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Facilities Management Today: What You Need to Know
With 2022 well underway, it’s increasingly apparent that the long-awaited post-COVID world is nowhere in sight. And facilities managers are beginning to move beyond short-term fixes and into long-term adaptations.
Trends in demand and expectations that we once assumed would be temporary have begun to reshape the very foundation of the facilities management industry. Let’s look at the global events, ideas, and technologies that are having the biggest impact on facilities managers—and how service providers should adapt.
The Growth of Flex Work Means Facilities Management Service Providers Need to Be More Flexible
Hybrid, hotelling, hub-home-spoke. Over the past two years, we have seen an explosion of flexible alternatives to the traditional Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 office job. And we have yet to see a definitive favorite emerge as organizations implement unique combinations that fit their unique company culture.
Though remote work is nothing new, the quarantines that accompanied the initial waves of COVID led to an unprecedented spike in companies transitioning to a work-from-home model. And while we are unlikely to return to levels reached in 2020—when a reported 42% of U.S. workers were clocking in from home—the popularity of remote work means the in-person workforce won’t return to pre-pandemic levels any time soon. In fact, a recent survey found that 87% of large companies plan to implement policies allowing employees to work from home at least part of the time.
The rise in remote work is affecting not only how many employees are at the office each day, but also how facilities managers utilize these spaces. With fewer people in the office, facilities managers are exploring ways to reduce space and use resources such as workspaces and meeting rooms more efficiently.
A CBRE survey found that while nearly 60% of companies had dedicated workspaces for their employees before COVID, 83% of respondents planned to adopt open seating for at least part of their workforce. In one popular method of open seating, known as hotelling, employees are not assigned individual workstations and reserve desks in the same way one would book a hotel room. Since employers only need to have desks for the employees who come to the office each day, these practices can dramatically reduce the footprint of a hybrid workforce.
Of course, not all organizations or employees can work from home (or want to). But that doesn’t mean companies are going back to their old offices in pricey city centers. A survey done by PwC found that 58% of businesses were exploring opening more smaller satellite locations closer to where people live, enabling more in-person connections while reducing commute times, among other benefits.
Companies that provide maintenance, janitorial, or other services for facilities managers can adapt to these changes by adopting a more agile mindset about how they organize and deploy their teams and resources. Pre-pandemic offices were highly predictable, and scheduling was easy to do in advance, but that may not be the case moving forward. Maintenance crews, janitorial workers, and other commercial services providers need to respond to the peaks and troughs of traffic in and out of commercial spaces and offices resulting from the increase in flex work.
They also need to recalculate each space’s maintenance and janitorial needs. Due to decreased traffic, there may be a reduced need for upkeep of shared spaces, but individual areas such as desks may need to be cleaned more often due to increased rotation and hotelling.
Finally, providers of commercial services will need to adapt to changes in how facilities managers allocate real estate resources, such as the increased popularity of satellite offices. Consider how the needs of a business that previously occupied three floors of a single building would change when they decide to spread their workforce among multiple smaller facilities across a larger metro area. To meet the changing demands of facilities managers, commercial services companies may need to invest in vans to move janitors and other crew members from building to building or organize employees into more, smaller teams.
Facilities Managers Are Focusing on Health and Sustainability
We are in the midst of a significant shift in how people expect to interact with shared spaces. The return to office buildings and workplaces has shone a light on several trends that have been building over recent years.
The most obvious is the increased priority on cleanliness and employee health brought about by the pandemic. While we’ll be happy to leave six-foot social distancing and temperature checks in the rear-view mirror, more popular changes—such as the increased cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitation of common areas—are likely to stick around for the foreseeable future.
As they adapt to these changes in occupant expectations, facilities managers are rethinking when and where they will have the most need for services such as maintenance and cleaning. For example, people may be willing to wait longer to take an elevator to avoid riding with other passengers but have much less patience for dirty washrooms or common areas.
However, a greater emphasis on individual health isn’t the only change we see. There is also an increased emphasis on the health of our environments, both at a local and a global scale. And the realization of how much pollution dropped during the quarantines is likely to shape public opinion of—and demand for—more sustainable shared spaces.
Savvy facilities managers are using this time of change to push sustainable practices and reduce unnecessary waste. Some sustainability-minded changes—such as installing motion-activated air dryers in bathrooms rather than paper towels or upgrading to automatic lighting systems—have the bonus effect of making spaces more health-conscious by making them more touch-free.
Service providers must be able to demonstrate how they can help facility managers make the transition to healthy and sustainable practices. For janitorial services, for example, this could mean an increased focus on disinfecting common areas or adopting more sustainable cleaning products.
Intelligent Infrastructure Is Helping Meet New Facilities Management Challenges
Even three years ago, the answer to the question “when do most office buildings have the highest occupancy?” was fairly straightforward. Workers flooded in around 9 a.m. each weekday and began to trickle back out around 5 or 6 o’clock. But in our new normal, workers are more likely to keep flexible hours and spend at least a few days each week outside the office.
Because of this, it’s no longer possible to rely on the old assumptions to drive decisions for how to allocate and maintain resources. But the growing interest in intelligent infrastructure—sensors and connected devices installed in buildings feeding the decision-making process—means we have new tools to meet these facilities management challenges.
Granular, real-time data about occupancy levels and distribution, asset utilization, or equipment health is making it possible for facilities managers—and the maintenance teams, janitorial staff, and other service providers they rely on—to make more informed decisions about using, organizing, and maintaining these spaces.
As an added bonus, the same sensors and technologies that empower decision-making can also help meet the facilities manager’s sustainability goals. Motion sensors and other telematics devices can be used to ensure lights, heating, and other climate-control systems are turned on only when and where they are needed, for example, reducing overall electricity usage and saving on energy costs.
And knowing exactly when and how often these shared spaces are being used makes it possible for service providers to take a more proactive approach, such as through preventive or predictive maintenance practices.
Even in 2022, Some Things Never Change
Offices and warehouses still need to run smoothly. Facility management contracts still don’t grow on trees. And Convex is still dedicated to providing commercial services companies and their sales reps the best possible tools for identifying, qualifying, and signing new facilities management clients.
For more information on how Convex can help your organization, schedule a demo today.
Ellin McHarg is Principal Copywriter at Convex.
Originally published on March 8, 2022 Updated on August 1, 2022