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Knowledge Base » Business » Soft and Hard Facilities Management

Soft and Hard Facilities Management

Last updated on 24th April 2023

All commercial premises and public sector buildings require facilities to ensure that they function properly. Facilities management covers a wide range of areas including health and safety, risk, business continuity, procurement, sustainability, space planning, energy, and property and asset management.

Within facilities management, there are hard and soft services. Put simply, the hard facilities services are the fixed parts of the facilities operation that you can’t change, and the soft facilities services are the actions and services that you can change. Facilities management typically oversees activities like catering, cleaning, building maintenance, environmental services, security and reception.

Which facilities are required by law?

Facilities management is dominated by legislation, and ensuring legal and regulatory compliance is one of the core functions of facilities management. There are a range of facilities that commercial premises and public sector buildings must provide in order to comply with the law.

These include:

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that all aspects of fire safety are managed by a responsible person.
    It covers such aspects as the provision of:
    – Fire safety arrangements.
    – General fire precautions.
    – Firefighting and fire detection equipment.
    – Emergency routes and exits.
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 make legal requirements to prevent danger or prevent injury from any electrical facilities. All electrical systems must be maintained safely. This includes carrying out portable appliance testing (PAT) on all portable equipment; that is any electrical item that can be moved, for example computers, heaters, kettles etc.
    The testing must cover:
    – Visual inspection, i.e. looking for external damage as well as wiring and fuse problems.
    – Earth continuity testing and insulation testing, i.e. checking for weakness and faults.
    – The testing should be carried out regularly, and by authorised personnel only.
  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990 and The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 state that all those handling waste in some compacity are legally responsible to dispose of waste safely and in line with regulations. For producers of business or commercial waste, responsibilities include keeping waste production to a minimum, sorting and storing waste safely, and ensuring the use of the services of a compliant waste carrier.
  • The Workplace Health, Safety, and Welfare Regulations 1999 set out the minimum standards for workplace facilities and apply to the majority of businesses in the UK.

An employer’s legal obligations in some areas of workplace welfare are based on the number of people they employ.

Toilet and washing facilities

Employers need to provide a minimum number of accessible toilets and washbasins depending on how many members of staff they employ, for example:

For mixed use or women only:

  • 1-5 employees – One toilet and one washbasin.
  • 6-25 employees – Two toilets and washbasins.
  • 26-50 employees – Three toilets and washbasins.
  • 51-75 employees – Four toilets and washbasins.
  • 76-100 employees – Five toilets and washbasins.

For men only:

  • 1-15 employees – One toilet and washbasin and one urinal.
  • 16-30 employees – Two toilets and washbasins and one urinal.
  • 31-45 employees – Two toilets and washbasins and two urinals.
  • 46-60 employees – Three toilets and washbasins and two urinals.
  • 61-75 employees – Three toilets and washbasins and three urinals.
  • 76-90 employees – Four toilets and washbasins and three urinals.
  • 91-100 employees – Four toilets and washbasins and four urinals.

(Source: Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Toilets must be adequately lit and well ventilated, and provided with:

  • Soap.
  • Hot and cold running water.
  • Hand drying facilities, such as an electric dryer or paper towels.

Male and female employees should have separate toilet facilities, if possible, but if not, each toilet must be located in a separate room that is lockable.

The needs of those with disabilities must be taken into consideration and appropriate toilet and washing facilities provided.

For employees working remotely, for example on temporary sites, or where there is no water supply, portable toilets and suitable water containers should be provided.

Toilet facilities must have soap, hot and cold running water

Changing facilities

Some businesses may need to provide employees with facilities to change from work clothes or uniforms. A sufficient number of separate, private changing rooms have to be available for men and women, plus additional space in which to dry dirty or wet clothing. Showering facilities are also needed if workers deal with hazardous materials, or if their work is unhygienic or particularly labour intensive.

Changing rooms should:

  • Be readily accessible.
  • Contain, or lead directly to, clothing storage and washing facilities.
  • Provide seating.
  • Provide a means for hanging clothes, for example a hook or peg may be sufficient.
  • Ensure the privacy of the user.

Drinking water

The law requires the provision of drinking water:

  • It must be free from contamination and is preferably from the public water supply; bottled water dispensers are acceptable as a secondary supply.
  • It must also be easily accessible by all employees.
  • There must be adequate supplies taking into consideration the temperature of the working environment and types of work activity.
  • There must be cups or a drinking fountain provided.

Rest facilities

Regulations state that employers should provide additional welfare facilities if it is reasonably practicable to do so, and these might include a place to rest, eat and drink. For pregnant women and nursing mothers, where reasonably practicable, it is a legal requirement to provide a room for pregnant women / nursing mothers to rest or lie down.

It is also a legal requirement to ensure that all the above facilities are kept clean and in good condition, and that there is always an adequate supply of toilet paper, soap etc. Employers are required, by law, to either display the HSE approved law poster or to provide each of their workers with the equivalent leaflet.


Legally, lighting levels must be at a level so that employees and visitors can move around the working environment easily and safely. Additional lighting may be required for workers carrying out computer-related tasks, with electric lighting often providing a boost to natural light where needed.


Employers are legally required to provide a well-ventilated workplace. An employer will need to review what work and activities are being carried out in different areas of the workplace to assess the ventilation requirements as every organisation will have varying requirements. Employers must carry out a systematic assessment of all rooms including changing rooms, toilets and rest areas, which are often forgotten and can be poorly ventilated areas. Where air conditioning is used, under the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations 2007, air conditioning systems must undertake regular energy inspections.

A well-ventilated workplace is also essential to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. Ventilation in the workplace should be assessed and improved alongside other measures to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus.


During working hours the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be reasonable; however, there’s no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures, although guidance suggests a minimum of 16ºC or 13ºC if employees are doing physical work, but there is no guidance for maximum temperature. The law requires that employers keep the temperature at a comfortable level.

A clean workplace

Employers are required to ensure that the workplace is clean, that there are appropriate waste containers and that floors and traffic routes are free of obstructions.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to support disabled employees. The definition of reasonable is dependent upon the size and type of the business concerned.

Facilities for employees with a disability could include, for example, but are not limited to:

  • Ramps.
  • Creating wider access routes around the building.
  • Audio-visual fire alarm systems.
  • Disabled toilet and changing facilities.
  • Adjusted workstations.
Ramp for wheelchair access

Soft services

Soft facilities services normally consist of the services that facilitate the day-to-day function and cleanliness of a business and usually comprise some aspect of staffing.

Soft facilities services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Car parking.
  • Catering services, including vending machines and water dispensers.
  • Cleaning services.
  • Decorating.
  • First aid.
  • Grounds maintenance.
  • Landscaping.
  • Pest control.
  • Reception.
  • Security.
  • Waste management.
  • Workspace management.

Hard services

Hard facilities services relate to the physical structure of the building and can’t be removed. They directly affect the safety and welfare of employees and visitors and, as such, are required by law.

Hard facilities services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Building maintenance work.
  • Fire safety.
  • Furniture.
  • Gas equipment.
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC systems).
  • Inspection and testing of mechanical and electrical assets such as lighting or fire alarms.
  • Plumbing.
  • Refrigeration.
  • Security equipment and CCTV systems.
  • Toilet facilities.

There can be overlaps between these soft and hard services. An example is security services – the hard aspect involves the physical security infrastructure, and the soft aspect involves staff, training and procedures.

How to decide which facilities you need

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to selecting facilities. What works for one business may be counter-productive for another, so you need to assess the individual needs of your organisation at the present time, while bearing in mind the potential future needs of your business as it grows.

It is important to consider the size and type of the building. Small buildings or single office suites won’t need such a large range of services; however, larger buildings and business estates may require a broader array of facilities.

Factors that are useful to consider include:

  • Is the service central to the operation of the facilities?
  • Is the service required by or regulated by law?
  • Would there be a liability or a loss if the business failed to provide this service?
  • Is the service relevant to the operations?

Which soft facilities a business chooses to implement is much more dependent on how the organisation wants the business to run and the kind of environment it wants to provide.

Hard facilities service

The benefits of facilities management

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) defines facilities management (FM) as the “organizational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business.”

Facilities management is a critical aspect of running a business. Buildings and facilities often account for some of the largest costs to a business, and it is the responsibility of building owners or their business occupants to ensure that their facilities are well managed, maintained and secure at all times. Facilities management ensures that this is done effectively by balancing cost efficiencies with the legal requirement that the business is a safe, productive place of work.

The primary function of facilities management, whether in the public or private sector, in-house or outsourced, is to support the core business activities of an organisation and to help provide an environment in which a business can achieve its goals.

For many organisations, outsourcing part or all of facilities management makes good business sense as it:

  • Reduces risk – The facilities management service provider takes responsibility for all of the asset management, maintenance and repair, and there is no risk of essential services being disrupted by staff absences or shortages.
  • Reduces liability and insurance costs – The FM service provider takes on responsibility for maintaining the assets.
  • Ensures statutory compliance – The FM provider will have the professional expertise to maintain compliance for the agreed scope of the contract, minimising the organisation’s risks and liabilities. These liabilities will sit with the FM service provider, ensuring audit standards are upheld to achieve full regulatory compliance.
  • Is cost-effective – The overhead costs associated with many facilities support functions can be extremely high. Maintaining large plant such as HVAC systems and chillers requires a large team to conduct regular servicing and repairs. Outsourcing these functions to a specialist provider achieves significant cost savings. In addition, businesses will be able to focus more time, money and resources on core activities, such as production operations, marketing, strategic planning and business development.
  • Increases agility – Outsourcing allows operations and resources to be flexible in line with seasonal or cyclical demand, as well as business growth. The FM service provider can bring in additional resources when they are needed to meet requirements.
  • Assures service quality – Hiring experienced FM specialists to take over the operation of assets and facilities ensures they will be operated at optimum efficiency, backed by reliable and effective service delivery as set out by agreed standards in your service delivery contract. The service contract gives the assurance of guaranteed service quality and response times.

When an organisation is making the decision about outsourcing its facilities management, one question that they should be asking is whether they should choose single service providers or a full facilities management service.

Single service cleaning and maintenance involves taking on contractors for individual specialised services such as office cleaning, pest control, catering services, hygiene and waste disposal. This is a tried, tested and highly effective strategy for many organisations looking to pick and choose the most useful services for their needs.

By using individual FM service providers some organisations will find it easier to maintain control over the contracts, as each provider is responsible for just one service. It is often the case that contractors that provide a single FM service are, by definition, specialists in that one particular field. However, a drawback of using single FM service providers is the fact that there will be multiple contractors to manage.

This may become complex and may reduce the cost-effectiveness of this approach in the long term.

Unlike the single FM service strategy, which involves procuring each service individually, facilities management companies package all key services into one single offering. This means that under one single contract organisations can obtain everything required from cleaning and window cleaning services to waste disposal, catering services and supplies, security, and building maintenance.

This reduces the administrative burden and simplifies the day-to-day management tasks as well as invoicing and contract handling. It can prove slightly more cost-effective in the long term than setting up multiple contracts with several different FM suppliers.

In conclusion

Over the last decade or so, there has been a trend towards both small and large organisations outsourcing their facilities management. There are advantages and disadvantages to both in-house and outsourcing, and some organisations are now using a hybrid of in-house and outsourced FM services to ensure efficiency is maintained.

However, whichever option an organisation chooses, both hard and soft facilities services are essential to keeping a built environment running smoothly and to ensure the comfort and safety of employees and visitors.

About the author

Evie Lee

Evie Lee

Evie has worked at CPD Online College since August 2021. She is currently doing an apprenticeship in Level 3 Business Administration. Evie's main roles are to upload blog articles and courses to the website. Outside of work, Evie loves horse riding and spending time with her family.

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