However, Mary Ellen Lo Bosco writes in FacilitiesNet that job satisfaction in the field remains high, and Naomi Millán, a contributor for the same publication, explains that FMs are weathering these challenges by relishing their evolved roles and managing their resources in new ways. Combining their insights, here’s a brief overview of the challenges posed by the recession and the solutions FMs have devised in response.
A facilities manager’s job description during the pre-2008 era looks very different from its post-2008 version. Before the recession, one’s job might have mainly involved budget planning, space use analysis, asset maintenance and inventory purchasing. Nowadays, other duties, such as screening contractors and filling the gaps left by downsized staff, have been added to their regular duties. FMs and their teams are now juggling more than their predecessors from 10 or 20 years ago did.
Facilities managers have fewer resources at their disposal—not only in terms of staffing, but also in terms of supplies. Some FMs now order supplies far in advance to make sure they have what they need when they need it. Why so far ahead? Because of the economic downturn, the companies that provide these items are downsizing on their merchandise. Which means that FMs are experiencing shifts in their work, both internally and externally.
Naturally, these factors lead to higher stress levels. Facilities managers have to keep a careful eye on their maintenance teams, to ensure that the increased workload doesn’t overwhelm them. One facilities manager helps his team relieve stress through his “employee recognition program.” On a quarterly basis, his team gathers to eat cake and pizza and spend an hour and a half socializing. Two hard-working employees are also rewarded for their diligence, receiving a certificate, a T-shirt and a gift in recognition for their work.
In spite of these challenges, FMs are devising ways to save money and make the most of their limited resources, drawing from the same creative wells that hundreds of others have turned to because of the recession. Specifically, their solutions include the following:
Some FMs view their increased responsibilities as a way to expand their skill set, and also prove their value to the company. Stormy Friday, CEO of the Friday Group, explains that “[Facility managers] get their hands in a lot of different pots, and you see your corporation or institution in its totality. If you are good at marketing and communication, you can get involved in the strategic business of the company.” SAP Labs facilities manager Larry Morgan suggests attending as many company events as possible, “to understand the macroeconomic climate of the company.”
According to Marc Fischer, the senior vice president of property management for real estate firm Transwestern, a few small tricks can go a long way in savings. Using window films and keeping blinds down can help with energy costs. So can shutting off the HVAC during the weekends. Occupancy sensors can help point out areas that may be wasting energy unnecessarily (as can FM software.)
In addition to recognizing employees like the facilities manager mentioned earlier, there are small ways you can make sure your team’s morale doesn’t dip. Keep an eye on the amount of work orders, to prevent the team from being too overwhelmed. Prioritize based on urgency, so that your team can address each at a steady pace.
Another strategy: Ask your workers how they’re doing—both in the workplace, and outside of it. The former can provide valuable feedback on how you’re managing things. The latter can create a rapport that can also help you guide your work decisions—at least that’s the case for Phillip Berman, executive director for building services at a Charlotte, N.C. public school. “I try to get to know people,” he says. “If I have a good employee and I know they have issues, I might be more flexible with work hours or time.”
Ultimately, the desire to learn, creativity and interpersonal skill can all help an FM succeed at their job, regardless of the company’s financials. As the economy slowly gets back on its feet, FMs will continue to rely on these and other resources for keeping morale high while keeping expenses low.
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