A Day in the Life of… a Facilities Manager at Unite Students
16 January 2024
Our Facilities teams are the unsung heroes that keep everything working in our properties – but what does that look like from day to day?
We spoke to Andy Hayes, Facilities Manager for Liverpool North, about what a typical day looks like in his role, how his team works together to fix issues on-site, and how his teams support the student experience in our buildings.
Q: What does a typical day look like in your role as Facilities Manager?
A: I’ve worked for Unite Students for almost 10 years. I came to the business as an electrician, and have worked my way up to Facilities Manager from there. As Facilities Manager, I’m responsible for overseeing the maintenance and housekeeping teams for three of our buildings in Liverpool. So the housekeeping teams clean the communal areas and the grounds, and individual rooms in the summer, and the facilities team respond to any maintenance requests and carry out compliance checks.
We’ll start the day with a maintenance plan, but within the first hour the plan may have gone out the window. As much as we maintain our properties, we’re looking after 3,000 bedrooms in north Liverpool and anything can happen. You might need some reactive works due to a leak or the electricity going out in a block, and it means you have to rethink your whole day’s strategy. But we’ve still got to do our checks on emergency lighting, water supply and fire alarms to make sure we’re compliant and our residents are safe.
On the cleaning side of things, the housekeeping team could come in one morning and it’s pretty clean already, so there’s not much to do on site that day. But then you’ve got events on-site, which are highlighted to us in advance so we can plan for that the next day. Halloween is a big one; everyone gets dressed up and you find bits of people’s costumes, fake blood everywhere, you name it! So that will be a busy day, and the team has to be ready to respond to that.
Leading the facilities and housekeeping teams is a huge part of your role – so how do you get the most out of your teams?
The teams are really self-motivated. We’ve got a team group chat where we all keep in touch, which is really important; teammates might not see each other all week when they’re working across different sites.
It’s really useful for solving maintenance problems when the fix isn’t obvious. Sometimes one of the team will message the chat like, “I’ve got a toilet here that’s hissing when I flush it, is there anything in particular I should look at?”, and someone in the team with more plumbing experience will say, “Have you tried the diaphragm washer? That should sort it out.”
They just really look after each other, no matter what tasks there are. It’s like a well-oiled machine. We’ve got experts across all fields, like plumbing or joinery, and everyone knows who’s good at what, and who to contact first if they need someone to assist them. And then they’re all sharing their knowledge. You end up with everyone knowing a little about a lot.
How does your role support students to have a better living experience?
Making sure our buildings are clean and well-maintained, and that any issues are fixed quickly, means there’s just one less thing for students to worry about. We’ve had students come down in a panic saying, “I’ve got exams – I’ve got class in an hour – and my shower’s stopped working,” and we listen to that student. When we can pop straight up and get it sorted for them, that really helps them out.
I don’t see it so much within my current role as Facilities Manager, but my teams and colleagues get a lot of face-to-face time with the students. I’ll sometimes see them deep in conversation with a student in the car park, or a student will come up to us when we’re walking around the site and say, “Thanks for fixing my shower – that’s all sorted now.” That’s the bit that I miss more from stepping up to the manager role.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Unite Students?
My favourite thing is probably what everyone says – it’s the people who work here. Especially in Liverpool – it is just like a family, and that’s a vibe that people tend to pick up on and mention.
Just in general, I love the way that the role keeps you on your toes constantly. No day is the same, which I didn’t expect when I started here. I thought I would be in the same place for a long period of time doing the same thing over and over, but literally every day is different, even though you’re in the same four walls.
What has most surprised you in your time working here?
What surprised me most is the sort of things that students leave behind when they check out! You can walk into a room and you’ve confirmed the student has definitely checked out, but you wouldn’t know it – it’s still got food, clothes, everything they’re using in their day-to-day life. It’s like they’ve picked themselves up and off they’ve gone, leaving everything behind.
Believe it or not, back when I first started, we had an international student that decided they no longer wanted their car. So they left a fully working, functional car in the car park, and it took several years for us to be able to get rid of that from a legal standpoint.
It was there for so long that it became a bit of a joke. You’d tell people that the fire point was outside by the Citroen C4. The housekeepers took it upon themselves to clean it – it was getting really grotty. [NB: Students are now discouraged from bringing cars to our sites!]
What’s one bit of advice you would give to anyone who wanted to work in student accommodation?
Student accommodation provides something for everyone, and there are great opportunities to progress. It feels so good to have worked my way up – I’ve worked really hard.
Hear from more of our frontline team members in our Day in the Life series.