The Basics of Facilities Asset Management

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Facilities maintenance is a broad description of what it takes to run buildings and workplaces. Under this general umbrella, there are specific focuses that contribute to the broader goal of well-run facilities. Among the most important is facilities asset management. While the building itself may be an asset, this practice looks at the essential components within the property that allow it to function as-needed for the people who work there.

As a segment of broader facilities maintenance, asset management is something worth exploring for the benefit of new facilities managers and growing companies. Small companies that rent modest office space may not have much to worry about in the way of asset management. Conversely, enterprise organizations that own the entire building likely have significant budget and manpower dedicated to asset management.

It takes surface-level knowledge to understand why facilities asset management is important, yet broad resources to execute on it properly. Here’s what every facility manager needs to know.


What are facility assets?

There are several ways to define facility assets. Small companies tend to define them by cost in relation to budget—anything over X thousands of dollars is an asset. Midsized companies often shift this to include life cycle investments—anything that requires substantial investment over time. Enterprise businesses further expound on the definition and include leased assets, 12-month liabilities, FASB-reported capital investments, and depreciating assets.

What does asset management include, exactly? It differs for every company and organization, but assets generally fall under specific categories:

  • Facility-related assets (HVAC, lighting, break room appliances)
  • Personnel-related assets (vehicles, uniforms, mobile devices)
  • IT-related assets (copiers, printers, data infrastructure, software licenses)

Though not a hard-and-fast collection of rules, most facility assets observe three traits. They are: 1) high-value, 2) depreciating, and 3) essential. They’re the kinds of things you want to manage proactively, not reactively.

What is facilities asset management?

Facility asset management is sometimes also called lifecycle planning, which can make it a little easier to understand. The goal of facilities asset management is to create a framework for the complete cradle-to-grave oversight of high-value assets. It involves a plan to acquire, operate, maintain, renew, and retire assets.

Asset management butts up against several other integral aspects of broad facilities management. For something like a building’s HVAC unit, asset management can dictate service level agreements (SLAs). For software licenses, it may affect budgeting. For something like a vehicle, it can affect accounting practices. Focus on asset management contributes to more informed management of facilities, operations, and finances for the company as a whole.

Key benefits of facilities asset management

Aside from the obvious decision-making power it affords to broader facilities management, the benefits of facilities asset management empower managers at a granular scale. Life cycle planning allows facility managers to anticipate costs, plan for maintenance and upgrades, and minimize total cost of ownership at the asset level.

The air conditioning roof stack on your building is 13 years old and needs extensive repairs that total $5,000. A comparable new unit is $12,000. Do you repair or replace? Good asset management will yield the best answer. A facilities manager will be able to see important variables like the total cost of ownership over the last five years, life expectancy of the unit, efficiency ratings, and more. Asset maintenance provides the ability to look beyond repair vs. purchase costs, to the full scope of ownership costs.

The same goes for budgeting and planning. A company licenses software on a two-year contract, to the tune of $10,500. Asset management means being able to plan for this cost two years into the future, anticipate the upgrade process to the next iteration of the software, and determine if demand for licenses has grown or shrunk within the organization.

Some terms to get to know

  • Asset class: Groups of similar assets, tracked for accounting purposes.
  • Capital improvement: High-dollar cost to preserve a vital building function.
  • Capitalized asset: An asset that has reached its break-even point from investment.
  • Depreciation: The current value of an asset below the initial investment cost.
  • End-of-life date: The planned date of asset retirement based on operable life.
  • Enterprise asset disposition: Disposal of an asset through reselling or destruction.
  • Enterprise asset management (EAM): A digital platform for asset management.
  • Ghost asset: An asset still on the company’s books, but no longer in service.
  • Life cycle management: The total plan for an asset, from acquisition to disposal.
  • Planned obsolescence: The decision to retire an asset before its end-of-life date.
  • Total cost of ownership: The total cost to own, maintain, and use an asset.

Keep facilities consistent with demand

Facilities need to serve the people who operate within them, right down to the individual assets they use and rely on. From top-of-the-line copy machines, to roof stack HVAC units, to high-value software subscriptions, each of these assets and many others like them fall under the realm of facilities asset management. It’s up to facilities managers to track, manage, and maintain them where appropriate, with a plan to ensure they continue to serve people seamlessly.

Keep reading: Selecting the right facilities management software.

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How to Improve Air Quality in the Office

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Businesses are doing everything they can to create safe work environments as the COVID-19 pandemic remains at the forefront of every employee’s mind. From surface sanitization, to mask mandates, to a complete restructure of the office floor plan, everything is subject to scrutiny through the lens of employee health and wellness—even air quality. How to improve air quality in the office is something many facilities managers are stuck on.

While it’s easy to wipe down a hot desk or sterilize shared office equipment, it’s not as easy to address recirculated air concerns. How do you address air quality when people breathe it in and out every second of every day?

There are more opportunities to improve office air quality than are first apparent. Through proper assessment, routine maintenance, proper filtration, and a clear focus on HVAC, businesses can enhance their buildings’ forced air to the benefit of everyone—even amidst a pandemic that’s primarily spread through airborne droplets.

Why is office air quality important?

Think of how good a breath of fresh air feels as you step outside, into a crisp morning scene. Consider the difference in how you feel after traipsing around in a musty attic, then coming back down into a clean home. These are just two examples of the dramatic impact air quality has on how we feel—and how fast it can change.

Science attributes everything from allergies to lethargy and more sinister health conditions to poor indoor air quality. There’s even an umbrella term to describe the effects poor commercial air quality has on a person: Sick Building Syndrome. Now, with COVID-19 and its proven spread through the air, conversations about how to improve workplace air quality are front and center in many workplaces—even if air quality hasn’t been a problem.

Bottom line, indoor air quality has a direct correlation to health and wellness. At a time when public health is of paramount concern, indoor air quality is the key to minimizing risk of everything from allergies to the coronavirus pandemic in the workplace.

Start with maintenance and service

The simplest tips to improve workplace air quality start with routine maintenance and service. Especially if the aggregate age of your forced air system is less than 15 years old, there’s a lot you can do to improve air quality by adhering to manufacturer standards.

Call up a commercial HVAC specialist or schedule comprehensive service through your current service provider. Tell them you want a thorough inspection and cleaning of your entire forced air system, and ask for a detailed breakdown of tasks and costs associated with it. If routine cleaning is part of your current service level agreement (SLA), your building may not be due for cleaning or may only require select services.

In addition to a thorough cleaning, observe these common maintenance tasks. Make sure they’re either recently completed or action items for an impending HVAC service call:

  • Replace air filters and other consumable filtration equipment
  • Clean indoor and outdoor HVAC units and critical components
  • Check and clear condensate drains and inspect for mold growth
  • Examine registers and exchangers, and clean where appropriate

The older the system or the units, the more thorough and discerning your HVAC professional should be. Get a scope of work and cost estimates, and examine these costs against your building maintenance budget. In many cases, a one-time thorough servicing of the building’s HVAC system makes sense—especially during COVID-19, when it has the potential to mitigate virus transmission and assuage employee fears.

Supplement with filtration and upgrades

After you set a baseline for good air quality through routine maintenance and service, set your eyes on improving office air quality. There are three methods to achieve this. In ascending order of cost:

  • Invest in new filter technologies. Replace old fiber filters with high-grade HEPA filters to improve the filtration efficiency and effectiveness of the building’s forced air system. Enterprise companies with massive air handling may even consider UV disinfection filters—the gold standard in particle neutralization.
  • Upgrade to smart tech. Smart thermostats and air handling sensors not only offer better control over office air quality—they also save money and improve HVAC efficiency. While there is a cost associated with the IoT buildout required for smart HVAC systems, the cost benefit may be worth it to many organizations with high forced air overhead.
  • Upgrade the system. Commercial HVAC units typically last 15 years, with some reaching 20+. Businesses may choose to make a capital expenditure to retrofit an inefficient unit at the tail end of its lifespan, to enjoy not only another one to two decades of reliability, but also the improved air handling standards that come with modern units.

Consider these options not only in the context of COVID-19, but over the next five to 10 years and beyond. What’s your plan for the building? Is air quality a known concern? Will it be in the foreseeable future? Investments in filtration and system upgrades will dictate office air quality long beyond the pandemic.

Make HVAC an independent focus

HVAC is likely part of your business’ broader building maintenance plan. During COVID-19, it’s time to break it out as an independent focus, so forced air gets the attention it needs. Align with an HVAC professional for service and maintenance, and do appropriate research into upgrades and other capital expenditures that may bring lasting relief and protection to your workforce.

COVID-19 won’t last forever, but it’s not the only reason to examine forced air quality. Sick Building Syndrome, annual cold and flu germs, allergens, and a slew of other pathogens are worth the time, effort, and expenditure that come from better forced air management.

Keep reading: 10 Tips for a Safe Return to the Workplace


What is an Alternative Workplace?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

In 1998, the Harvard Business Review published a futuristic article titled, The Alternative Workplace: Changing Where and How People Work. Read through this article today, in 2020, and it doesn’t seem all that groundbreaking. It describes remote work and a growing detachment from traditional workplace norms. That said, it’s a prophetic-sounding piece that seems to have predicted the alternative workplace we’re seeing today more than 20 years ago.

Indeed, we are moving from an era in which people seek connections with one another to an era in which people will have to decide when and where to disconnect—both electronically and socially. Organizations that pursue alternative workplace [AW] initiatives—particularly those with home office arrangements—must be mindful of that paradox.

The rise of the alternative workplace has been a long time coming, as evidenced by the above passage. COVID-19 is the latest catalyst driving once-alternative solutions into the spotlight as companies search for the “new normal.” Is this the year alternative workplace strategies take center stage and fulfill the bold new vision adapted back in 1998?

Alternative workplace definition

What is an alternative workplace? It’s a fair question and one that’s readily answered by many of the work trends we’re familiar with today. Telecommuting and remote work. Coworking. These workplace changes paint a picture of the alternative workplace.

In 1998, “alternative workplace” focused more specifically on alternatives to working in an office. Today, the definition focuses more on where employees work and how that environment supports them—from a well-furnished coworking space, to the free Wi-Fi at a local coffee shop.

Elements of the alternative workplace

Alternative workplaces are extremely diverse because they can encompass just about any environment that supports work. So long as it supports your ability to work and it’s outside of the “home base” workplace, it falls under the guise of an alternative workplace.

A coworking space might have an office feel and all the amenities of a traditional workplace, but it’s an alternative workplace because you’re surrounded by professionals from other companies and career paths. Your home office is an alternative workplace. Even an airport lounge is an alternative workplace—even if you only work there for 45 minutes before a flight.

Wondering if you’re sitting in an alternative workspace right now? Take stock of the environment and see if it offers these essential elements:

  • Are you using your own technology?
  • Do you have control over your seating?
  • Do you have control over your work habits?
  • Is the environment conducive to your work?
  • Are there people other than coworkers around you?

Most coffee shops, coworking spaces, home offices, airport terminals, public libraries, and similar facilities fit the bill. But the alternative workplace isn’t merely shaped by physical surroundings—more important is about how it empowers employees.

Emphasize the worker instead of the workplace

Alternative workspaces are defined by the freedoms they afford workers. These workplaces sever the tie between work and any one single place, which also means they give employees the power to self-govern. When allowed to choose their own venue and work in their own way, many workers seize the opportunity to do their best work, in their best way.

It’s not surprising that many companies invested in alternative workplace strategies over the past two decades. Unlinking work from the workplace and instead hitching work to the worker brings untold flexibility to the concept of what a workplace is. Hence, the rise in alternative workplaces. If an employee can produce 100% regardless of whether they work at a desk in an office or in an easy chair at home, does it matter where they do that work? Probably not. What if they could accomplish 120% from their easy chair? It’s a very real driver behind the rise in alternative workplaces.

Alternative workplace concepts come down to an investment in work and the worker, instead of the workplace. So long as they can do the work, who’s to stop employees from doing it in a place that’s comfortable, familiar, and supportive of their personal work habits? It’s a trade many employers willingly make for the likes of bolstered productivity, improved culture, and employee satisfaction.

Alternatives set to become the new norm

In just the second paragraph of the Harvard Business Review article on alternative workplaces, there’s a simple, striking sentence. “This is not a fad.” Indeed, it’s not, to have survived 20-plus years and become the foundation for the adaptive workplace solutions we’re seeing today.

The rise of the internet, cloud applications, and generally better computing technology have all made alternative workplaces viable solutions as companies try to navigate COVID-19 and the future of work after the pandemic. Remote work, flex scheduling, hoteling, experiential workspaces, and coworking are all alternative forms of work, but they’re part of the greater alternative workplace employees rely on today.

Keep reading: How to increase workplace productivity


Hot Desking Health and Safety During COVID-19

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Coronavirus has even the most rational employees thinking long and hard about their health and wellness while at work. The pandemic is still active and ongoing, and time spent in a busy workplace is a consistent reminder for many people—especially when it comes to use of shared facilities. It’s reasonable to understand the concerns many employees have about hot desking health and safety.

Are hot desks safe? What can employers do to make them safe? What should employees do to keep shared spaces hygienic? It’s easy to rattle off tangential concerns. Thankfully, it’s just as easy to put those concerns to rest with a proactive, transparent, thorough hot desking policy during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s everything employers and their staff need to be aware of.

Are hot desks safe during COVID-19?

Hot desking during coronavirus may seem counterintuitive, but it has the possibility to be an extremely hygienic option when approached correctly.

The obvious concern is the constant stream of people utilizing the same space throughout the day. A hot desk might welcome anywhere from a single occupant to eight or more throughout the day. And while they’re never there together, each new presence brings the potential for new germs. Disinfection between occupants is a must. A simple solution for many companies is to build in 15-30-minute increments between users, to sanitize and sterilize.

The other major safety concern to address arises when there’s a confirmed case of coronavirus in the workplace. Contact tracing needs to be a priority, starting with shared spaces. Develop a system of record to know who occupied a desk, when, and for how long.

Despite obvious concerns about shared space, there are some less obvious benefits worth noting. For example, contact tracing can actually be easier if there’s a system or record that spans the entire office. Likewise, hot desks can be a better way to utilize space safely as employees phase back into the workplace—rotating through space instead of commingling within it. There’s also a simplicity in sanitizing and sterilizing hot desks per an SOP or standardized work order.

Hot desking—like any aspect of the workplace in the current climate—is subject to success with the right oversight. If you can keep your employees safe and make them feel safe, hot desking presents opportunities for a safe return to work and a transition back to productive normalcy.

Tips for hot desking safety

Every workplace faces different obstacles as employees return to work. Hot desking safety hinges largely on how facilities managers adapt their hot desking options and oversee employee interaction with them. Transforming traditional spaces into hot desks or limiting occupancy alone aren’t enough to make the concept work.

Below are a few tips to consider as you ponder hot desks as a space-efficient solution during COVID-19. Strive to implement as many as possible to cover the various aspects of hot desking safety and standardization.

  • Space hot desk workstations six feet apart or more
  • Stagger shifts and schedules to dilute workplace density
  • Buffer time for cleaning between hot desk occupants
  • Create robust cleaning protocol for each hot desk
  • Delegate and create a system for hot desk disinfection
  • Set capacity limits for rooms with multiple workstations
  • Revise floor plans to create new hot desking areas

Combine these hot desking safety tips with other coronavirus policies for maximum benefit—such as employee self-screenings or guidelines for face coverings. Emphasize hot desking in the context of COVID-19 workplace best practices, to create spaces that are socially distant, frequently disinfected, and monitored in the event of an outbreak.

For hot desking to be effective, it can’t be too cumbersome for employees. Build safe protocols and standards that are also simple. A cleaning buffer. Sign-in and sign-out processes. Constant review and adjustment of floor plans. Little efforts add up to big benefits.

Use hot desks to facilitate a safe return to work

A hot desking return to work may actually be one of the safest if undertaken correctly. Keep employees distant and separated. Clean workspaces thoroughly. Create a system for track and trace. Each incremental piece of a hot desking solution adds up to quelled coronavirus concerns.

Remember to keep health and safety at the forefront of every hot desking decision. Once employees know and feel that hot desks are a safe solution, they’ll have an easier time getting back to work. This is especially true for employees wary of a return to the workplace, who may feel more comfortable knowing how hot desking benefits their health and wellness.

Keep reading: How to use physical distancing software