If you’re unclear about facilities management best practices, you’re not alone. FM best practices are always evolving, and they will vary from organization to organization.
Beyond using cutting edge facility management software, the most important best practices for one FM in one organization can look quite different from one in the next.
Ultimately, their main tasks are always to keep facilities running smoothly and employee experience high. Therefore, good FM practices are those that contribute to these objectives while keeping an eye on the bottom line.
In this article, we explore overarching facility management best practices that can help guide FMs in any office space.
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In our ‘new normal,’ the facilities team is integral to helping support change management in an increasingly complex work environment.
This is equally true in enterprise facility management. This is where FMs are responsible for a large network of buildings and people. However, it’s just as true for those managing just a floor or two for a small business.
This complexity is due in large part to the rise of hybrid work. This adds complications to management services that simply didn’t exist in the traditional office.
Coupled with the fact that the workplace is more employee-centric than ever before (driven in large part by the employee dissatisfaction that is helping cause the Great Resignation), FMs now need to improve and optimize both the hybrid workplace and the employee experience at the same time.
Understand what is most important to your organization. Whatever your organization is about, in facilities so you must be. Laurie GIlmer, P.E., CFM, SFP, LEED AP, vice president and chief operating officer with Facility Engineering Associates, Understanding Facility Needs to Implement Best Practices to Improve Operations
Understand what is most important to your organization. Whatever your organization is about, in facilities so you must be.
Meanwhile, there is more technology available than ever before. There’s integrated workplace software like an effective Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS), new technologies that are able to integrate into both IWMS and building automation systems (BAS/BMS), as well as with smart buildings/IoT.
In short, technology is evolving alongside the way we view the workplace and how we treat employees. All meaning that FM responsibilities have never been more complex, more valued, or more important.
In other words, if you’re an FM, all your team members are counting on you to find and follow best practices for facility maintenance and any management programs.
Like we’ve covered, FM best practices will vary based on the goals and initiatives of your organization. The FM for a company looking to go carbon neutral will likely look different from an organization trying to cut back on their real estate portfolio as quickly as possible. Or from those dealing with a rapid staffing influx.
That said, the following eight overarching FM best practices will inform good decision-making and maintenance management, while helping to keep operational costs low.
When in doubt about making the right facility checklist for your organization, focus on creating a working environment that is fit for purpose. According to workplace strategist Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield, nothing is more important than creating a workspace that is tailor-made for the people who use it.
“If it’s not fit for purpose, down to the team level and down to the individual, you could be misappropriating funds, resources, space, and technology,” she says.
From there, focus on the following eight best practices when managing your facility.
Choosing the right software is arguably the most important FM duty. This is because it impacts literally everything else you do for your organization. In fact, it’s choosing the right software that will enable all the following practices in this article.
Simply put, FMs must use an effective IWMS to plan, maintain, and measure each aspect of facilities management and space management.
This means you need to select ideally cloud-based software that will help you follow space management best practices, while adhering to the three basic elements of space management (i.e.: space planning, implementation, and space tracking).
It also means choosing software that will help you streamline move, request, and project management, while keeping the office space easy-to-use and accessible for all workers.
It’s also important to note that thanks to the growing hybrid workforce, ‘easy-to-use’ and ‘accessible’ will include ensuring an optimized digital workspace that is available to employees 24-7. This further necessitates the right software choice.
And the right software can also help with real estate portfolio management, work orders, asset management, and restacking the workplace.
Ultimately, the evolution of FM software is such that simply choosing between IWMS vs CAFM (computer aided facility management) is no longer enough. FMs need to carefully consider the software options available (possibly using the IWMS magic quadrant) to choose a complete facility management system that will grow and change with their organization as needed.
Choosing the right software can dramatically impact what should be at the top of any facilities management skills list. I.e.: maintaining safety and security, both for all employees, as well as for company assets and networks.
Thanks to the pandemic, health and safety has become central to FM, since FMs now need to ensure social distancing in the office and help maintain health compliance.
Using a tool like Distancing Planner can make it much easier for FMs to create distanced seating plans and to maintain social distancing. Meanwhile, Safeguard, which is included in the price of a regular OfficeSpace subscription, can create and track COVID-19 wellness checks.
FMs are also responsible for the security of their networks. Therefore it’s necessary to ensure all systems are secure, especially when connecting IoT devices to the BAS or FM system.
Note that security in building automation systems can be particularly challenging. BAS are notoriously older and can be less secure than your corporate network. However, the IT doesn’t necessarily maintain them. For this reason, there’s an extra onus on FMs to communicate closely with their mechanical contractor to ensure all these networks are up to date.
FMs need to use data to leverage information they can use to make insightful decisions about the facility and its operations.
This includes gaining insights into how employees are using the office in real time, which can improve workplace experience. With these insights, FMs can regularly visit, revisit, and review relevant reports and metrics related to key areas like space utilization, facility planning, and headcount planning.
Again, FMs can only access this type of granular data by using the right IWMS software.
Part of collecting the right data includes ensures you’re using the right analytics and software to provide predictive and preventive maintenance. This includes having a maintenance plan for your BAS that will predict problems before they get out of hand. For example, FMs can easily monitor the lifecycle of things like HVAC systems, helping to keep things running smoothly.
Sometimes, you can’t stick to your maintenance schedule. Things go wrong, systems break down, and FMs must be able to respond accordingly.
That said, the more you’re able to use data to see what’s actually happening and predict what might happen, you can better predict and prevent future problems. This is critical for both building maintenance, and for ensuring any digital workplace solutions are always meeting the needs of employees.
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Even if a company isn’t actively seeking to reduce their square feet, improving space utilization should always be top of mind for any FM. Space that is not being used properly is space that is being wasted. Meanwhile, improving space utilization is often the key to improving both cost savings and environmental sustainability.
For example, improving how you’re using your space can help you reduce energy consumption. Or even cut back on the amount of office space you need.
Just as important, it can also help improve employee workflows. This helps to create a better work environment and more employee empowerment.
Today’s best, most optimized workplaces are those that embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) and use it to improve automation.
Specifically, when IoT sensors are integrated with a badge system, they can provide a wealth of information and automations. This can be used to make continual workplace improvements.
For example, you can automate facility processes to help with energy efficiency and energy management. Lights and heat can automatically turn on and off when occupancy changes. When someone with a badge enters a workstation, the light and temperature for that workstation alone can automatically be adjusted as soon as they scan in.
Again, these automations will only work when FMs choose an IWMS able to integrate and evolve with other technologies.
Like we’ve covered, the field of FM is constantly evolving. FMs therefore need to understand and research the latest workplace trends to ensure their company won’t be left behind.
FMs should always be ‘in the know’ about hybrid and other various work environment types. They should also be eager to adopt using new technologies and new workplace strategies.
Moreover, they need to be willing and able to quickly and easily implement—and perhaps advocate for—a wide range of flexible working options. These options can include ABW/ABW: Activity-based working, agile working, and office neighborhoods.
Last but most definitely not least, facilities management teams need to remember who their ‘customers’ really are… And keep the focus on them! Ultimately, if employees don’t have the tools they need to perform their jobs easily, then nothing else matters.
The best way to ensure you’re meeting employee needs is to ask them. Regular surveys are the best way to determine employee sentiment. It can help to create a collaborative company culture where employees feel respected and empowered.
“Organizations need to be willing to ask their people to share the pros and cons from their work experience during the pandemic,” says Earlywine “And they must be vulnerable enough to really listen to their responses as they redefine the future purpose of the office.”
Of course, there are more ways to communicate with employees beyond surveys, all of which should be a high priority. Specifically, FMs need to meet employee needs in the following ways:
Facilities management isn’t just about benchmarking using fancy software, or about always pinching pennies to keep total costs low.
It’s about creating a sustainable work environment that meets employees where they are and helps them get where they’re going. It’s only by enabling employees to do their best, most productive work that FMs really benefit their organizations.
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Photos: Andrea Piacquadio, ThisIsEngineering, Alex Green