolutely. It really is evidence-based decision making. Something else Peter showed me whilst I was on-site was at the entrance to each employee floor, rather than the reception, there’s a helpdesk. One member of the workplace team, and one member of the IT team. The former, from Mitie, the latter, an employee of Royal London. But for all intents and purposes, they look like a single support team, ready to help make your working day that little bit smoother, accessible, visible, available.

Ian Ellison: It’s interesting that you say that because this partnership model, in pursuit of better workplace experiences, is something that I spoke about when I caught up with…

Mark Caskey: Mark Caskey. I’m the Managing Director for Projects here at Mitie and I’ve been with Mitie since the start of 2023.

Ian Ellison: Now, Mark and his team are the ones going into many of Mitie’s clients and helping them navigate their challenges with work and the workplaces that support them.

Mark Caskey: We would often think about what we do as business to business, and our relationships still are business to business, but it’s more around business to employee. i.e. The services that we provide to the employees of the companies whose buildings we manage. I always think about the three, 30, 300 principle.

And three is your cost of energy, 30 is your cost of real estate, and 300 is the cost of the employees who work in the buildings that you manage. And so if you think about shareholder value, yes, we can continue to cut the cost, drive more efficiency, leverage technology to take percentage points out in the cost of running real estate. But actually, if you make your employees happier, they’re more fulfilled, more engaged, more collaborative, have more flexibility, which these are the things that they’re asking for.

Chris Moriarty: So this starts moving us in the direction of employee sentiment. And what I mean by that is whilst it’s easy to understand what is going on in buildings, what is critical is to understand how these experiences are making people feel. How is it affecting them, and in this context, their work?

Ian Ellison: This is tricky though because we’re getting into what makes people tick and that’s difficult to measure and therefore difficult to manage. But to help us on the way I caught up with the author of The Human-Centric Workplace, which is an exploration of this very topic.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis: So, I’m Simone Fenton-Jarvis. I work with FM, HR and property teams to create a more human-centric, data-led organisation for the people that are in it.

Ian Ellison: So, how did Simone frame great workplace experience?

Simone Fenton-Jarvis: You’ve left them with that, like, warm and fuzzy feeling by being in that environment. And it’s like, everything flowed as it wanted, they got everything they needed, there were no kind of pain points in there, and everything just went as expected, and maybe slightly better than expected. So, there’s so much that comes off the back of making sure that someone had the right experience.

Ian Ellison: Which speaks to your example at Royal London, Chris, and rather than see that as something on the nice to have list, Simone actually thinks that it’s fundamental.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis: If you enjoy doing what you’re doing, and you’re having a good experience at work, ultimately it’s the difference between somebody thriving in their work life, their personal life.

And I think taking that customer journey approach is something I’ve done when I’ve been, you know, in-house, because actually, going right back to the recruitment team and to the HR team and going, “Where does it all start?” Because actually, if we don’t get that bit right, the experience of the workplace, when they come in, you’re just going to be fighting fires all the time. So you have to not only manage the experience and manage the expectations of the experience right at the beginning, but you also have to listen throughout that journey. Is this going to be the right place for them to have a good experience? And from an organisational point of view, if that person is having the right experience, it’s going to feed that feeling of belonging and happiness, loyalty, trust, safety. It all comes off the back of having that right experience.

So from that organisational perspective, you can then start looking at talent retention. You can look at engagement, happiness, wellbeing, how you work with your colleagues, how you treat customers, how you innovate.

Ian Ellison: So how do we measure sentiment? Well, that’s something that Simi and Richard at Mitie have been looking at.

Simi Gandhi-Whitaker: We use Sphere, which is a sentiment survey. What we want to do is get under the hood of what the people in the spaces are thinking. Whether it’s an emotional need, whether it’s a physical need. We will take that, and we will ingest it, and we will understand it, and we will use our teams and our expertise and also the experience that we’ve got across multiple datasets to really help shape and guide our customers’ workplace strategy.

Chris Moriarty: And Richard actually thinks this might be the final piece of the jigsaw.

Richard Anderson: It was pretty clear that everyone was scrabbling for pieces of the jigsaw that they probably never had before. There was a lot of immediate reaction to what needed to be done with workplace. And then there was a lot for some organisations, there was a lot of, um, a lot of pause with almost some inertia really on, on, should any change happen? One of those pieces that was missing, specifically to tackle the sentiment, the opinion of employees on the, the effectiveness of the workplace to them, was making sure that we asked the right questions to capture that. And I think what we found was one size does not fit all. And the way we designed Sphere was to give our customers a clear view of building-by-building, how sentiment can differ. Because just providing spaces to work for employees is one thing, but every building, every workplace has a very different, um, a different atmosphere, a different mix of work settings.

Chris Moriarty: Actually, Perry, our HR expert from earlier, mentioned a really interesting project that he’s seen that put employee conversations front and centre.

Perry Timms: They’ve co-created the environment. So they’ve invited people to say, what do you need, in what format, and how’s that going to help us? So already there’s a vested interest that people have had a say in the design of pods, booths, benches, uh, you know, open space, natural light, whatever, right? So that’s a good sign. And then I probe deeper and say, so how does it work then? Because like, it’s quite appealing to go to that place because it’s nice. They have absolutely gone down the line of teams decide what’s best for them to come together at what time. And they have quite literally modelled scenarios about capacity there. They said, well, this team likes a Monday, Wednesday rhythm. Okay, this team likes a Tuesday, Wednesday rhythm. Okay, problem. Wednesday, we’ve got a lot of people in. So, what can we do to help mitigate that? So they’ve taken a quite sensible approach, I think, which is almost like scenario led, team led, and design led. And what I see is a pretty vibrant office when I go in. I don’t see any headsets on, other than naturally on a call, right?

Ian Ellison: Co-created workspaces, teams deciding their work patterns? That’s certainly a long way from the offices that I was part of when I started my career.

Chris Moriarty: But you also had to dodge the dinosaurs on the way home.
Look, people’s expectations were already on the up, but now the corporate office has some genuine competition. So, workplace teams are going to incredible lengths to show them what they can offer. Here’s Leigh from Royal London to explain their approach, some of which we’ve already heard Peter describe.

Leigh Fyffe: In terms of the customer journey piece though, and the workplace experience, that’s much more around tools that make it easy for people to be in the building. So for me, that’s tools like, I suppose, desk booking as it currently stands. It’s things like a workplace app that allows us to pre-order a coffee to, you know, get your sandwich potentially delivered to your desk, for us to get feedback really quickly from people if something’s not working.

What I’m keen to see is, is colleagues being able to view what desks are free, being able to book a workstation, being able to book a meeting room, order teas and coffees for the meeting, but also, you know, they’re in a meeting, they’re only going to have 10 minutes in between their, you know, the one meeting and another. So, pre-order a coffee and a sandwich that they can grab on the way to another meeting. That’s what makes the workplace experience a joy. Frictionless for me, you know, you can do it on so many other things in your personal life, so really keen to try and replicate that kind of technological experience within the workplace so that people, you know, can come in and things are just easy for them.

These are all things that my team are now really starting to look at, which is where we’ve really evolved from that kind of operational facilities management team, to a much more holistic workplace team that really tries to understand the impacts that the working environment, the workplace has, on colleagues and their productivity.

Chris Moriarty: So that’s great to hear, but Leigh has mentioned the p-word there: productivity. Something that is notoriously difficult to quantify and measure.

Ian Ellison: Sure, but nonetheless people do have a very real sense of whether they can get work done, and that’s essentially what we’re talking about here. But what we’re also talking about here isn’t just about getting work done, like Leigh just said, it’s the services and the ambience, if you like, of the workplace that wrap around work to lift it from a bog standard nine-to-five working day into an overall working experience: a choice, a meaningful choice.

Mark Caskey: That whole workplace transformation, it’s linked to the overall agenda around talent. I think about the choices employees have for the companies that they want to work with and their place of work increasingly is a meaningful choice for them. Five, 10 years ago, workplaces were probably 70 percent desking, maybe 80 percent desking. Workplaces of the future are probably going to have 30, 40 percent of desk environments, then there’s going to be space for collaboration zone. There’s going to be space for meeting rooms.
There’s going to be auditorium space, where you can actually bring events together and create new type of social networks. Food and nutrition plays a bigger part in someone’s choice now. So, if you think about the whole change of service, experience is different.

Previously, you’ll get more productivity out of your staff, getting greater productivity out of your staff base, which is 10 times the cost of your real estate. Actually, that’s where the shareholder value is. We have to think around more metrics and services that drive human experience and people productivity.

Chris Moriarty: Okay, we can see how workplaces are evolving and how organisations are responding to that evolution. But what about the role of technology? We’ve touched on it, but surely data, automation, new hardware, new software is making all of this easier to manage?

Ian Ellison: Remember when you were speaking to Peter about Aria? Well, the data it’s collecting means that conversations can be much more proactive, rather than just reactive.

Mark Caskey: We’re now in a position where we can actually suggest to Royal London, you can actually downsize or make changes to the space that you’re actually using. And, and there’s an example of a building in Manchester, where we’ve actually taken out a complete floor because our occupational sensors are telling us we don’t need as much space.

Chris Moriarty: Wow, so now we’re seeing another step. We can use tech to measure use, that’s fairly straightforward, and we can also use tech to manage and, in some cases, enhance experience. But now it’s about using all of that consumer information to make adjustments, recommendations, add value. Like your streaming service for your favourite films, it’s understanding your patterns and then making recommendations off the back of it. It’s mass customisation, a standardised service, but with the ability to create bespoke workplace experiences.

Ian Ellison: So, it feels like we’re on the cusp of something really exciting here, something that might have been supercharged by the necessity of the pandemic. But if there’s a silver lining to be had from that, it’s that we might actually start to see the digitally-enabled workplace experience that so many people have talked about in the past. This might actually become a reality now for so many people.

Chris Moriarty: So what for the future? Well, work will continue to evolve. But with the right mindset and the right digital layer, we should be better prepared for that.

Leigh Fyffe: It’s a journey that we’re on, you know, I wouldn’t say for a minute that we’re finished. I don’t think we ever will be. That’s the beauty about workplace, isn’t it? And how it’s evolving and what the different requirements are from different teams, different business units.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis: We need to make sure we stay focused and actually that workplace experience is like the centre stage of the organisation. And that people hold the organisation to account as well.

Chris Moriarty: But even with these enhanced experiences, companies are still likely to be seeing their offices half empty, right?

Ian Ellison: Well, maybe. But equally, Perry offered a glimpse into the future on that. And it’s one that might surprise you.

Perry Timms: I will go to Nick Bloom’s research from Stanford, where he’s shown the kind of plane of remote and then the dip, and now there’s a plateau and a stabilising thing. And it’s higher numbers of people working remotely and flexibly, even partially, than it ever was before.

I think some of it will also depend on what AI ends up stripping out of work, that people kind of go, well, if I, if I’m getting rid of the routine administration, I don’t need a quiet space to do that anymore. I’d like to do more vibrant co-created stuff. And that means I’ve got to be with people. So, bizarrely, AI could engender a little bit more voluntary opt-in to team-based scenarios because it will take away work that’s either, you know, churning or, or cognitive, because we’ll outsource some of that to the machines and therefore we want to be creative, not as deeply analytical or process oriented.

But I think that’s a five year trajectory, by the way. I don’t think that’ll happen that soon. So I think we’ll see what goes on. And then I couldn’t predict it, but my sense is we’ll make some very good choices about when we come together that will perhaps start to look like it’s going back to what it was in ‘19.

But I think the numbers might tell us that, but the things we’re doing together will be very different from what we did in ‘19.

Ian Ellison: So watch this space.

Chris Moriarty: Indeed.

The Science of Service podcast is produced by The Workplace Geeks. Our dialogue editor is David Crackles, and we’d like to thank Leigh Fyffe, Perry Timms and Simone Fenton-Jarvis for taking the time to speak to us. For more information about what we’ve discussed on this episode, please visit

25 Mar 2024

The Science of protecting people, property and assets


The world of security is evolving. The increasing severity, frequency and sophistication of threats need solutions advanced enough to cope with these new challenges.

Chris and Ian dive into the innovative world of protective security – and explore what it means for today’s biggest organisations. They get a glimpse behind the scenes of security at two of London’s most iconic spaces, learning the secrets of how The Shard and Eurostar’s St Pancras hub are kept safe. There’s a fine balance between robust measures and maintaining a seamless customer experience.

Contributors and speakers
  • Jason Towse, Managing Director at Mitie Business Services
    Jason Towse
    Managing Director, Mitie Business Services
  • Emma Shaw, Managing Director, Mitie Intelligence Services
    Emma Shaw
    Managing Director of Mitie Intelligence Services
  • Matt Rogers, Head of UK Security at Eurostar International
    Matt Rogers
    Head of UK Security, Eurostar International
  • Andrew Donaldson, Head of Security at Real Estate Management (UK)
    Andrew Donaldson
    Head of Security, Real Estate Management (UK)
  • Professor Alison Wakefield, Co-Director Cybersecurity and ​Criminology Centre at University of West London
    Professor Alison Wakefield
    Co-Director Cybersecurity and ​Criminology Centre, University of West London
Read more

The world of security is evolving. The increasing severity, frequency and sophistication of threats need solutions advanced enough to cope with these new challenges.

Chris and Ian dive into the innovative world of protective security – and explore what it means for today’s biggest organisations. They get a glimpse behind the scenes of security at two of London’s most iconic spaces, learning the secrets of how The Shard and Eurostar’s St Pancras hub are kept safe. There’s a fine balance between robust measures and maintaining a seamless customer experience.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Jason Towse, Managing Director at Mitie Business Services
    Jason Towse
    Managing Director, Mitie Business Services
  • Emma Shaw, Managing Director, Mitie Intelligence Services
    Emma Shaw
    Managing Director of Mitie Intelligence Services
  • Matt Rogers, Head of UK Security at Eurostar International
    Matt Rogers
    Head of UK Security, Eurostar International
  • Andrew Donaldson, Head of Security at Real Estate Management (UK)
    Andrew Donaldson
    Head of Security, Real Estate Management (UK)
  • Professor Alison Wakefield, Co-Director Cybersecurity and ​Criminology Centre at University of West London
    Professor Alison Wakefield
    Co-Director Cybersecurity and ​Criminology Centre, University of West London

“Security is often viewed as an end state. Security is about guards, it’s about locks, it’s about CCTV cameras. When its true form, ‘protective security’, is about the mitigation of risks stemming from those people who could wish us harm’.”
Andrew Donaldson, Head of Security Real Estate Management (UK) Ltd

Episode links

Mitie Security. Intelligence. Technology. People (video)​

Case study: Bank of England – protecting the world’s 8th largest bank

Security & Fire Services | Facilities Management Provider | Mitie


Episode 3: The science of protecting people, property and assets


  • Chris Moriarty
  • Ian Ellison
  • Professor Alison Wakefield
  • Andy Donaldson
  • Emma Shaw
  • Jason Towse
  • Matt Rogers

Ian Ellison: How secure do you feel right now? Just pause for a moment and reflect. Because many people, if they are lucky enough, take their own personal security for granted. Going about their day, popping into the office, picking up something from the shops, catching the train home; never really stopping to think about how safe they are at any given moment.

Meanwhile, an army of professionals carefully monitor, assess and manage our safety using a range of cutting-edge tools and technology so that we can go about our business blissfully unaware of any potential threats. But the truth is that many of those threats have, over time, become more sophisticated, more resilient and more determined in recent years.

Geopolitical tensions, political unrest and social activism are just three of the macro factors that can turn a mundane day into a national or even international news event. And they seem to be occupying our screens more frequently than ever. And this isn’t just about physical security. In the UK alone, it is estimated that over half a million cyberattacks are detected daily.

Whether it’s mischievous hackers, professional scammers, or nation states looking to disrupt operations, the security industry is faced with an increasingly complex landscape of threats that it needs to protect us from. But with the help of technology, they remain vigilant.

Connected devices, big data and artificial intelligence, all combined with decades of experience, are transforming the security sector into one that not only is able to respond to incidents when they occur, but can also predict and neutralise threats before they’ve had a chance to cause their intended harm.

This is the story of that technology-enabled workforce. This is The Science of Service.

Chris Moriarty: Hello and welcome to episode three of The Science of Service Podcast brought to you by Mitie. I’m Chris Moriarty…

Ian Ellison: And I’m Ian Ellison.

Chris Moriarty: So quick recap. We’ve been sent on a voyage of discovery by Mitie CEO, Phil Bentley, who challenged us to go and find out more about how organisations, Mitie clients, are using the very latest technology to transform their facilities.

Now, we’ve already looked at climate change, so go back and have a listen to that if you’ve missed it. But in today’s episode, we’re slipping into the shadows as we explore security.

Ian Ellison: So, I think it’s fair to say that the world of security has evolved from the shopping centre security guard chasing cheeky shoplifters, visible security at reception desks and CCTV cameras on the corners of buildings.

The severity, frequency, and sophistication of the threats that we face today mean that organisations have to be sharper and more proactive than ever to protect themselves, their customers and their employees. And today they lean on a huge armoury of digital tools to help.

Chris Moriarty: And that’s before you even start thinking about cyber threats. So corporate security is huge. So huge in fact, that some have valued the UK security industry at around £10.5 billion with over 1,500 security companies providing expertise to organisations – and Mitie are a key part of that industry and their services have had to evolve with this growing industry.

So of course, security personnel are a fundamental part of what they do, but added to that are the intelligence and risk services they offer, the real time remote services monitoring global events and then connecting all of that to the teams on the ground and the blue light services. It’s a complex system of data and expertise.

Ian Ellison: Certainly sounds like it.

Chris Moriarty: And today we get to speak to two of Mitie’s clients about how they approach this. We’re going behind the scenes of two of the most iconic spaces in London and learning about the secret work that often goes unseen to help protect everyone and to ensure that they can get on with what they need to do safely. So, Ian, are you ready?

Ian Ellison: Indeed I am. But first, Chris, in keeping with our other episodes, let’s just set the scene with a bit of gravitas. Let’s start with Professor Alison Wakefield, who is Professor of Criminology and Security Studies at the University of West London. Now, Alison comes with some fairly hefty chops in the world of security.

Alison Wakefield: I’ve been academic advisor to the Chartered Security Professionals Registration Authority for over a decade, and I’m on the advisory board of Resilience First, the London Cyber Resilience.

Ian Ellison: And to get started, I asked Alison to set the scene for us. Now, listen out for this notion of protective security, because it’s going to become really important.

Alison Wakefield: Now, ideally, security isn’t just an organisational cost. You can see how it, it might well be. And, in the age of cyber security threats, you know, that that’s become a fast developing multi-billion dollar global industry. But security should also be about helping organisations grow and develop in accordance with their mission, vision, and objectives, and factoring in the security considerations as early as possible. So that it kind of covers off those dimensions at the earliest stage rather than identifying them later on when money’s been invested.

I actually really like the terminology of protective security that’s used by the UK Government security profession, and also counterparts in the Australian and New Zealand governments. They break the area down into physical, personal information and technical security. And so I like the clarity and precision around this when the sector is not always as effective as it could be in conveying its scope to outsiders.

Chris Moriarty: I think that’s the thing, isn’t it? If you ask most people in the street about security, they’ll probably come up with more obvious visual examples that we’ve already touched on, like shoplifting and CCTV. But the reality is it’s much, much more than that.

Andy Donaldson: Because security means different things to different people. And, you know, security is often viewed as an end state. You know, security is about guards. It’s about locks. It’s about CCTV cameras. When it’s [in its] true form, protective security is about the mitigation of risks stemming from those people that could wish us harm. My name’s Andy Donaldson. I’m Head of Security for a company called Real Estate Management, UK Limited.

Chris Moriarty: So Andy here is talking about the mitigation of risk, which I think is a really interesting pivot from, I guess, more reactive security, which would have to respond to a crime or something like that. So almost a scientific approach of assessing risk, mitigating or reducing it, and then managing it, constantly making assessments and planning accordingly.

Andy Donaldson: And that harm could be in the form of, you know, conventional, traditional criminals or terrorists or hostile state actors, or a range of things. And protective security is about the identification of those threats. And with threats, what you’ve got to understand is it’s one word, but it’s made up of two key components, and that is somebody’s intent to do something and whether or not they’ve got the actual capability to do what they would like to do.

And once you’ve understood those components of threat, you’re then talking about how vulnerable you actually are to that threat, and that vulnerability management process is actually risk. Once you’ve identified your risk and you have assessed it, you’ve then got to look at the vulnerability and what can you do to reduce, uh, the chances of you getting caught up in something bad?

And that is what protective security is about. It’s about the application of measures to reduce, reduce your vulnerability.

Ian Ellison: Now in one way, that feels like a simple proposition. Identify risks, remove them, stay safe. But the complexity of those risks, and their constant evolution, means that this requires a ton of expertise and constant updating. Just think about the world of cyber security, something that Alison highlights.

Alison Wakefield: Corporate espionage, which are increasingly common at a time of considerable and growing cyber security risk, as well as geopolitical tension. It shifted the balance of risk assessment because cyber security threats are featuring very highly on corporate risk registers and hence that rapid development of the cyber side, which is almost, well, I guess it has dwarfed physical security now.

So those of us that came into the sector with more of a physical security orientation are being dragged into those areas.

Chris Moriarty: It’s mind blowing really – but imagine if you had to think about that for one of the most complex buildings in the UK. Remember when Andy introduced himself, he said he worked for Real Estate Management UK Limited, REM. What he didn’t mention is what buildings they’re looking after. So, Andy…

Andy Donaldson: So we have a multi-billion pound portfolio that includes some of the most iconic buildings in London. Included in that is The Shard.

Ian Ellison: Wow.

Chris Moriarty: Right. So most people will know what we’re talking about when we say The Shard, but just in case you weren’t aware. The Shard, 95 stories high, the tallest building in Western Europe, but what goes on inside might not be so familiar to everyone.

Andy Donaldson: It’s first important to kind of recognise or at least not have a go at defining of what The Shard is, because it’s an important part of REM’s portfolio. It’s not the only part, but it is significant because we want to be a beacon for modern London. That’s what we provide. And it is internationally recognised as part of the London skyline.

So it is a significant, significant building. And when you talk about The Shard or I talk about the Shard, it’s a complex environment. It has all the component parts of a city. You know, we can take the, the viewing platform, a tourist location, we can take the swimming pool, we can take the hotel, we can take the hospital, we can take the 32 businesses that are in there, the bars, the restaurants. There’s so much, and it’s all the component parts of a city, but instead of being layout on the ground, we go up in the sky. We’re co-located with London Bridge underground station and London Bridge railway station as well, so two key transport hubs that are responsible for moving millions of people around as well.

So there’s so much with, you know, the words of The Shard. What do we actually mean by The Shard? It is another city within London. So, we want people to live, visit, work there safely and with confidence.

Ian Ellison: Now, we’ve been to The Shard a few times, Chris, particularly on the back of this project, because Mitie are one of those 32 businesses that Andy mentioned there. And whilst I know that there’s airport-style security at the entrance to the building, as a visitor I’m never really aware of much more than that. Yet it sounds like Andy has a huge amount on his plate with the diversity and significance of the different spaces that he needs to keep safe.

Chris Moriarty: Not only do Mitie occupy one of those floors, they also work with REM on providing not just boots on the ground, but also all those intelligence services that we mentioned earlier to help Andy and his team keep that complex building safe and secure. And do you know what, Ian? I’ve got a little treat in store for you. I got my clearance and I’m off to visit The Shard to go behind the scenes of their security operation. Now, a quick note to listeners. As you can imagine, this is sensitive stuff, so you might find us talking about something that we haven’t fully described. Well, that’s deliberate. Remember, we said Andy has to assess and reduce risks. Well, that also includes gobby podcast hosts coming in and describing secret rooms and tools. Anyway, off to The Shard.

Andy Donaldson: Welcome to the Shard. We’re currently in one of the access points into the building that a lot of people use. As you can see here, it’s particularly a busy day round about lunchtime. We’ve got people coming in and heading out. For those people who visit us here coming in, you’ll go through airport-style security. Security at the airport are looking for certain things. We’re looking for certain things here. So there’s certain items, certain weapons, certain things that we don’t want coming into the building to help keep people safe. And that’s why people go through the metal detector that you can see and any belongings are put through the x-ray machine there.

You can see the human security guards that we’ve got here, supported by some great technology. So if you start looking around, you can see this great open plan space with numerous CCTV cameras deployed. Those CCTV cameras aren’t monitored here, they’re monitored in the security control room. So, we can take a walk there when you’re ready.

So what we’ll do now is break away from the open access. And we’re going to pass through a number of security points that will get us to our security control room here at The Shard. So if you just hold on here for a second.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah…

Andy Donaldson: So I don’t want to go into the sort of finer details of where the control room is actually situated, but you can see that we’re taking up a room there at the moment. This is one of the most important parts of the building, protected by a number of levels of physical security.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Andy Donaldson: Can you just take a seat in here? I’ll be back in a second.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, no problem. So I’ve just been left in what looks like a boardroom, but I have a feeling it’s going to turn into an episode of CSI or something.

Andy Donaldson: So we are now in what is called the incidents room here at The Shard. So in the event of a critical incident, a serious incident, this is where our command team would relocate to. And at this point, I’d just like to get your first…

Chris Moriarty: Wow. Another quick listener note here. At this point, the room didn’t have any windows, just a couple of screens. But with a click of a button, Andy revealed the security room. Wow.

Andy Donaldson: I guess just to kind of explain, we’re in one particular room and that room is separate by screen that we have some control over. So whilst you’re not in the control room at the moment, you’ve got a view into it.

Chris Moriarty: I’m in a Hollywood set now – like some sort of Bond movie. I mean, so we’re looking at two dozen different screens. I guess they rotate and can be reconfigured to whatever you need to look at. There’s a team in there with lots of monitors. There seems to be like, there’s lots of lights and data. So this is, I mean, there’s very little that can go on in this building that you can’t be monitoring, right?

Andy Donaldson: That’s it. And we have this divide in there as well. And that’s for a command team not to get in the way of an operational response. So I’m one of the few senior leaders within the organisation that can actually access the control room when I need to. Everybody else involved in our gold, silver, bronze structure – that’s the framework that we respond to incidents for – they stay in here so they do not get in the way of the, of the guys and girls who work in there getting their job done. And that’s dealing with whatever incident it is.

Everything’s duplicated in here so we can have that live feed put specifically into this room for the command team. In the main room you can see that the team’s working. They work 24/7, and they’re specifically selected and trained for the job of staffing the control room. What you’re looking at is ‘Mission Control’ for The Shard.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Andy Donaldson: So we have our duty manager in front of us at the moment, and they fulfil the bronze commander role. So over a 12-hour period, they are the first port of call for any incident that happens. And we have an exceptional, exceptional team working here at The Shard. You can see how we integrate into some of the shared building management systems with, um, with the retail arcade, which leads into London Bridge Railway Station.

Chris Moriarty: Where I had my lunch.

Andy Donaldson: Also Transport for London with the London Underground. We have hundreds of CCTV cameras here. We base our external cameras upon a plan. So, we bring in specialists from the Police and Government. They say to us, ‘If we were going to spy on The Shard, this is where we’d spy on it from.’ And that forms the basis for our external CCTV coverage, how we build that into our external patrols with the security personnel that you see walking outside around the building, and our relationship with our neighbours. So, you know, if somebody is acting suspiciously, or acting in a way that you’re not comfortable with, certainly directed towards The Shard, then please let us know. And that is just amplifying existing messaging from Action Counters Terrorism and counterterrorism policing. But there is some science behind why we have the cameras set where they are. So there’s certain cameras that are set to alarm if somebody walks in front of them.

Chris Moriarty: I see that. So just detecting motion flags – oh that doesn’t look right.

Andy Donaldson: Exactly, you know it’s somebody in an area that they could potentially not meant to be in, or only a limited number of people are allowed into. So we have a number of security guards who are here 24/7 and some dedicated to internal patrols. So, our guards can, within minutes, get to any aspect of the building. They know the place inside and out. To spend time with them twice a year, I’ll spend a full 12-hour shift with the duty manager and they walk my feet off.

And the internal patrol officers, they know every shortcut and the quickest route from point A to B, as possible within the building.

Chris Moriarty: Andy gave me a much wider tour and actually made me walk up loads of stairs, kept getting me to look down stairwells to see how high we were, and showed me the viewing platform. But the real star of that visit was the control room. I was just totally struck about the complexity of it all. It genuinely, genuinely felt like I was in the middle of a Hollywood thriller, looking at all those cameras and data points. There is so much information coming through, some of it from Mitie’s Intelligence Security Operations Centre, the ISOC, alongside real-time information in the building. And it’s constant, never stops, 24 hours a day.

Ian Ellison: Agreed. And I actually caught up with one of Mitie’s security experts to understand just how complex things have really got.

Emma Shaw: So my name is Emma Shaw. I’m the Managing Director for Intelligence Services for the Mitie Intelligence Services team. I started my career in the Army. Eighteen years old I joined the Military Police, which I did for a number of years. And then I moved on there to UK Government, and that’s really where I learnt my craft around intelligence, risk, and covert work investigations.

Ian Ellison: So obviously Emma can’t tell us much more than that about her past roles, but she did help me understand how the changing world around us, the stuff we see in the news, is driving security operations to adapt. It’s why Andrew and his team are constantly innovating and pulling intelligence from a whole host of different feeds.

Emma Shaw: The whole face of the security industry has had to change because of that macro environment, because of world events. You know, whether it is counter terrorism, whether it’s espionage, there’s a whole raft of different activities, criminality. You know, growth in terms of online data, and the security around protecting data, and not just in the physical form, but as I say, within the cyber data form as well.

So, significantly everything has changed over that. When I think back about my early part of my career, you know, in the Army, you know, we were dealing with terrorism. And so, obviously whilst that has changed shape and changed a lot over the years, you know, it forms part of terrorism, there are different countries, different organisations, different levels of extremism. And that changes and adapts.

Chris Moriarty: What I’m starting to hear come through is the underlying theme of The Science of Service Podcast: this world where we bring forward experts like Andrew, like Emma, who have real world experience, and in this case, quite extreme experience. And we bring that experience into corporate environments, particularly high-risk locations. But all of the work is underpinned by technology. So, Andrew mentioned all the cameras and the motion detectors, but then went on to explain to me how his duty managers have an intimate knowledge of the location, the quickest routes to certain points of the building. So it’s science and service together again.

Ian Ellison: So it’s convergence then?

Jason Towse: Convergence is really where you start to bring the security that people deliver together with, um, where you then start to leverage technology and the evolving or developing technology, whether it be CCTV, whether it be data analytics. You can then start to think about bringing cyber security into the discussion as well, but really starting to deliver very different outcomes for customers.

My name is Jason Towse and I’m a member of the group executive at Mitie, responsible for Business Services.

Ian Ellison: Now, Jason is part of Mitie’s leadership team, responsible for all the business services, which include a number of things, but I think it’s safe to say that security is his core competence. He’s a member of a number of committees and advisory boards and even picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Outstanding Security Performance Awards in 2020.

But that said, unlike a lot of people in the sector, he hasn’t come from a Police or military background. So, what we get from Jason is a balance between security expertise and commercial awareness.

Jason Towse: For us, it’s really about bringing value to our customers and making sure we’ve got the right answers and helping them set their security strategy and framework for their businesses. And we don’t always answer a customer’s question how they want us to answer. Sometimes we’ll challenge their thinking, which means we will develop a very, very different response to what risks we think the customers are facing.

Chris Moriarty: Now, of course, this is about keeping people safe, but it can’t come at the expense of experience, right? Like with Andy and The Shard, we need to make sure the environment is safe. But go too far and you start having a negative impact on people’s experience of The Shard.

Ian Ellison: Absolutely. So it’s a question of balance. I think you probably saw that when you visited The Shard. I’ve certainly experienced it when entering the building. It’s clearly secure, but it’s not cumbersome or overwhelming. And that’s in a building that houses around 9,000 people on a daily basis.

But imagine if you were responsible for a space that needed to achieve airport levels of security with 33 million people moving through it every year. And all of your security processes had to fit within the length of a swimming pool.

Matt Rogers: My name’s Matt Rogers and I’m the Head of UK Security for Eurostar International. I’ve been at Eurostar now for 10 plus years.

Ian Ellison: Now, Matt here gives us another key thing to think about.

Matt Rogers: You’re protecting property, people and assets, as well as reputation. Reputation is massively important, I think, as well. And that’s something that we don’t always consider.

Chris Moriarty: That’s interesting, because I guess a major incident at a train station could have a negative impact for months, years even, when people are deciding how to travel.

Ian Ellison: Right, just take the 9/11 attacks. It took years for the aviation industry to slowly recover to pre-9/11 levels of business.

Chris Moriarty: But also, while safety is paramount for Matt, I guess he still has to make sure that people’s experience is as smooth as possible. No one wants to start a trip with a painful trudge through security. We want to get through as quick as possible.

Ian Ellison: Exactly. And as I hinted when I introduced him, Matt talks about the Eurostar process in comparison to airport security.

Matt Rogers: If we use aviation as an example, you go through check-in. You put your bags in, you check this in, you do this, you do that. And you’ve probably got about half a mile worth of distance that you’ve covered. Our area is you go through check-in, you go through your x-ray security checks, you go through your exit check, and then you go through Police Affrontier – all in the length of a swimming pool.

So, in order to facilitate that, we have to be very smart in what we do. We’re on about shaving seconds. Moving 20,000 people through dedicated areas is very challenging whilst maintaining your compliance and your standards and your customer delivery. Departures hall holds 2,500 people. Our trains hold 900 people. Three trains on the trot, all within the space of a certain time frame. And five services within an hour and 10 of each other, we’re already at capacity. So that’s why we are very different to that aviation sector, because we don’t have the luxury of space and retail outlets and all the others. We are literally getting them in, out, up on the platform, get on the train and move on your way.

I think we move 27 to 32 passengers per minute through our environment. So, getting that right is really difficult, as well as getting the customer service delivery.

Ian Ellison: Okay, so turning again to Jason, he’s actually worked closely with Eurostar for a number of years.

Jason Towse: Probably 15 to 16 years now, and I’ve seen Eurostar move from Waterloo Station across to St Pancras. And actually there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes at Eurostar. We’re working now to really help develop some of that x-ray baggage screening environment, to deploy our unique Merlin 24/7 Protect system, which allows us to log incidents and information and data that we find during any working day – any operative finds during any working day. That then helps us make some different decisions and informed decisions about how we might want to change our security posture at Eurostar.

And when you’re in Eurostar, you’re then crossing international soil, you’re crossing into French soil as soon as you walk through the barriers at Eurostar. So we’re having to understand the, the idiosyncratic ways of how other countries can operate. We are also providing the significant levels of we call operational intelligence, to Eurostar.

We provide that real-time intelligence through our Intelligence Security Operations Centre to Eurostar as well. So, it’s really is a multi-layered approach to providing security Eurostar, and many of those things would not be obvious to anybody just traveling through on their ticket, I guess.

Chris Moriarty: So, we’ve got another example of our recurring theme: technology paired with expertise. And again, we can hear how much of that sits behind the scenes, allowing people to go about their daily activities.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, and talking about behind the scenes, Chris, during my discussion with Matt, I got you an ‘All Access’ pass to Eurostar. So, I know you just got to explore the Shard, but you’ll have to grab your mic and head back into London, I’m afraid. You’re about to go behind the scenes at London St Pancras International.

Chris Moriarty: So, just arrived at St Pancras. Busy day in the office. Uh, just heading off now to meet Matt. Hi Matt, how you doing? So, are we able to, where are we able to go?

Matt Rogers: Through the, go through the search area if you’re, if you’re okay with that?

Chris Moriarty: Perfect, yeah, yeah.

Matt Rogers: We can see what the team do.

Chris Moriarty: Right, that’s us on the other side. So, this is step one, right?

Matt Rogers: Yeah, well we’ve gone through step one in theory, you’ve just gone through your pass check there. No one who comes into the area can come in unless they’re either hosted by someone who has an authorised pass, and then otherwise a passenger. But things that you’ll notice, we’ve just gone through archways using x-ray machine tech, dual screen technology. And then we’ve got explosive trace detection systems as well as a secondary source of indication.

We’re different again in terms of people bring their whole luggage through. So, we don’t separate.

Chris Moriarty: Of course. Yeah. Yeah. There’s nothing going to the hold, right?

Matt Rogers: Exactly. So, what you’ll notice is that the trays that we’re using on these, uh, are regular hold ones. So you’d see these in airports. However, obviously our bags that we’re using, or bags that passengers are bringing through, are decisively larger. So therefore, we, through our uniqueness again, had to have a separate tray return system built and designed.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, yeah.

Matt Rogers: The different trays to be, uh, designed and put through that are robust enough. Passengers are able to lift their heavy bags up onto the conveyors.

Chris Moriarty: So with the, with the slight change in luggage, does that, does that slow things down? Because sort of thinking it through with aviation, you’re probably going to sling a holdall and your laptop down. But quite feasibly, people are going on a two-week trip to wherever, right?

Matt Rogers: You know, people are taking a lot of stuff away, you know. And, that’s, that’s really challenging.

Chris Moriarty: And we’ve got to get them through.

Matt Rogers: We’ve got to get them through. We know that, you know, the average passenger uses 2. 3 trays. Business passengers 1. 9 – that’s seasonally adjusted because people take their coats with them.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Matt Rogers: All those things, so we know that that changes, that that’s a variant to us. We’ve got to get, get our conveyor belt continuously moving. You do not want to stop the conveyor from moving. That’s our objective, detecting our stuff, but keeping that conveyor. So, what we need to do is to encourage people to put trays back, because if they don’t, the conveyor comes to a stop, and then we’ve lost time. On our old x-ray machines, many moons ago, doing our, our, research on it, we identified that over the course of an hour, we stopped the conveyor for 15 minutes per hour.

So by having a tray rejection system, tray return system put in place, we then made an improvement of 25 percent, which is a massive improvement on throughput, from our perspective.

Chris Moriarty: Because of scale again, right? Because of the, like, the, I mean, how many hours are you open? Is it 24 hour, or is it just short of that?

Matt Rogers: You know, 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning till 8 o’clock in the evening. We’ve still got arrivals coming in later than that, but our last departure is around about half past seven, eight o’clock.

Chris Moriarty: Right. So that’s a lot of 15 minutes when you stack it up per machine. So 25 percent savings, huge.

Matt Rogers: Yeah, absolutely. It all adds up. And that’s why we’re always looking to shave seconds along the line. It’s about shaving seconds.

Chris Moriarty: Does it make the boat go faster though?

Matt Rogers: Yeah, and it’s not always as easy as, oh, we’ll open up more machines. I’ve got 11 machines along here, one being the staff one. So, 10 machines for public use. For passenger use I can’t go and open up another bank of areas of 10 machines. We’ve just got to be smarter about how we do things.

Chris Moriarty: In amongst all of this amazing technology, we met a couple of the Mitie team and Matt shared some insights about the power of people working alongside this technology.

Matt Rogers: These are two of our top performers, to be quite honest, in terms of communicating to the customer, to have all this stuff ready and go to the right booths and the right elements, and they’ve been phenomenal. And you’ve only been here for how long now?

Mitie colleague: I’m here about one year.

Matt Rogers: Which is actually quite new. It is quite new. Our turnover here is lesser than any security site I’ve known. I think our turnover is around about 2 percent retention rate, which is phenomenally low. So, we’ve got a lot of people who are quite dedicated and loyal to Eurostar themselves. So they, they, they kind of stick with us. So to get new people is quite rare, but they’ve been top guys.

Chris Moriarty: Matt then took me to the VIP section which, again, was a real interesting blend of technology and people in creating a safe, secure, but smooth experience.

Matt Rogers: He’s bringing some premium product for us and um, we wanted, rather than having a dedicated team associated to it, we’ve brought in Chrissie to act as the host from the security element.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Matt Rogers: And Chrissie’s done an amazing job over the last six years. Getting to know all the regular passengers, making sure the standard’s there, and people pay a premium for this ticket.

Chris Moriarty: So, this is where, so, in effect, a kind of a first class experience, right? I’ve either got lots of money, or I do this a lot, that I just wanted it to be smoother and all the rest of it. So, this is really where that, that balance of hospitality and security kind of flips, flips a bit more the other way into more hospitality.

Matt Rogers: Chrissie’s done a phenomenal job here, and, a very valuable member of the team. Yeah, and made the job your own, haven’t you really? Yeah. You’ve done great.

So the area we’ve got here at the moment is our Smart Check dedicated lane. This is where we’ve been trialling innovative facial recognition software that links with your ticket and the exit check systems.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Matt Rogers: It’s an incredibly intuitive and very, very useful piece of kit. We’re still trying to promote it more and more. But we’ve had to, well, we dedicate the lane. Because, effectively, what it does is it takes out that section there. So, you’ll go through your check-in area. You pre-register, you do your facial.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. Is that something you do at home? Like, when you’re buying your tickets?

Matt Rogers: Absolutely. You pre-register on that system. But you arrive, it immediately recognises your face. You come through the security checkers as ordinary, and then you’re literally fast tracking through to the police frontier, who’s our French border control operatives down there. Just takes out the exit check element from that one, which is the UK data collection exercise that we have to do on behalf of the Home Office.

Chris Moriarty: So, when you say the exit check system, is this where passports and stuff have become digital? So, there’s a kind of a digital record of my passport photo?

Matt Rogers: Yeah, so they implemented exit checks, which actually allows us to swipe and take the data, the data collection from every passenger travelling out of the country.

Chris Moriarty: So, with Eurostar, not only are we talking about security at an organisational level, but we can see here how the technology we’re dealing with can inform national security too. It’s extraordinary.

Ian Ellison: You know, what was really nice there was the team you met towards the end of the visit. You can tell there’s this blend between customer hospitality and security. But if you consider that alongside the explosion of technology, you start to see a really exciting sector to get into. And, remember Professor Alison Wakefield from the start of the show? Well, she thinks that this could also help make it a much more diverse sector as well.

Alison Wakefield: I think that combination of the interest in criminology and then the backgrounds that our students have, is really ideal for a sector that’s often talking about equity, diversity and inclusion, but still has challenges. You know, particularly in certain dimensions of security, in recruiting that breadth.

So, it’s a chance for me to help create new graduate opportunities, but also contribute with this, with a supply of graduates that they may not have thought of. So, I’ve worked with two of the major universities delivering security courses, and now at West London, have a partnership with Linx International, which is now part of Mitie, in the delivery of an MSc in International Security and Risk Management. The fact that we didn’t have a master’s degree meant that we could create one quite quickly with the expertise that Linx International, Perpetuity Arc training brought. And that’s now been going since February, 2021, very successfully.

Chris Moriarty: That’s really exciting to see that level of qualification and increasing professionalism in the sector, which certainly wasn’t the case a few years ago. What’s also nice is that this is another example of the connection between people and their expertise and the technology that supports it as the world gets increasingly more interconnected and complex.

And from what we’ve heard on this episode, this trajectory is only set to continue. So, the world of corporate protective security will need to keep evolving too.

Ian Ellison: For sure. And on that, I think we can give Mitie’s Jason Towse the last thought on this one.

Jason Towse: Delivering for me, it’s not just delivering what it says on the tin and delivering to SLA, it’s about adding value from day one. Starting to think about, OK, what’s next? And you can only do that through gathering data and delivering insights. And then when we talk about transforming, our customers don’t know everything about their business. Neither do we. But collaborating together to really start to identify what’s called the un-met need is how you can transform the future. Because, let’s face it, if we lived in a perfect world, you wouldn’t need half the security people that we deliver today.

So, the world continues to evolve and therefore demands transformation and, for me, that needs a more scientific approach than just answering the question. So, for me that’s Science of Service.

Chris Moriarty: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Ian Ellison: Indeed.

Chris Moriarty: The Science of Service Podcast is produced by The Workplace Geeks. Our dialogue editor is David Crackles and we’d like to thank Professor Alison Wakefield, Andrew Donaldson and Matt Rogers for taking the time to speak to us. For more information about what we’ve discussed on this episode, please visit

11 Mar 2024

The Science of accelerating the path to net zero


With the UK Government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050, organisations are feeling the strain of decarbonisation targets. But in the challenge lies opportunity. Ian and Chris learn how facilities management is stepping into the breach, delivering sustainable solutions to keep customers on track. Ian ventures to Halifax, where he descends three storeys below ground to see Lloyds Banking Group’s ground source heat pumps in action. And in Chelmsford, Chris learns how the archives at Essex Records Office have been made more sustainable. Across the board, data and technology are playing a decisive role in decarbonisation.

Contributors and speakers
  • Catherine Wheatley
    Catherine Wheatley
    Head of Data, Technology and Analytics, Mitie
  • Ben Finlayson - Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
    Ben Finlayson
    Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
  • Eleni Polychroniadou - Co-Founder, Sintali
    Eleni Polychroniadou
    Co-Founder, Sintali
  • Matteo Deidda - Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
    Matteo Deidda
    Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
Read more

With the UK Government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050, organisations are feeling the strain of decarbonisation targets. But in the challenge lies opportunity. Ian and Chris learn how facilities management is stepping into the breach, delivering sustainable solutions to keep customers on track. Ian ventures to Halifax, where he descends three storeys below ground to see Lloyds Banking Group’s ground source heat pumps in action. And in Chelmsford, Chris learns how the archives at Essex Records Office have been made more sustainable. Across the board, data and technology are playing a decisive role in decarbonisation.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Catherine Wheatley
    Catherine Wheatley
    Head of Data, Technology and Analytics, Mitie
  • Ben Finlayson - Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
    Ben Finlayson
    Director for Property, Investment and Delivery, Essex County Council
  • Eleni Polychroniadou - Co-Founder, Sintali
    Eleni Polychroniadou
    Co-Founder, Sintali
  • Matteo Deidda - Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group
    Matteo Deidda
    Senior Sustainability Manager, Lloyds Banking Group

“Ultimately it all comes down to data and understanding all of your assets across your estate.”
Ben Finlayson, Essex County Council

Episode links

Mitie’s Net Zero Navigator 2024

Mitie’s Net Zero Maturity Benchmark

Decarbonisation, Delivered brochure

Mini-guide to COP28


Episode 2: The science of accelerating the path to net zero


  • Chris Moriarty
  • Ian Ellison
  • Catherine Wheatley
  • Prad Pandit
  • Ben Finlayson
  • Matteo Deidda
  • Eleni Polychroniadou

Chris Moriarty: Climate change. Described by the United Nations as the crisis of our time, you’d be hard pressed not to see a daily reference to it in the news we watch, listen to, or read. Extreme weather events around the globe and protests in the streets of major cities act as a daily reminder of how critical this topic is. And this is a reason that organisations and governments alike are coming together to map out solutions. But it’s not straightforward. Research has shown that 89 percent of sustainability initiatives fail – an outcome that can’t continue as ambitious targets are set and financial reporting becomes increasingly dominated by sustainability and broader ESG metrics. And to the role of buildings, some estimates state that the built environment accounts for 40 percent of annual global CO2 emissions, with the operation of buildings accounting for 30 percent of global final energy consumption.

In a 2022 report on the status of buildings and the construction in the context of climate, the UN said that in 2021, construction activities rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels in most major economies, alongside more energy intensive use of buildings, as workplaces reopened but hybrid working remained. And in addition, more and more emerging economies are increasing their use of fossil fuel gases in buildings. Often through necessity rather than choice. As a result, buildings’ energy demands increased by around four percent from 2020; the largest increase in the last 10 years, which has meant CO2 emissions from building operations have reached an all-time high.

But the fight back is on.

Organisations are backing up their promises with fundamental changes to their operation in the pursuit of achieving net zero. Armed with the latest technology and a clear desire for action, these organisations are making demonstrable reductions to their carbon footprint. It’s a combination of technology and data, behaviour change, creativity and clear and concise planning. And we get to see how they’re doing it. This is a story of how organisations are taking on the climate emergency.

This is the Science of Service.

Hello and welcome to episode two of the Science of Service Podcast, brought to you by Mitie. I’m Chris Moriarty.

Ian Ellison: And I am Ian Ellison.

Chris Moriarty: And we are the hosts of the Workplace Geeks Podcast, and you join us on a journey of discovery as we take up Mitie CEO Phil Bentley’s invitation to explore the stories of how organisations are using the very latest technology and combining it with human endeavour to make radical changes to their organisations. And today we explore how this relates to the pursuit of net zero.

Ian Ellison: We’ve already heard about the impact of buildings and their operation on the climate, but the reality is that we need buildings. So how do we make sure that we’re limiting their impact, making better use of them and being more efficient with the energy that they consume? So to answer this question on this episode, we’ve spoken to a number of different experts.

Chris Moriarty: Indeed we have. On this episode, we have building sustainability experts.

Eleni Polychroniadou: Talk about climate in business as a good business decision. And it is a good business decision, and there’s a lot of financial reasons why companies need to do something around climate change.

Chris Moriarty: We speak to a high street bank.

Matteo Deidda: I’ve always put lots of focus on the behaviours and really bringing colleagues on the journey.

Chris Moriarty: A UK county council.

Ben Finlayson: But ultimately it all comes down to data and understanding all of your assets across your estate.

Chris Moriarty: And the team leading Mitie’s commitment to carbon net zero.

Prad Pandit: And there is no green premium to pay because you became sustainable. Actually, the sustainable option is the cheaper option.

Chris Moriarty: So, I’d say this is a topic that I have a surface knowledge of. I get that we need to do something. By we, I mean the big we. I do my best to do my bit. But if we’re going to move the needle, it feels like we’re going to have to do so much more.

Ian Ellison: Absolutely. We’re talking systemic change here, and you won’t be alone, Chris, in feeling like the topic can be overwhelming. So, I reckon what we need to get us started is an expert – and one who absolutely knows their stuff, but also explains what we need to be doing in really pragmatic, achievable terms.

Eleni Polychroniadou: So my name is Eleni Polychroniadou. I am the co-founder of a company called Sintali, which is a global environmental verification company, which, if you translate that into what I call human speak, just means that we figure out whether buildings and companies are meeting sustainability credentials, they’re meeting international frameworks, and if they are as green as they say they are.

There’s a lot of greenwashing out there, so we’re trying to be that voice of truth and bring credibility to a lot of work that’s happening around the environment.

I’ve always believed that you can combine business with doing something for climate change because it’s such a systemic issue. I think about how I can use my position in business and my growing network to really change minds and really inspire people to do things about climate change because as one person, I definitely can’t do it all. But if I think about all the people that I’ve met around the globe, all the people working on buildings, all of the owners, all of the developers, the architects. If everybody did something, then we would be in a much better situation.

Ian Ellison: So, you can probably hear already that Eleni speaks both from her heart and her deep-seated conviction to the future of our planet, and also her mind. Not just her knowledge, but also the recognition of community power when it comes to sustainable change.

Eleni Polychroniadou: Talk about climate in business as a good business decision. And it is a good business decision, and there’s a lot of financial reasons why companies need to do something around climate change. But there is also a moral imperative and ethics seem to be, um, a bit pushed to the side when we’re talking about business. And I want to challenge that and say, you know what, it’s good for your business and it’s also the right thing to do and you should be doing it. When it comes to sustainability, there are many different ways of looking at it. I tend to always come back to the triple bottom line, which means people, planet, economy. And the best way that I can describe it is decisions or companies or products – if they are doing something negative into one of those three categories, then they’re not sustainable. So that’s quite a negative framing, but it essentially means that if you have, for example, a business that’s doing something really great economically and really great for, um, service several stakeholders, but it’s really polluting and damaging the environment, it’s not sustainable. But you can also flip that and say, if you have something that’s really green, really sustainable, but it’s creating a company to go bankrupt, that’s also not sustainable. So if you flip it on the positive side, it’s about value creation, about creating positive value for people, for the environment, the nature, the world that we live in, which is where the resources come in from, and then also our economy, because it’s all linked together. And I think historically, we see things as silos.

Ian Ellison: So, we’ve already got two of my pet obsessions here: systems and silos. And what I mean by this is that everything’s connected, but we usually try and solve business problems by acting like they’re not.

Matteo Deidda: My name is Matteo. I work for Lloyds Banking Group, in the sustainability team. I look after anything that is related with the environmental impact of Lloyds Banking Group’s own operation. So, anything that comes from our offices, our branches, our data centre in terms of carbon emissions, energy, water consumption, waste, biodiversity and so on. Anything that you do on those sites, you almost always need to balance the energy efficiency, the sustainability and all this great stuff, with actually the fact that colleagues are working there every day, that colleagues, that the customers are using that space every day.

Ian Ellison: The reason we’re now talking to Matteo is to see how the sort of changes Eleni says are so essential can actually work in practice.

Matteo Deidda: It’s a very diverse portfolio because some of our buildings are hundreds of years old. Others are modern places. Others are very small branches in remote communities. So it’s a very, very diverse type of, uh, type of portfolio.

Ian Ellison: Now this isn’t Matteo’s first rodeo. He’s been in and around sustainability in some form for about a decade now.

Chris Moriarty: So, I bet he’s seen a lot of change in that time.

Matteo Deidda: I think the conversation has evolved a lot over the last 10 years. The conversation was a lot about energy management. We talked a lot about pounds and we talked a lot about kilowatt hour. Fast forward 10 years, the conversation, at least for what I see it, is all about net zero.

Eleni Polychroniadou: One of the reasons that we’re seeing so much action around climate, and seeing companies take it more seriously, is because the financial institutions are driving change. So, if the financial institutions hadn’t said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to finance you if you don’t have certain criteria,’ I don’t think we would be where we are today.

There’s been a huge change in the last two years maybe, of a lot of pressure from regulation on banks, on funds, et cetera to say you need to be funding projects that are driving the net zero transition. You need to be funding only green things. You need to be increasing the portion of green lending that you’re doing, et cetera.

Ian Ellison: So, what we’re saying is that society broadly is motivated to do something, even if, like you said, Chris, sometimes it struggles to know what to do. But organisations are fired up to make change, not only because of that groundswell of motivation, but also because the business system is changing. Drivers are increasingly incentivising this through different mechanisms, like Eleni said there about ESG.

Chris Moriarty: Now I’ve heard about some of these financial instruments that are pushing organisations more and more towards doing more and more. Models like the ESOS scheme.

Catherine Wheatley: So you think about the ESOS scheme, which is basically where every organisation has to look at what’s going on and put forward recommendations for how to make it better, to financial disclosures around carbon impacts. There’s a lot of things that are happening in that space and they’re becoming more and more relevant from both sides, from both the public and internally to the business.

Chris Moriarty: So I popped into Mitie’s HQ in the Shard in London and went searching for someone in the know and I found Catherine.

Catherine Wheatley: I’m Catherine Wheatley, my job title is Head of Data, Technology and Analytics. But what that actually means, is in the Plan Zero space in Mitie, I look after all the data sets that we have and see how we can use them to help our customers, stakeholders, colleagues decarbonise. Lots of Mitie customers are on that journey at different spaces and they might come to us at very at the very beginning of that journey of ‘Look, we’ve got a problem. We need to work out what on earth our carbon footprint is and we need to create a plan and we need to work through that plan to get there.’ Or very often, ‘We’ve done a lot of stuff, how do you help us to get to the next level?’

Essex are a really good example of that in the sense that they have been a customer for a long time and they’ve gone out and thought, ‘Actually, what on earth can we do about our environmental challenges?’

Chris Moriarty: I asked Catherine to introduce me to the team at Essex County Council, so I spoke to Ben.

Ben Finlayson: My name is Ben Finlayson. I’m the Director of Property Investment and Delivery at Essex County Council. So, my role is heavily related to property and construction, but I’m also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Council’s property estate, as well as a sale, lease and purchase of property. Essex County Council is what we call an upper tier local authority. It has a really diverse, broad role to play in Essex, providing around 80 percent of the services received by the residents in Essex. Clearly to deliver those services, we also need a wide range of assets and also to deliver new construction projects, and that’s kind of where my role feeds into it. We’ve actually got a total of 1,412 assets, and they’re all spread out all the way around Essex. And we have, you know, a huge diversity in terms of size, age, and function of those properties. We have everything from really small libraries to our main County Hall office, which is capable of holding three and a half thousand staff.

Trying to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, that’s a real challenge because some of our buildings are Victorian and some of them are brand new. We’ve got outdoor education sites, park and rides, we’ve even got a records office and warehouses. So, all of the different types of buildings that you can, you can probably imagine, uh, we’ve got on our portfolio and, you know, targets to try and take those towards a net zero position by 2030. But what we’re having to do is look at our broad range of estate and actually commission all of those surveys to go and actually have a look, see what each building needs to get to that net zero position. We fully appreciate that some buildings that’s going to be really difficult.

So what we’re looking at is rather than necessarily creating net zero for every single building, it’s having that average position. But ultimately it, it all comes down to data and understanding all of your assets across your estate. Uh, the Essex records office is a good example, because that’s actually one where we’ve done a lot of work on transforming it to net zero.

Ian Ellison: Now that record office sounds really interesting. It’s a legacy building, it’s got ancient records, it’s got a closely-managed climate control environment, and they’re power hungry. We’re also thinking about public access into the building. It doesn’t sound like the easiest project from a sustainability team perspective.

Chris Moriarty: Indeed, I thought it was interesting too. So, do you know what I did?

Ian Ellison: Did you go on a road trip?

Chris Moriarty: I went on a road trip. So, I popped down to Chelmsford to meet Ben and have a look around the archives…Hi, how you doing? I’m here to see Ben Finlayson…Chris Moriarty…Hello Ben, how you doing?

Ben Finlayson: This is County Hall.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Ben Finlayson: This is our main office building.

Chris Moriarty: Right, so what should we do then?

Ben Finlayson: So, we’ve got Essex records office, which is a little bit of a walk away. Uh, we’ve got Martin Astell, who is the manager of that site. Who’s going to meet us there at 11:30.

Chris Moriarty: Hello.

Ben Finlayson: Ah, Martin, how are you doing? Good to see you.

Martin Astell: Sorry I’m late.

Chris Moriarty: That’s all right. Martin, I’m Chris. Nice to see you. How you doing?

Martin Astell: The records that we’ve got here are from centuries past. So the oldest document that we’ve got here is from before the Norman Conquest. Most of the collection will be from, you know, the medieval period onwards. So we have to be able to look after things from, you know, from the 14th century up to stuff that’s coming in yesterday.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Martin Astell: The basic way to look after things, so for all the stuff that we keep on paper and on parchment, if you keep it in the right temperature and humidity conditions, in boxes, protected from light and various other things that can damage it, then you can be fairly confident that it will last for centuries.

Chris Moriarty: Right. Wow.

Martin Astell: So it’s very important to stick within particular temperature and humidity and very important that you maintain them at a steady level. What you want to avoid is fluctuations.

Chris Moriarty: Right.

Martin Astell: So, uh, yeah, kind of a specialist building for, for a special, special reason.

Chris Moriarty: Really cool.

Martin Astell: So, we’re now in the back areas. So this is a restricted area. Members of the public aren’t allowed in here unaccompanied. We’re in, we’re now in the cube, where the records are stored. And there are a number of these repositories, um, where, um, things are kept in, uh, mostly in acid-free boxes. You can see those green boxes down there, our acid-free boxes. This one holds a lot of our map material. So either in these kind of flat chest of drawers.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah. Wow.

Martin Astell: Or rolled or in boxes.

Chris Moriarty: So, we’ve got a sense of how power hungry this building is and rightly so. But we are here to look at how Essex County Council are taking on this challenge using technology and by having the least amount of impact on the environment. So, Ben invited me upstairs.

Ben Finlayson: Obviously, we have all the solar panels on the roof, which we can go up and have a look at.

Chris Moriarty: Oh, yes, please. Do you know, this is my first time in a proper plant room?

Ben Finlayson: There you go. And this is quite a substantial one.

Chris Moriarty: Isn’t it?

Ben Finlayson: So, you can see what these are all generating. 14, 000 watts on that one. 14, 000 on that one, 20, 000 watts.

Pranay Kavathekar: It’s not so much about the sun, it’s just the light, because it’s just the photons and stuff that it activates.

Chris Moriarty: That is the most scientific thing we’ve heard so far. I love that. It’s the photons. I’ll wait till I tell Ian that when I get back.

Chris Moriarty: So that was Pranay, who works for Mitie and has been working really closely with Ben on this project. We’ll come back to Pranay later. But when we came down off the roof, we popped down into reception and had a quick chat and it was there that Ben really explained to me the system that they’ve put together at Essex County Council.

Ben Finlayson: We’ve degassed this site effectively. So there’s no more gas requirement for this site. So, everything we can purchase to, to fuel this site is, is electricity. And you can, you can get electricity from sustainable sources.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah.

Ben Finlayson: We’ve got solar panels on the roof, they’re providing a part of that. The rest, if we buy that from a green source, so wind or other solar. And effectively this is a carbon zero site.

Chris Moriarty: Wicked. And that’s where the, the pump comes in, right? In terms of getting you off, get off gas, do what you can on your site to generate your own electricity. And then, whatever the shortfall is, get it from a sustainable source.

Ian Ellison: Now that’s fascinating, because so much attention is on these new so-called smart buildings when it comes to sustainability technology and so on. So, it’s great to hear how organisations can think about retrofit too. And do you know what? Eleni agrees with this.

Eleni Polychroniadou: I think there’s been a lot of attention on new build, as opposed to retrofit, because it’s a lot easier when you’re starting from scratch to design something that’s better for the environment. What I’m seeing is, there’s a lot of interest in retrofit, a lot of interest in existing buildings, but people are still really hesitating to get involved because of several barriers. One is it’s obviously a lot more expensive to deal with an existing building. You have limitations, you can’t…You don’t want to knock it down because that obviously has a much bigger environmental impact. So then you have the limitations of the size, where it’s facing, certain materials. So you have to be a little bit more creative in what you can do, which again might increase the cost. And then there’s also tends to be issues of ownership. So, where somebody might have a tenant and a landlord relationship, you might be looking at green leases or regular leases, and who has the control to be able to make the changes. There’s quite a lot in the retrofit element. It is a huge segment.

Ian Ellison: So it’s clear that retrofit sustainability improvements can be even more challenging than new buildings. But not impossible. And Matteo has got a cracking example of this at one of their brand headquarters up in West Yorkshire.

Matteo Deidda: We’re just completing our first ground source heat pump in our Halifax building, which is absolutely fascinating. Together with Mitie, we dug two holes, boreholes under the building, which are the same height as the Shard. And under the building there’s lots of water. And we’re using this water to preheat and pre-cool the building throughout the year. I mean, it sounds simple, but it’s been like two years in the making, uh, to, to get to this point. And, I’ll probably say that you, you don’t know until you start drilling, you actually don’t know what you’re going to find there. So, there were days where perhaps Mitie will go through 20 or 30 metres in one go, and others that will go down half a metre because they found a concrete base or whatever.

Ian Ellison: So, Chris, you’re not the only one who’s been out on the road.

Alan Bark: My name’s Alan Bark. From Sheffield. I’m the site manager for Mitie. The main thing that I’m here for is QHSE, so it’s the quality, health and safety, to make sure it’s done. Normally we hand over, we hand the job over that’s fit for purpose and it looks nice.

Ian Ellison: It’s a majestic building. It’s astonishing, isn’t it? It’s like a jaw dropping in the centre of this beautiful old mining town, isn’t it, essentially?

Matteo Deidda: Yeah, it is, it is one of the biggest, biggest buildings in town as well. That’s your borehole, because basically, so, what happened is that this building used to be a brewery.

Ian Ellison: On this site?

Matteo Deidda: On this site. So there is like a water table underneath the building, which is quite, quite prominent. So how this work is pretty much that this water stays the constant temperature throughout the year. So, we’ve got two boreholes. From one borehole we extract, and from the other borehole we re-inject. They are, so what we do is, uh, this temperature stay, let’s say, at 12 degrees during the year. So, during the summer, outside is 30 degrees, we take this water, we use it to kick off the cooling of the building.

Ian Ellison: So in layman’s terms, ground source heat pump technology takes the edges off at both extremes. It gets you up when it’s cold and gets you down when it’s hot.

Matteo Deidda: That’s right. We don’t add or make anything to the water. We just extract the heating from it. But the volume of water is always the same that that just a little bit cooler, a bit a bit warmer. We worked a lot with a hydrologist to understand what was the water table underneath the building before we started.

Alan Bark: The feedback from the Calderdale Council, which I found right interesting. It turns out that Halifax is a unique area with the mountains and the groundwater, it’s got the sandstone, et cetera.

Ian Ellison: Right, right.

Alan Bark: The hospital’s only a mile away down there. The hospital are going to put their own in. They could link them together and put a district heating main in.

Ian Ellison: So, have they been learning from you then? Essentially, you’re a prototype for Calderdale to do this from a public sector perspective?

Alan Bark: And then Calderdale’s going to be the guinea pig for the rest of the country.

Ian Ellison: It’s an art of the possible projects in some ways, isn’t it?

Matteo Deidda: Yeah, and for us, as I said, it’s a massive project. It’s a massive milestone, because one of the things that we have pledged to do is to remove the use of gas from our estate.

Alan Bark: The main reason for doing it originally isn’t about money, it’s about carbon footprint.

Ian Ellison: Yeah.

Alan Bark: That’s the main reason for doing this building. The carbon footprint of this building is horrendous.

Matteo Deidda: 10 percent of all the gas is used in this building.

Ian Ellison: Of the whole LBG estate?

Matteo Deidda: Of the whole LBG estate.

Alan Bark: It’s about making the environment for the people that live in Halifax better.

Ian Ellison: We’ve come down a metal spiral staircase.

Matteo Deidda: So, this building is like an iceberg. The bit that you see outside on the street is as big as the bit that you don’t see.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, it’s like an empire, this building.

Matteo Deidda: It’s like a wooden…

Alan Bark: We’re down in minus three, which is the bottom of the world. There’s, uh, squash courts.

Matteo Deidda: And the first time I came visiting, the squash court was flooded. Which I thought, this is a really good way, indication that the ground source heat pump may work.

Ian Ellison: I wish we were videoing this. This is like a journey to the depths of the unknown. It’s brilliant. It’s like 10,000 leagues under the building. So we’re just coming out of level three now. This is the lowest level?

Alan Bark: Apparently, if you think this is walls, and I tried to joke about it being walls. Seven foot.

Matteo Deidda: These are, these are the heat pumps. So, this one is basically the water. So it’s almost like the water from the boreholes come in here and then we use it from here. On one side of the system, you have the building, and then on the other side of the system, you have the water from the boreholes. So they never really touch, they just exchange heat.

Ian Ellison: So now a massive, automated, galvanised steel, three metre high, gateway is opening. So this is what a plant room properly sounds like. Oh my word, so these are, these are the boilers?

Alan Bark: Yeah, yeah.

Ian Ellison: So these are what, you said 1972?

Alan Bark:1972, that’s what they tell us. They were built locally.

Ian Ellison: Gentlemen, I think that’s amazing. Thank you.

Chris Moriarty: Right, recap time. We’ve established that everyone is keen to make meaningful, positive change. Whether that’s because of a sense of duty, financially motivated or both. And whilst it’s clear that new buildings are perhaps easier to keep sustainable, we’ve just heard about two examples where legacy buildings can be retrofitted. So that’s great. But is it still fair to say that overall progress is slow? If we want to, and can do this, why aren’t we moving faster?

Ian Ellison: Well, I’ve got my own views. We probably all have. But truth be told, I’m not qualified to answer that, but Eleni certainly is.

Eleni Polychroniadou: So, I think the best next step for everyone is to get involved in the green building space. And the way to do that is through accessible information. Historically, there’s always been leaders in the space that are doing incredible things and producing beautiful buildings and the rest of the developers, the owners, the tenants, the landlords have been left behind. And a huge element of that has been communication and access to information. So, I think having that information to be accessible and allowing people to get engaged, is going to be the way that we get more built environment professionals involved.

Chris Moriarty: Now, I hear that, and the importance of communication was something that Ben spoke about at Essex County Council.

Ben Finlayson: There’s a very big piece of work that’s going on in Essex that’s led by our, by our climate team, really, around that communication piece. And, um, the work that the Climate Commission have done with Essex to one, set that ambition, but also then to communicate that and for Essex to be making those kinds of statements around taking its core estate to net zero by 2030.

We do a lot of work with schools as well. And one of the things with schools is you’ve got a really good opportunity to get in there with the kids and the kids then take that message home to their parents. So, when we’re delivering big school projects, we’re trying to really get the kids to understand those projects, why they’re being done. Look at all of these solar panels on the roof. Look at these graphs, guys. This is, this is what, this is what these solar powers are doing. This is how much of your energy it’s now offsetting. And they take that message home to their parents and, and really start sowing the seeds for parents doing, doing similar projects.

Ian Ellison: Yes, indeed. And on this, Matteo also seems to agree.

Matteo Deidda: Throughout my career, I’ve always put lots of focus on the behaviours and really bringing colleagues on the journey. But I think that where we are, certainly on the Lloyd’s journey now, and especially if we talk about energy reduction, then I think the technology side of it is much more powerful than the behaviours. And I’m also mindful that in particular, our colleagues in branches, they are extremely busy. They are really full-on from when the branch opened to when the branch closed, they are full-on with customers. I’ll just say, so I think like behaviours are absolutely essential, but I’m really keen that we sort of don’t overload colleagues with that responsibility when there is still so much that we can do from a technology perspective in many angles.

Chris Moriarty: So that’s the hearts and minds piece, which is critical, but this is the Science of Service. Surely we’ve got to hear about some tech? So, I asked Catherine about her role and it turns out it’s about technology – but as a mechanism to unlock better data and insights.

Catherine Wheatley: Technology generally, you know, has been established for a long, long time. You know, 10, 15 years ago, I was looking at heat pumps. We’re still talking about them today. Solar panels have been around for a long time. Some new things like electric vehicles, which are a lot more recent, but generally in terms of a building space, that’s relatively consistent. In terms of data and information that I can tell you about, that is really, really critical. So data should inform your decisions, but we live in a world where people are really hungry for data and then easily get overwhelmed by it. So therefore, what data I would want if I was a board member, making a decision about – ‘Is our carbon strategy working?’ ‘Is it helping us to achieve our goals?’ ‘Are we on track?’ – is very different to the level of information I would want if I was a building owner, or a budget owner, or in charge of an area or a group of people. I’d say from the data point of view, carbon is now a boardroom issue, but carbon is not necessarily very understood in general public terms, and I think people understand that carbon is bad. But if I said an organisation was using a million tonnes of carbon as its carbon footprint versus 50, is that good or bad?

So it’s trying to put that data in terms that people understand, so they become familiar and they don’t drown in the fact that the carbon intensity or the carbon footprint of a place is something they know what their carbon footprint is, they know at a senior level where they’re trying to get to, wherever that might be, and monitoring their steps along that path.

Chris Moriarty: Now, funnily enough, I experienced this at the archives with Ben and Pranay. Pranay took me to one side to show me a real-time app that was sucking data straight from the solar panels on the roof.

Pranay: All right, so we’ve got schools as well as all the core sites. So when we choose…

Ben Finlayson: That’s the kind of shows you the extent of the solar installed.

Chris Moriarty: Yeah, there’s a lot of sites there.

Pranay: Absolutely. So right now you can see from the general, from the solar PV is like 86 kilowatts coming in and then it goes into the site and then whatever is there’s some excess, is going to the grid as well. So like 6. 9.

Ben Finlayson: We are fully self-sustaining right now. We’re producing more energy than we are using in this building. We’re giving, we’re giving 60 kilowatts back to the grid.

Pranay: So it gives you the breakdown of yearly production, monthly production, so that, that data gets sent across to ECC.

Chris Moriarty: So right now, the sun is powering this building.

Ben Finlayson: And actually this building’s got quite a high demand of energy for its size because of the nature of what we’re doing here. So it’s using 80 kilowatts. Having a picture in one place, where we can make really informed decisions about our assets. What’s providing us with value for money? What isn’t providing us with value for money? Why isn’t it providing us with value for money? All of those kinds of things. And make tweaks and changes as a result of that. So there’s some quite easy quick wins as a result of that just purely around utilisation of energy.

Chris Moriarty: So there’s data for reporting, but what we’re seeing here is data that informs in-the-moment operational decisions. But I can’t help feeling that ultimately money is the issue. Are organisations going to release the purse strings?

Ian Ellison: Well, Matteo is actually quite optimistic about this bit.

Matteo Deidda: If you asked me the same question 10 years ago, I would have said, oh, yeah, the struggle is always getting the funding and convincing the board and trying to get the senior stakeholders and make these to the top five priorities. Now it’s the other way around.

Now, this is probably on the top three priorities. And the question is, how can you do it faster? How can we do more? How can we do it better? So there’s always like this growing and growing, growing expectation, and rightly so, about how will organisations transition into what to this sustainable future.

Prad Pandit: What the Lloyds Banking Group team have done is, you know, if you see their presentations or their business cases, it’s really fascinating. It has very few words. Uh, it has few numbers because it talks about the economic return of the case and a load of pictures. So, demonstrating before / after pictures. Because when you’re engaging senior execs, and asking them for a few million pounds to do something, uh, bringing that to life is quite a challenge itself. And I think sustainability professionals who can communicate that simply will get those approvals for their good business cases, right?

Ian Ellison: Aha, new voice. Who’s this then?

Chris Moriarty: This, Ian, is Prad.

Prad Pandit: I’m Pranyumna Pandit: Prad, the Managing Director for Decarbonisation and Sustainability Services at Mitie.

Chris Moriarty: Now he’s Mitie’s sustainability guru. He actually makes a really interesting point here about the impact of the pandemic on the momentum of change.

Prad Pandit: One of the things the pandemic collapsed was suddenly it was easy to have senior leaders meeting because they don’t need to be in the room together, they will have available on teams. So, the whole pace of business could accelerate.

Chris Moriarty: But he also thinks we can do even more.

Prad Pandit: We have to be bolder about making those business cases. And making people aware that by spending this money, and making it available, you can actually reduce the cost of your operation. And there is no green premium to pay because you became sustainable. Actually, the sustainable option is the cheaper option.

Yes, it requires capital and upfront, but the running costs are actually cheaper. If you don’t have a sustainable building, if you don’t have a plan and you don’t have great actions behind that plan, you’re not a good employer in this war for talent. No one wants to join a company who does that. So there’s a people, your investors are giving your CFO a hard time every time they go for a meeting with them.

So, you know, your HR person is going to support you. Your finance person is going to support you. Everybody is going to support you, but you have to bring that case forward and be bold about it. Let’s take the example of Essex County Council, because that’s an excellent example of how to get ahead of the curve.

So, all these wonderful stories and impact that you see today is a result of starting quite early, where they started small, but strategically. So, it was almost three and a half years back when they started with a day a week of allowing Mitie to partner in a sustainability conversation around how they should look at their energy footprint, carbon footprint and their built estate.

And because they had planned ahead, they knew the projects they wanted. They were able to get quickly in the queue and get some extra funding very early. So one of the early beneficiaries of that programme, uh, and that really kicked it off. And when they saw that success, then, you know, they were always ahead of the curve. They always had their list of projects. They always had their vision for the prioritisation of their projects. And they always went in.

Chris Moriarty: So, I wonder if that means that if we didn’t get an early break, you’re always going to be doomed to catch up?

Ian Ellison: Well, I think you need to be really mindful of the risk of thinking like this, because it can actually give you an excuse to not do anything. And so, another way to think about this, and Eleni also makes the point, is that it’s not all about bold business plans.

Eleni Polychroniadou: There are so many easy wins. There are so many low-hanging fruit that everybody can do, that don’t require tonnes of investment, that don’t require tonnes of time. But if we could all do some basic elements, then that baseline of where the building stock is today would truly increase in a much more meaningful way than if we only have a select group of leaders that are doing incredible things and the rest of us are just waiting for regulation to change.

Chris Moriarty: Right. Now, I think Prad actually said the same thing.

Prad Pandit: One of the things I feel that things are not moving fast enough is because regulation is not strong enough. It’s not like health, safety and environment. It’s not the safety regulations. You can’t go to prison because you did something wrong for the environment. So it’s not punitive enough and it’s not clear enough and it’s not mandated hard.

Chris Moriarty: So there you go, Ian. We’ve covered the why and the how. We’ve talked about winning hearts through communication, and minds through data, and driving change by combining both. We’ve looked at extraordinary projects on unlikely buildings and we’ve been told to be bold.

Now earlier I said that Prad was the Mitie sustainability guru and I do not use that word ‘guru’ lightly. He not only knows his stuff, but I’ve never met someone so positive about what we can achieve, and so able to articulate it in a way that makes you want to stick on a cape and save the world. Listen to this.

Prad Pandit: What is beautiful is sustainable and eternal. We want to ensure eternity, right? Everybody wants to be happy for eternity. If we could, all of us would. So, I think when you build a sustainable business or a sustainable organisation or a sustainable planet, it’s about building something that outlasts the builders, that outlasts everything around, and is harmonious with everything in it.

I dream, or I aspire, would have aspired to be a poet. And, uh, poetry is about economy of words and to use less to make a big impact. The reason we have to be careful is because when we use such words, you get tainted by the stereotypes of tree huggers and soft and all of that. But actually, the hard fact is that sustainability has become a technology challenge.

We really have to remodel the engineering, the technology, the way energy is generated, used, stored, and build in the next 30, 40 years to replace something that’s been built for the last hundred years, right, of electricity.

Ian Ellison: Yeah, but you can still see why people get overwhelmed with this. It feels too huge to comprehend and it’s uncomfortable.

Chris Moriarty: Look Ian, I think whenever we’re faced with a sustainability dilemma, we have to think, what would Prad say? So Prad, this all feels so big and uncomfortable. How do we cope?

Prad Pandit: Every change has a level of discomfort and a slight value of despair before you come on the other side. And I think as there have to be some generations who have to take that transition. Now, we just happen to be born in the generations or we’re growing up or whatever, living our lives in a generation where who is going through this transition.

Ian Ellison: A really good way to think about this challenge is by using a neat little idea called the value action gap. It basically says that when it comes to new sustainability practices, what we say is important – so what we say we actually value – it isn’t reflected in our behaviours or in our actions. And the only way to get past this is to face up to this reality and do something about it. So, in other words, less talk. And more action.

Chris Moriarty: So that brings us to the end of our episode on net zero. And I think it’s only right that we give the final thoughts and the final words to Prad.

Prad Pandit: Seize the moment. You know, this is our time to contribute. It is about protecting our planet for the next generation. It’s our planet and we must do everything we can, with a lot of enthusiasm, and be activist in our actions, actually. No need for pessimism and optimism. Take action and, yeah, protect our planet for future generations.

Chris Moriarty: Wow, I’m off to fetch my cape.

26 Feb 2024

Introduction to the Science of Service


When Mitie’s CEO, Phil Bentley, invites hosts Ian and Chris to learn how the UK’s leading FM company is handling industry disruption, they jump at the chance. On a trip to Mitie HQ in The Shard, they hear how facilities management has morphed from mops and buckets to drones, HoloLens glasses, proptech, artificial intelligence and more. This transformation is reflected in Mitie’s Science of Service approach.

Contributors and speakers
  • Phil Bentley, CEO at Mitie
    Phil Bentley
    CEO, Mitie
  • Maria Winn, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitie
    Maria Winn
    Chief Marketing Officer, Mitie
  • Cijo Joseph, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Mitie
    Cijo Joseph
    Chief Technology and Information Officer, Mitie
  • Jeffrey Saunders, CEO at Nordic Foresight
    Jeffrey Saunders
    CEO, Nordic Foresight
  • Antony Slumbers, consultant at Space As A Service
    Antony Slumbers
Read more

When Mitie’s CEO, Phil Bentley, invites hosts Ian and Chris to learn how the UK’s leading FM company is handling industry disruption, they jump at the chance. On a trip to Mitie HQ in The Shard, they hear how facilities management has morphed from mops and buckets to drones, HoloLens glasses, proptech, artificial intelligence and more. This transformation is reflected in Mitie’s Science of Service approach.

Read more
Contributors and speakers
  • Phil Bentley, CEO at Mitie
    Phil Bentley
    CEO, Mitie
  • Maria Winn, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitie
    Maria Winn
    Chief Marketing Officer, Mitie
  • Cijo Joseph, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Mitie
    Cijo Joseph
    Chief Technology and Information Officer, Mitie
  • Jeffrey Saunders, CEO at Nordic Foresight
    Jeffrey Saunders
    CEO, Nordic Foresight
  • Antony Slumbers, consultant at Space As A Service
    Antony Slumbers

“The benefits of AI ultimately are going to be about creating autonomous buildings. Now an autonomous building is a building that is self-monitoring and self-optimising.”
Antony Slumbers

Episode links

Accelerating Facilities Transformation whitepaper​

The Science of Service story​

The Science of Service (video)


Episode 1: Introduction to The Science of Service


  • Chris Moriarty
  • Ian Ellison
  • Phil Bentley
  • Maria Winn
  • Jeffrey Saunders
  • Antony Slumbers
  • Cijo Joseph


Chris Moriarty 00:00

What if I told you there’s a trillion dollar global industry right in front of you, that you’ve probably never even considered? In fact, there’s a very real chance that wherever you’re listening to this, in some way, has been influenced or impacted by it. The factories, hospitals, schools, shopping centres, stadiums, airports and offices, up and down the country, and throughout the world, are what they are, because of the huge collective workforce that designs them, operates them, maintains them and services them, each and every day. So what is this industry? We’re talking about facilities management.


Steelcase intro 00:41

Facilities Management is a very specialised function, which takes care of the management of facilities.


Chris Moriarty 00:51

An industry right under our nose, but one that doesn’t get the same recognition and attention as other industry sectors. It was there on the frontline throughout the pandemic, shoulder to shoulder with the healthcare, social care, education and key services staff. And now, as the world changes around us, and things that we’ve taken for granted are challenged from every direction, this sector is starting to reinvent itself to one that is focused on a new world of work: tackling the climate agenda, revolutionising health and hygiene, and tackling increasing security challenges. All of this driven by cutting-edge technology, and mountains of data, which come together to shape a brand-new digital era. This is the story of an organisation leading that charge. This is the Science of Service.


Chris Moriarty 01:48

I’m Chris Moriarty.


Ian Ellison 01:49

And I’m Ian Ellison.


Chris Moriarty 01:50

And we’re the hosts of the Workplace Geeks podcast. But today, we’ve got something slightly different for you. Our story starts a few months back, when we received an email from the team at Mitie, the UK’s largest FM service provider. And they were particularly excited about something they called the Science of Service. They invited me and Ian to come and take a look at it and see what it was all about.


Ian Ellison 02:10

So, as you said, Chris, this sector is all around us, but often goes unnoticed. But, just for example, consider a hospital. Without the work of support teams and organisations like Mitie, there simply couldn’t be any modern, hygienic healthcare. So, in this context, it’s business critical, even though it isn’t remotely medical. So, it feels like something still needs to change in terms of the awareness and reputation for it to really shine.


Chris Moriarty 02:37

So, with all this in mind, we headed to London, to the world-famous Shard building, within which is Mitie’s head office, to talk to their CEO, Phil Bentley, and the team, about the work they’ve been doing, and how they think it represents the next chapter for this industry giant. Now, he’s been there six years, having brought his experience from other business sectors. So, his take on facilities management as an industry in that time is quite an interesting one. And what’s even more interesting is where his focus is for the future.


Phil Bentley 03:03

And in that time, six years, we’ve been on a journey, and the way I look at it, we’re trying to move from a very much undifferentiated price-led offer to something that clients really value, and drive a longer term relationship with us. And I think, since I joined initially, we talked about ‘Beyond FM to the Connected Workspace.’ And now we’re moving more into facilities transformation. But from the start of the journey, I always said there’s three things that I fundamentally believed in. One is that we work best with our clients when we collaborate. Two is that our people give their best when we show them that we care – and we have a lot of people, we have 68,000 colleagues. And the third thing we laid out was that technology was changing our industry.


Ian Ellison 03:52

Okay, so the obvious question then is what their clients really value.


Chris Moriarty 03:56

But that’s not straightforward, particularly for an organisation that has clients across a wide range of sectors who will be focusing on a wide range of things. But Phil says there are definitely common themes: things that all organisations are wrestling with, and they feel more fundamental, part of a wider shift in the landscape.


Phil Bentley 04:12

I think all boards are dealing with inflation, cost of living crisis, energy prices and this whole point about net zero, decarbonisation. So sustainability, and what I call the footprints you leave on the sand as you walk along the beach, you know, what sort of footprints are you leaving as a company? And I think that goes to some of the social aspects of running a business. So, have you got apprenticeships and labour availability? And what’s the impact of migration? Are you supporting the local communities? So, I think that’s definitely something everyone’s thinking about.


Chris Moriarty 04:45

But then Phil touches on the core of our story.


Phil Bentley 04:48

You know, I think technology is really changing the ways of working.


Chris Moriarty 04:53

Now Ian, before you put your evidence hat on, because I know you love a good bit of research, I spoke with Maria Winn.


Maria Winn 04:59

I’m the Group Marketing Director here at Mitie.


Chris Moriarty 05:03

She also spoke about the challenges being faced by organisations and, in particular, the role of technology in that mix. So, her team commissioned a piece of research.


Maria Winn 05:11

What we wanted to know is some of these things we’re doing have a bigger impact than just: ‘We monitor things,’ and, ‘We can tell you how efficient it is.’ It’s actually impacting the way people work, behave, how they feel. And that’s what we wanted to explore in a bit more depth. So, we asked Jeffrey to have a look at the trends and to do some interviewing with our client base to sort of extract what’s the bigger themes here? What are the bigger ideas that all of this can contribute to helping?


Ian Ellison 05:36

Okay, so this is Jeffrey Saunders.


Jeff Saunders 05:38

I’m the CEO of Nordic Foresight, and I help organisations understand the dynamics of change in their strategic environment, and how they can position their operations, relationships with clients, and things like that, to take advantage of those changes.


Ian Ellison 05:53

So, Jeff is an experienced researcher based out of Copenhagen in Denmark. And he’s done some brilliant work for various public and private sector organisations over the years, in and around the changing dynamics in the sector. Now, I spoke to Jeff about this work, because I was keen, from a research point of view, to understand how he went about it, what themes this interview research showed, and what he thought it meant, not just for facilities management, but also for organisations more generally.


Jeff Saunders 06:20

First it was understanding, kind of, how is the workplace experience transforming, you know, under Covid, through Covid and after Covid? And then it evolved into a broader conversation, because the facility management industry is dealing with a lot more challenges than just the workplace experience.


Ian Ellison 06:38

So, Jeff goes on here to describe some of the challenges that Phil mentioned around net zero, the impact of the war in Ukraine, different supply chain issues, and so on. But perhaps the most important point was not only the wide range of challenges, but also the pace of change and facilities management’s role within it.


Jeff Saunders 06:58

A lot of the things that FM is dealing with, that’s coming front and centre in the board room, these have been accelerated, not only by the pandemic, but also by other challenges that are occurring in the environment.


Chris Moriarty 07:09

So what does he mean by other challenges?


Ian Ellison 07:11

Well, we’ve spoken about the wider and more obvious ones. But there’s also a very particular one that Jeff pointed to, that actually has the potential to impact all of them. And that’s the fundamental shift in how people now work and how organisations are reacting to it.


Jeff Saunders 07:27

So, you had some that were very much advanced on new ways of working, or hybrid working or distributed working, however you wanted to describe that pre-pandemic. So, for them, it was not a radically new thing to transition to this. And so, they were just saying that, ‘We have kind of control, what the scale of it is, and what percentage is working, we’ll figure that out. But this is not stressing us.’ Then you had others that were inexperienced with it, had never done it before. And they’re thinking about, well, ‘How do we do the change management process? What do we need to do in that?’ Those are some discrete challenges.


Ian Ellison 07:59

So, whilst we’re keen to talk about the general shift to remote working, what was clear is that different organisations, and different sectors, are at different stages. So, taking all of that into account, we can see what Phil was describing at a more granular kind of level. But again, what’s clear is both the need and opportunity for better, more enabling facilities management, that sits at the heart of all of it.


Chris Moriarty 08:23

Now that feels complicated and big.


Jeff Saunders 08:24

The facilities management industry can’t think about this as incremental changes. Think about this as transformative change.


Chris Moriarty 08:30

Okay, so that sounds like good news. But are we saying that facilities management is solely responsible for solving all of this?


Ian Ellison 08:36

Well, of course not. The future of work is as much about the people and culture of organisations, as much as it’s about the spaces and technology of work. But the key to this is how we blend all of those things together and how they cross over and interact with each other in support of the business.


Chris Moriarty 08:53

And it feels to me that technology, and by that I mean huge leaps in technology, are beginning to power those opportunities. And if we’re going to talk about buildings, assets, property and technology, there’s definitely one person that we can call on.


Antony Slumbers 09:05

I’m Antony Slumbers, and I teach the ‘Space as a Service: The trillion dollar hashtag’ online course.


Chris Moriarty 09:12

Now, Antony is well known to many in and around the sector. He’s spoken around the globe, has a famous podcast, he’s a prolific tweeter. And he’s often outspoken about the potential missed opportunity that the wider corporate real estate sector faces should it not embrace technology properly.


Antony Slumbers 09:28

It is undoubtedly true that the real estate industry has been a slow adopter of technology. You know, it’s fair to say if you compare us to the financial industry, we’re 10 years, 15 years, behind.


Ian Ellison 09:39

So, what stopped them until now then?


Chris Moriarty 09:42

Well, according to Antony, there’s never really been a great incentive to because until recently, commercially, there hasn’t been a strong enough argument.


Antony Slumbers 09:49

It’s not, to be fair to the real estate industry, because they’re Luddites or stupid or behind the game. They simply have not needed to; it’s a similar feel to innovation. In a roaring bull market, you don’t need to be very innovative, because you’re going to sell everything you’ve got anyway. When times are tough, you need to be a lot more innovative.


Chris Moriarty 10:14

Now, Maria said something similar. For context, she’s only recently joined the sector from, I guess it’s fair to say, a more mature sector, technologically speaking?


Maria Winn 10:18

I think what was really interesting when I arrived was that I’d also come from a tech and telco background, where digital transformation had been on the cards for 15, maybe more years. It felt like a newer adventure here in facilities management. And yet the industry has made huge progress in the last four or five years. If you start to kind of pull that apart, it’s how you think about innovation. And innovation is really important in this industry, doing things different and looking for new ways to do things.


Ian Ellison 10:44

Right, but based upon what we’ve just heard from Phil and Jeff, if there wasn’t a good argument, there is now.


Chris Moriarty 10:51

Exactly, and that prompted Antony to say…


Antony Slumbers 10:54

So now you’re going to find the real estate industry adopting technology, more in the next 10 years than it probably has in the last 40.


Ian Ellison 11:00

So, how does Antony see technology tackling these problems? Are there specific responses to specific challenges? What, for example, do tech-powered solutions look like for net zero targets or future ways of working?


Chris Moriarty 11:14

Well, Antony has an interesting model he likes to talk about.


Antony Slumbers 11:16

I see the role of technology in the context of what I like to think of as a stool with three legs, and the three legs are: health and wellbeing; sustainability; and productivity.


Chris Moriarty 11:27

His point is that often organisations will look at all of these in isolation, distinct problems that they try and ringfence and focus on separately, because they’re tricky.


Antony Slumbers 11:36

But actually, these are three flywheels for each other. And to fix one, you actually have to fix all of them.


Ian Ellison 11:42

So the flywheel being the idea that small wins can build on each other. And over time, the momentum you gather kind of spins up, and almost powers itself.


Chris Moriarty 11:51

Exactly. And Antony, going back to his three legs, which were sustainability, health and productivity, gave us a relevant example.


Antony Slumbers 11:58

So for instance, if you need a sustainable building, a sustainable building would enable you to produce a healthy and high wellbeing space. And if you have a healthy, high wellbeing, highly sustainable space, that actually gives you all of the ingredients to create really productive workspaces.


Chris Moriarty 12:16

So it’s all interconnected. And that, I think, sits at the heart of what Mitie are trying to do.


Maria Winn 12:22

I think that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to create that platform that brings everything together, because thinking in individual lines or vectors is not going to solve the problem.


Ian Ellison 12:29

Okay, so let’s have a breather and take stock of what we’ve learned so far. We have this sector, that’s all around us. But it’s often completely invisible.


Chris Moriarty 12:38



Ian Ellison 12:39

But some of the huge socio-economic and environmental plates we’re having to spin also put it at the heart of the challenges that organisations and society, more generally for that matter, are facing.


Chris Moriarty 12:50



Ian Ellison 12:51

And in particular, technology is starting to be seen as a catalyst for change.


Chris Moriarty 12:56



Ian Ellison 12:57

So far, so good?


Chris Moriarty 12:58

I think so. But it’s one thing saying that technology and data is at the heart of the solution. But is that what organisations think? Do they see that opportunity too?


Ian Ellison 13:06

Well, that’s what Jeff’s research said.


Jeff Saunders 13:09

It was in every conversation, the role and importance of data, how to use it, and what’s the quality of the data that you’re getting in?


Chris Moriarty 13:16

Okay, so this sounds like a simple solution: jump on the technology bandwagon, plug some tech in.


Ian Ellison 13:21

Well, not so straightforward. And in his point about the wider corporate real estate sector not grabbing technology, it actually takes me back to a piece of research that we did back in 2018 for a professional body about the future of the sector. Now, this was long before Covid, around the time when lots of business areas were getting really worried about the robots coming to take away their jobs. And we interviewed dozens of people in different roles in and around the sector. Then we surveyed hundreds more professionals to understand how people felt about the sector and its future. And we found this really interesting paradox. People totally got that technology needs to underpin their future. But the data also suggested that they were nowhere near ready to embrace it from an awareness and a capabilities perspective. But they didn’t see this as a risk. And we made a strong case that this was a situation ripe for disruption.


Chris Moriarty 14:13

Disrupt or be disrupted.


Ian Ellison 14:15



Chris Moriarty 14:18

So, this reminds me that when we were putting this report together, I was speaking to Allister Frost. Now, he’s had a series of senior marketing roles at various firms, including Microsoft, and today he’s a keynote speaker on future mindsets. When I was speaking to him about this work, he messaged me saying this: ‘Facilities management will be disrupted beyond recognition. Spaces will self-manage, self-clean and self-report. Routine maintenance will be fully automated and the people the facility exists to serve will have immediate, frictionless abilities to instantly redefine it for their unique needs. Anyone who still believes that it will be the same industry, but maybe with a few more screens screwed on the wall, is dangerously out of touch.’ So, it feels like there’s a cycle to be broken. I kind of get the feeling this is a disrupt or be disrupted message, which would explain why Phil said this.


Phil Bentley 15:11

We’ve spent the thick end of 100 million quid on systems and ways of measuring data. And that’s what’s now given us the platform to move from just facilities management to facilities transformation. Because people want to know what’s really going on in the workspaces that we take care of. And technology underpins that.


Chris Moriarty 15:33

Which feels like a bold move.


Ian Ellison 15:35

Yes, but it’s one thing to put your money where your mouth is, but you also need a vision, a plan to bring this to life. And that’s where Cijo comes in.


Cijo Joseph 15:44

My name is Cijo Joseph. I’m the Chief Technology and Information Officer for Mitie. I lead Mitie’s Information Systems team and drive Mitie’s technology strategy.


Chris Moriarty 15:54

So, is this the guy that’s been given £100m?


Ian Ellison 15:56

Well, sort of, and 100 million feels like a lot of money, which, of course, is relative. But within facilities management, this is potentially game changing. However, the temptation is just to imagine a huge army of robots and drones and whatnot. But the way Cijo describes it, it’s more fundamental than that. He spoke about their five C’s.


Chris Moriarty 16:15

Okay, so I’ve got these here. We need some sort of jingle to bring this to life. So, the first C is Cloud. So this is about getting Mitie’s massive physical data centres, with their huge data lakes into the cloud, so that they can be accessed anywhere.


Cijo Joseph 16:32

We don’t have a physical data centre. We are a completely cloud-ready organisation, which is all our core applications sit in cloud. In future, any technology investment we do, we do it in the cloud.


Chris Moriarty 16:44

The second and third C’s are Convergence and Consolidation, which refer to what Cijo described as…


Cijo Joseph 16:51

Standardisation. And simplification.


Chris Moriarty 16:53

This was about getting numerous disparate systems talking to each other.


Cijo Joseph 16:56

Roughly around 30 to 40 different operational systems. Eight million data points. 63,000 assets.


Chris Moriarty 17:03

Once they were able to get everything aligned, they’re able to start building solutions on top of that.


Cijo Joseph 17:08

Claiming this data from these systems, putting your time into a data lake. Now what does it help us to do is produce the real time reporting and insight for both our operational and financial reporting. And once we knew that we could manage it, once we started managing our own operational and financial needs through these real time systems, we then built a tool on top of it called Mozaic. And we started giving to the clients.


Ian Ellison 17:37

So that’s three of the five, what about the other two?


Chris Moriarty 17:39

The other two set Mitie up for a better digital governance. So it’s Compliance, where they adhere to all the relevant ISO standards, and Cyber, where they’re able to make sure that they have the highest levels of cyber security.


Ian Ellison 17:55

So, if I was going to use a layman phrase, this is like digital plumbing, right? It might not be visible to everyone from the outside, but it means that Mitie have the groundwork in place to build out their digital future from. And that presents the starting point for their client organisations to begin addressing the challenges we highlighted earlier.


Chris Moriarty 18:14

Exactly. And that’s something we talked to Phil about when we considered what organisations wanted to know.


Phil Bentley 18:19

I want to know, if I’ve only got half the number of people going through my property on a Friday, do I need the same cleaning support? Well, I need the data to do that. If I’m thinking about my energy bill that’s shot up, what’s the most efficient way of reducing my energy footprint? And whilst everyone’s rightly exercised about net zero and climate change, when it hits you in the pocket, and your bill has doubled, and your bill used to be £5m and now it’s £10m, again, that data of how a building has been utilised, and what drives efficiency. And if I can fix things remotely without rolling a truck, as it were, and sending somebody physically there, through monitoring, then I can drive efficiency again. So, at the end of the day, clients want value. It’s not technology for technology’s sake. It’s technology that drives insights into how buildings have been used. And what’s the cost of the building, and how do we drive further efficiencies.


Chris Moriarty 19:19

Which is all good, of course, but I still can’t help it. I want to know where the visible exciting stuff is. I want to see the drones, the robots, the AI.


Ian Ellison 19:29

Don’t worry. Cijo also told us about things like HoloLens goggles that can provide remote support to field engineers from more experienced technicians in service centres. And drones to enable building fabric assessments. So, Chris, the shiny stuff is definitely there too. And there’s AI underpinning loads of it to help manage the vast amounts of data that exist in an organisation like Mitie. Think about it.


Cijo Joseph 19:50

The FM sector is rich with the data because we deal with assets and each assets generate quite a lot of data. It’s filled with lots of data, but held in different systems and held in different platforms. There is no unified way of bringing the data together and get insight out of it, or make meaningful information out of it. That’s where the data lake comes into play. There are lots of decisioning trees you can have in FM. Say, for example, starting from a simple coffee spill on your table, or having your toilets unclean, or having a roof leaking. This load of decision tree you have to go through, before you can put it into an AI. And we enable a natural language understanding tool on top of it. You can just communicate saying that I’ve got a coffee spill, I’ve got a roof leak. It will ask you some basic questions based on the decisioning tree we put in, and it will create the right job for you.


Chris Moriarty 20:43

Okay, so I may have got carried away there and put my sci-fi hat on for a moment. But Antony did have a view on the role of AI in this context.


Antony Slumbers 20:51

The benefits of AI, ultimately, are going to be about creating autonomous buildings. Now, an autonomous building is a building that is self-monitoring and self-optimising. The amount of data that can be outputted from a real estate asset is enormous. The AI is there to give the humans who are in control of the building predictions as to what might happen. You try it, you monitor it, and then you optimise for it. The most important skill is to understand enough about technology to know how you could leverage for your human purposes.


Chris Moriarty 21:28

So, of course, the key is to how this manifests itself for organisations working with Mitie.


Ian Ellison 21:32

Okay, well, Cijo described it as…


Cijo Joseph 21:35

Now what people really mean by the digital transformation, or digital enablement, is how you are bringing value-add to your business, being a disrupter or a differentiator, using technology. That’s in my dictionary, that’s the way I look at it. If Mitie, as a facility management company, using digital technology to make its cost to serve better, or reduce the cost to serve, or make it much better user experience for its clients. That’s part and parcel of that particular business. That’s part and parcel of that Mitie as a business. But if Mitie then lead in proptech…


Chris Moriarty 22:15

Antony, what’s proptech?


Antony Slumbers 22:18

Proptech is simply a meta term, an overarching term for all the technologies that can be of use within the built environment.


Cijo Joseph 22:27

That means bringing technology to enable property market into a prop tech journey, then we are becoming the disrupter and differentiator. That’s the way I look at it.


Chris Moriarty 22:37

Phil described this in more practical terms.


Phil Bentley 22:38

There are two aspects of where we really need technology. We really need to know: where are our people? By that I mean workforce management. And equally, I need to be able to manage workflow, and I need to track that as well. Because if I’ve got parts that I’m waiting, I’ve got a technicians turned up; the part isn’t there. Or I have forgotten to bill the client because I didn’t understand the contract terms, that’s all workflow and it flows from doing work and then getting paid for it. And technology, again, is giving us huge insights into workflow management. And if we get workforce management, workflow management, working, we’ll be successful.


Chris Moriarty 23:19

So there we are. We get to the heart of it: how technology is changing the way facilities management works at Mitie. Powering the workflows, the workforce, and underpinning the decisions getting made, and all of it enabling facilities management to enter a new digital era.


Ian Ellison 23:36

But I have to say, I’m impressed with the ambition and remembering that research we published back in 2018, absolutely a critical step for the sector’s future. So that just leaves us with one question then: What is the Science of Service?


Maria Winn 23:50

The Science of Service gives us a platform to talk about technology in sort of three different vectors of: How do we deliver innovation? How do we use data intelligence to do things better? And then how do we package that together to help our people do a better job and be exceptional?


Cijo Joseph 24:05

Having the right information at the right time with the right technology tool for our frontline heroes, to do their job best, and for customers to get the best value out of our service. That is Science of Service for me. And technology is a core pillar for that.


Phil Bentley 24:21

All that data is threaded from all those different touchpoints through analytical tools, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data lake analytics. It pops up with something that clients can understand. And that’s the Science of Service. We set out to be the leader in that journey. And of course, where we go, others will follow and as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing because we’re raising the standards of professionalism of the FM industry.


Ian Ellison 24:53

Right, enough talk. I want to see this tech in action.


Chris Moriarty 24:56

Well, that’s the best bit. We’ve been invited to a bunch of different businesses from all sorts of industry sectors, and they’re using this stuff in their organisations. We’ve got the opportunity to go in, speak to the people benefiting from it, and understand how it’s changing what they do.


Ian Ellison 25:12

And not only that, Phil’s invited us to a number of Mitie Centres of Excellence to witness and play with the very latest tech innovations in their research and development labs.


Chris Moriarty 25:22

Does that mean I get to wear a HoloLens?


Ian Ellison 25:24

Oh I think so. And more.


Chris Moriarty 25:26

So next time you hear from us, we’ll be right in the thick of it. Join us as we get under the skin of the Science of Service.

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Meet the Workplace Geeks

Ian Ellison has spent 25 years in the UK workplace industry. Following a senior lecturer role at Sheffield Hallam University, he co-founded 3edges Workplace, focusing on workplace education, research and consultancy. Ian co-hosts the Workplace Geeks podcast and is also co-founder of the AI-powered workplace experience insights platform, Audiem.

Chris Moriarty is co-host of the Workplace Geeks podcast and co-founder of workplace experience analytics tool Audiem. He has contributed to the workplace sector for over 10 years and is a former Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM).

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