What is Digital Twin Technology and Why is it Important?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

With each new year comes new industry buzzwords, like clockwork. You may recall some recent examples with no shortage of hype behind them: blockchain, smart buildings, and edge computing, for example. Now, in 2021, a new crop of buzzwords has emerged—including digital twin technology.

Like most trending terms, phrases, and concepts, the idea of digital twins isn’t novel. This technology has been around for years and is already well-appreciated among those familiar with it. The reason for its rise to the top of the jargon list is because it’s entering the mainstream. Digital twin technology is quickly becoming something businesses are turning to for facility assistance, insights, and improvements.

What is digital twins technology?

Digital twins are a digital representation of the physical workplace. They map a facilities space and assets, with the purpose of aligning them with utilization goals. The chief purpose of digital twins is threefold: model, simulate, and manage.

  • Model. Represent the workplace and its assets in a digital space.
  • Simulate. Use the digital framework to run “what if” workplace scenarios.
  • Manage. Take data from the digital twin to optimize the physical workplace.

Digital twins enable building owners to rapidly respond to the evolving demands of their workforce—especially in the time of agile workspaces and flex work. They’re also an essential tool within the smart building ecosystem. As connectivity increases, digital twins act as a dumping point for de-siloed workplace data. They’re a growing anchor for the digital infrastructure of physical buildings.

How digital twin works

Digital twin technology works by aggregating workplace data into an architecture model of the building. Instead of a static CAD mockup of a building, digital twins contextualize the space. Augmented with IoT sensors, a digital twin becomes a living, breathing representation of your physical space.

Take, for example, pressure sensors in the floor of a conference room. When activated, the sensor will trigger the I/O of a digital twin to flip on. Any connected system that relies on this data—such as hoteling software—will grab that data from the digital twin. When someone logs on to see if a conference room is open, that room won’t be available. There are endless other examples of sensor integration, each more robust than the last.

The most important part of a digital twin and its de-siloed workplace data are the integrations that pull from it.

There are countless apps and programs that can connect to a digital twin to amplify its usefulness. Even as a standalone investment, a digital twin pains a more comprehensive picture of the workplace than any siloed data can.

The benefits of digital twin technology

The biggest benefits of digital twin technology come from the insights and actions it enables. Smarter, more informed decision-making. The ability to scenario plan in a digital safe space. Insights about inefficiencies or opportunities in the workplace. All this and more are possible with a digital twin. There’s a myriad of deployments:

  • Predictive maintenance of facilities
  • Space utilization monitoring
  • Space and asset optimization
  • Improved transparency of building processes
  • Modeling and simulation for improvements
  • Robust interconnectivity of workplace data
  • Remote monitoring of facilities
  • Workplace optimization through the IoT

The list of benefits is virtually endless—as long as the number of applications for digital twins. And that list grows larger by the year as more intelligent products come to market. AI and machine learning have only made digital twins more sophisticated.

When to get onboard with digital twins

Companies with a growing IoT need to think seriously about the investment in a digital twin. The digital twin is where all that valuable data becomes mobilized, and it serves as a bridge to utilizing it across workplace management applications and processes.

The IoT is the key to a robust digital twin, but it’s not necessarily a barrier. Any business using IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, or EAM software also needs to think about a digital twin. Where there’s data, there’s opportunity. Seeing that data contextualized within the twin can give businesses the insights they need to capitalize on new opportunities.

Digital twins serve an important purpose

The role of digital twins in facility and asset management makes it a worthy buzzword for 2021 and beyond. Soon, it’ll be as ubiquitous as cloud computing or the IoT—particularly since it involves both of these technologies. The reason for its staying power is simple: like other former buzzwords, digital twins will soon become an industry standard. And, looking at the benefits and capabilities offered by this technology, it’s easy to see why.

Keep reading: Digital Twin Services: Modeling, Simulation and Management


What is a Digital Twin vs. BIM?

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

In the growing era of smart buildings, some of the most important technologies are those used in planning and governance. Developers, builders, and tradespeople need the foresight that comes with dynamic building plans. Then, after it’s constructed, facility managers need a way to oversee space in practice which boils down to a discussion about BIM and digital twins.

What is a digital twin vs. BIM? Think of them as two sides of the same smart coin. Both are practical and increasingly necessary in the context of smart buildings. One supports the design, plan, and build of a structure, the other connects the building to the people and assets within it. Both are important, and both are distinct. Here’s a look at what makes BIM and digital twins unique.

What is BIM used for?

Building Information Modeling (BIM) governs the design, planning, and execution of a build. As buildings grow more complex, so do the design elements that govern them. BIM offers a clear view of the design plan to all parties involved, and makes it dynamic to support any changes.

The best way to think about BIM is as a layered look at the building. One layer may have the framework of the structure. Then, it’s overlaid with an electrical diagram. Then plumbing and HVAC, and so on until each unique system and subsystem of the building are part of the complete plan. At any given time, tradespeople can peel away the layers to see exactly how a specific part of the plan looks or interacts with any other.

Above all, BIM is smart. If a change affects multiple layers of the design plan, BIM can update them accordingly—or alert the appropriate tradespeople to a conflict before the build begins. It can also update building material lists, build sequences, and system checklists, all without manual intervention. BIM is smart building technology for smarter buildings.

What is digital twin technology?

Digital twins tie buildings and their spaces to the people and purposes they’re designed for. Think of digital twins as a digital replica of the building, used to govern it from a data-driven perspective. Smart buildings that produce data feed it into the digital twin, where managers and decision-makers can use it to inform smarter oversight.

Digital twins offer three chief functions: model, simulate, and manage. Information modeling provides the context for how a building serves its occupants and the quantifiable variables endemic to it. Simulation allows facility managers to plan changes and adjustments with data-backed insights, to see how they’ll affect the workplace. Management through digital twins can refer to space management, asset management, and workforce management—all governed using aggregated data.

It’s best to think about digital twins as an anchor for the office IoT and smart building systems. Every data point streamed from sensors and connected devices congregates in the digital twin. From that twin, all manner of workplace software (IWMS, CAFM, EAMS, CMMS) can pull data to provide refined insights about the workplace. It all distills down into information-backed decision-making that leads to better workplaces.

BIM vs. digital twins

While they sound similar in many ways, BIM and digital twins are more akin to sides on the same coin. BIM is what’s responsible for smart building construction; digital twins are the key to managing them.

The confusion between these intelligent platforms comes from the fact that they both represent a digital reconstruction of the building. What makes them different is the capacity in which they support it. BIM helps keep design-build on-time, under-budget, and true-to-form. Digital twins help a well-designed building meet and exceed its intended purpose.

Smart buildings are only getting smarter, which means they demand intelligent software to support the entire building life cycle. BIM and digital twins combine to answer this demand, each serving an important role before, during, and after the build, and to the many purposes it’ll serve throughout its lifetime.

Smarter building requires smarter tech

The rise of BIM and digital twins in the life cycle of a building isn’t coincidence—it’s necessity. Buildings are more complex than they’ve ever been, with complicated systems and subsystems that need to work cohesively. Conversely, we also expect more from our spaces than we ever have before. Regardless of design intention, companies are finding new and inventive ways to maximize space to get the most ROI from their facilities.

BIM and digital twins are at the core of building life cycle management. BIM makes smart building construction simpler. Digital twins make it easier to manage these complex spaces and all the expectations companies have for them. Together, they’ve enabled buildings to become dynamic, from conception to utilization.

Keep reading: The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings


The Benefits of Space Management Software

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Space management ties into so many important business metrics. It’s a way to bring employees the workspaces and amenities they need to work, and to control the cost of overhead—as well as the revenue potential of operations. With so many vital outcomes tied to how a company manages its space, it’s even more important to realize the compounding benefits of space management software.

Space management software helps facility managers understand, configure, and manage their available square footage—no matter what shape it takes. While the features of different applications will differ, the purpose of space management software is to plan, design, and contextualize available workspaces around the needs of employees. This includes floor plan creation, seating and desking arrangements, asset allocation, stack planning, scenario planning, and much more.

Used effectively, space management software allows companies to maximize the utilization of their square footage as it conforms to the most productive solution for employees. It offers potential for better planning, management, cost control, and oversight. Best of all, it scales with your company—from a few thousand square feet to multiple properties and tens or hundreds of thousands of square feet, serving a diverse array of workstyles.

What are the benefits of space management software?

The benefits of space management software are as numerous as the opportunities for space utilization. At a baseline level, this software helps companies identify and understand space. That opens the door for utilization and optimization, followed by tracking and monitoring. It’s all possible through space management software, encapsulated in the benefits it offers.

  1. Custom reporting for space metrics. It’s difficult to govern space without understanding it. How much do you have? How’s it currently used? Where is it? Space management software contextualizes these questions to provide clear reporting of space allocation, utilization, and purpose in the workplace.
  2. Space forecasting and planning abilities. As companies plan for growth or forecast ahead for need, they need to do so with a full understanding of their constraints and opportunities. A clear picture of space and utilization makes for a clear horizon when forecasting and planning.
  3. Cost management and planning. Similar to space forecasting and planning, cost management is vital. Space management software attaches costs to square footage and ROI to space utilization, to help stakeholders understand their facilities as a revenue stream. This is even more important at a macro level, as we’ll soon see.
  4. Real estate portfolio management. Cost management and planning at the facility level gives broader context to portfolio management. When you know how much your space costs and its revenue-generating capabilities at the facility level, it becomes easier to see the true cost and return across the entire portfolio.
  5. Real-time utilization data. Today, space management needs to occur in real-time. A live picture of space utilization helps facility managers understand their employees’ relationship to the workspaces available. Do you need more of a certain type of workspace? What are peak usage hours for X workspace? What space isn’t getting used?
  6. Integrations with wayfinding. The fewer barriers there are to using spaces, the more apt employees are to use them. Integrating wayfinding with space management software helps employees get more familiar with the spaces around them, and can direct them to the perfect space for their needs. Wayfinding is the key to actualizing good space management.
  7. Integrations with directory. The purpose of the workplace and all the spaces within it is to support employees. Pairing space management software with directory applications makes it easier for employees to find each other and the spaces they need to collaborate. This integration completes the trifecta of employees, work, and workplaces.
  8. New desking opportunities. The ‘management’ part of space management comes down to making the most efficient use of a given space. Software aids in modeling and scenario planning. Should you co-opt a hotel desking concept? Desk neighborhoods? An open office? Software makes it easy to understand need and pair concepts to the right space.

As work becomes more agile and flex work becomes the norm, these benefits are even more pronounced. Companies expect more from the space they’re paying for. The key to unlocking that value comes from better space management.

Reap the benefits of implementing space planning software

Whether there’s space to spare or you need to optimize every square inch to make it work, it’s vital to create a workplace that meets employee needs and expectations. Space planning software helps facility managers visualize, optimize, and orchestrate workplaces that answer employee demands. More important, the benefits of space management software tie into the crucial aspects of maintaining a workplace: cost, efficiency, productivity, and culture.

Keep reading: Make Every Space Count with Space Management Software

Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

Stay Ahead of Problems with Preventive Maintenance 

By Nick Stefanidakis
General Manager, Archibus

As COVID-19 has shown us, predicting the future is a coin flip. Early on, people thought the virus would last a few weeks. No one believed we’d still be wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and awaiting vaccines more than a year later.

Businesses also could not foresee the impact shutdowns and health mandates would have on productivity, operations, and facility maintenance. That included the upkeep of assets such as networks, computers, lighting, HVAC, furniture, and other items that make up a modern workplace.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of a solid preventive maintenance plan for both everyday operations and crises. Staying ahead of issues not only saves valuable budget, but also helps ensure your workplace is ready to welcome employees back if a shutdown occurs.

Defining Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is essential to keep buildings and assets in optimal condition. Whether large or small, single location or global offices, all workplaces contain components that need to be regularly maintained and updated.

Assets are among an organization’s highest expenditure. According to a report by Aberdeen, a global B2B behavioral marketing firm, the cost for one hour of business downtime grew from $260,000 in 2014 to $492,000 in 2016. That number is likely much higher today.

Unlike corrective maintenance – an on-demand service to correct a specific issue at an unforeseen time – preventive maintenance is predictable. Tasks performed at regular intervals, such as periodic maintenance, scheduled inspections, cleaning, and updates, can extend asset life, improve conditions, and make corrective maintenance less frequent and/or costly.

That can mean significant time and money savings for organizations with limited budgets and resources. Mount Royal University (MRU), one of Canada’s top destinations for undergraduate studies, automated its preventive maintenance with Archibus after corrective support tickets grew from 3,000 in 2012 to more than 14,000 in 2020. Before, facilities staff spent hours manually creating maintenance reports.

“We didn’t have single source of truth when it came to generating reports,” said Jason Philipchuk, MRU Archibus Technology Support Analyst. “With Archibus, we improved our equipment inventory to ensure assets needing preventive maintenance were scheduled and given a means to track asset life cycle. That way, we keep our craftspeople out in the field and not in office working on reports.”

Three Steps to Preventive Maintenance

To develop an effective workplace preventive maintenance routine, three steps are essential. They include taking inventory, developing maintenance procedures, and establishing critical priorities.

  • Take Stock of Your Assets

Without an inventory of assets, it’s impossible to set an effective preventive maintenance schedule. A comprehensive inventory accounts for all assets in need of regular maintenance. These include facility-related assets, personal equipment, and information management infrastructure. While determining what you have, gather information and relevant documents about each asset – age, maintenance procedure by manufacturer, history, upgrade dates, and technical diagrams.

A great place to start is taking a holistic look at your facilities supporting systems like HVAC, plumbing, lighting, electrical, and emergency equipment and what’s inside or attached to them. Refer to architectural drawings or space plans to locate everything on the list.

If necessary, your information management inventory should include all personal items like desktops, laptops, printers, copiers, and other IT equipment, including equipment used by remote employees.

  • Establish Maintenance Procedures and Timetable

With your asset inventory in hand, it’s time to design a specific preventive procedure for each asset by standard or individually. The procedure should be based on manufacturers’ recommendations; however, some will be augmented to support more robust activities due to COVID-19 or other considerations.

Once completed, use manufacturer or company standards to set a regular preventive maintenance schedule. Ask yourself all the necessary questions that will assist your scheduling process:

  • Is the procedure concurrent?
  • At what frequency?
  • Do assets require different procedures at different times?
  • Do I have the right personnel to do the work as required? Should I consider outsourcing?

Next, you’ll need to determine the internal workflow that governs maintenance work orders. Evaluate maintenance budgets, resource allocation, work order issuance and approval, workload, and invoice payments.

  • Prioritize

When resources are scarce, you may lack the capacity to stay on an asset maintenance schedule. Determining your critical priorities for preventive maintenance is not an exact science. Although these decisions can be subjective, it’s important to prioritize what matters most, particularly when your business is affected by crises like COVID-19 that alter typical routines.

Cost is an additional factor in determining service priorities. Facilities managers should consider the cost of both regular maintenance and repairs/replacements. If a piece of equipment is out of order, how long will it be out of commission? How many employees will be unable to perform their jobs and for how long? What does it cost in lost productivity?

Keep Preventive Maintenance Plans Flexible

The COVID-19 pandemic upended some typically predictable routines. Though some maintenance should be consistent, the pandemic affected each workplace differently, sometimes even from one week to the next. Some assets require scheduled maintenance, no matter who is or isn’t in the office. Other preventive maintenance plans substantially change based on how COVID-19 or other crises impacts staffing, production, and customer service.

Due to COVID-19, workspace maintenance may not seem to be as pressing of an issue right now. But neglecting preventive maintenance can have expensive, long-term consequences. The routines themselves may change, but consistency is still important. Your preventive maintenance plan should be flexible enough to allow for necessary adjustments without completely disrupting traditional routines.

Flexibility is even more important as employees who have been working remotely come back to work. Facilities managers must balance the needs of on-site workers with those still working from home.

Benjamin Franklin’s famously said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to promote better fire safety in the 1770s. That idiom holds true today as businesses face “fires” daily. Taking the steps to mitigate damage is smart space and facility management. Preventive maintenance strategies can be one of your greatest protection now and into the future.

Keep reading: What is Facilities Maintenance Support Services?


What is Real Estate Asset Management?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Many enterprise companies employ a team of professionals to manage their real estate portfolios. It’s because real estate is an asset that companies can optimize and leverage into broader goals. But what is real estate asset management, really? What does it mean to treat real estate like an asset vs. a practical, functional space?

The role of a real estate asset manager is to maximize the value and return on property from an investment standpoint. In the same way companies monitor the performance of employees or departments and their contribution to success, real estate asset managers develop the criteria for real estate return on investment.

What is asset management?

To understand real estate as an asset, it’s best to define what an asset is. The simplest definition of an asset is “anything of value or a resource of value that can be converted into cash.” From a business standpoint, the definition becomes more specific. “Assets are reported on a company’s balance sheet and are bought or created to increase a firm’s value or benefit the firm’s operations.”

Using this definition, often businesses choose to evaluate real estate as an asset. How do facilities contribute to the company’s bottom line? What is the ROI on office space? What is the intrinsic value of facilities vs. their current market valuation? There’s no limit to the number of questions businesses can ask from an asset evaluation standpoint. Each answer matters in the scope of real estate asset management.

Core tenants of real estate asset management

Looking at real estate as an asset means shifting focus to managing it like an asset. The core tenants of asset management are all about optimizing returns, minimizing risk, and reducing expense. For real estate, it’s no different.

  • Optimizing revenue: What is the cost of facilities vs. the revenue they generate? Are there ways to increase revenue through reinvestment in facilities? What is the total ROI on facilities over time? These questions and countless others are the focus of revenue-minded asset managers.
  • Risk management: What risks are inherent to facilities and how can companies manage them? What is the debt risk of property on the balance sheet? What liability and insurance costs accompany facilities? Managers who identify and mitigate risk improve the ROI of real estate.
  • Reducing expenditures: Can the company consolidate facilities and maintain revenue output? Are in-house or contracted maintenance services more cost-efficient? What lease negotiations will reduce monthly/annual costs? Cutting the bottom line is an efficient way to boost the performance of real estate as an asset.

Being mindful of real estate as an asset allows managers to tell a factual story of how a property contributes to the company. Asset management breaks it down into costs and expenditures, revenue opportunities and risks, and other intrinsic values that benefit the company—and it does so in dollars and cents.

Data accumulation and presentation

Quantifying real estate as an asset is only the first part of the job. Real estate asset managers need to take that data and contextualize it for portfolio managers, executives, and other stakeholders, so that they can make high-level decisions about broad real estate strategy. To do this requires access to a real estate forecasting dashboard.

Today’s Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) software provide real-time insights to asset managers who need up-to-date information. Lease tools, cost projections, accrued YTD costs, and countless other variables come together in a property-specific picture of real estate and its contribution to the company’s financial standings (and outlook). Real estate asset managers use this data to generate reports and forecast models as a source of truth for those in the position to make decisions.

As real estate asset managers do this for multiple properties, it paints a clear picture of portfolio performance. From there, portfolio performance can be a deciding factor in top-down decisions—such as the decision to expand to a new facility or the shift to permanent remote work and downsize facilities. It all depends on the tale of the data and the direction of the company.

Real estate asset management comes into focus

Treating real estate as an asset yields tremendous insight into its quantitative values. This is paramount when it comes to forecasting and decision-making surrounding facilities, and it provides even better context for the qualitative benefits of maintaining a physical workspace.

As companies begin to look at their real estate portfolios post-COVID-19, asset-based observations will be among the most important they make. Executives and other high-level decision-makers want to see, in plain numbers, how real estate contributes to success. Real estate asset managers hold the keys to providing this data.

Keep reading: Real Estate Asset Management Certification


What Does a Real Estate Portfolio Manager Do?

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Enterprise companies with multiple real estate holdings have a lot of money tied up in static assets. As such, it’s critical for someone to monitor these assets to make sure they continue to generate revenue and other means of substantive ROI. This task falls to real estate portfolio managers—the people on the front lines of ensuring company properties align with mission-critical operations.

While facility managers oversee individual pieces of property and real estate asset managers examine them from an ROI standpoint, real estate portfolios are the true decision-makers of how to leverage all properties into company success.

What is a real estate portfolio manager?

Like you might pay someone to manage an investment portfolio of stocks, bonds, cash, and equities, in the corporate world, a real estate portfolio manager focuses on the properties owned and leased by a company. Their goal is to make sure the sum value of the properties—both their tangible worth and their contributions to operations—benefit a company.

Portfolio managers determine how facilities fit within the growth strategy of the company. They’re charged with looking at how the company’s resources are allocated, what risk real property poses for the company, and how to best leverage individual properties for greater portfolio performance.


Chief tasks of a portfolio manager

Because they deal with the performance of an entire portfolio of properties, the role of portfolio managers shifts to broader considerations. They may make decisions affecting specific properties, but they do so with the intent to affect better performance for the portfolio at large. Some of the chief tasks they’re engaged in include:

  • Asset allocation: Real estate is an asset, but there are smaller assets within each property that contribute to its revenue output. Allocation of assets—including budgeted capital—can affect the performance of a portfolio by enhancing the revenue-generating capabilities of specific properties. The simplest example might mean moving unused assets from Location A to Location B, where they become part of a revenue stream.
  • Risk adjustment: Real estate carries risk. As an asset, that risk manifests in the form of debt on a balance sheet. The job of a portfolio manager is to ensure the collective ROI of properties is enough to outweigh their risk, and to understand which properties in the portfolio are riskier vs. safer. Risk adjustment can involve making decisions like where to allocate funds for capital improvements, to mitigate the risk of future costs.
  • Transaction supervision: Similar to a securities portfolio, properties may enter or leave the fold of a real estate portfolio. As they do, a portfolio manager needs to see that they’re purchased and divested the right way. This can involve everything from overseeing the financial transaction to receiving or divesting the property as an asset on the balance sheet.
  • Execution of asset strategy: Real estate needs to align with the company’s goals and trajectory, and serve to move it forward. It’s the job of real estate portfolio managers to make sure real estate serves its intended purpose, whether that’s solely revenue production or strategic goals. When real estate and company goals align, the business can move forward with a cohesive operational strategy.

All these tasks lay the groundwork for one final, critical objective: to liaise with executives and other stakeholders and support data-backed decision-making involving real estate. Portfolio managers work to understand the effect of company decisions on real estate, as well as relay real estate information to help influence those decisions.

Real estate portfolio manager software

Real estate portfolio management is quantitative. Managers need access to the vital insights and data streams that contextualize the decisions they make. While they can get much of it from real estate asset managers, much of that data comes from software.

When examining a collection of portfolios across different building types, geographic areas, property sizes, and other variables, data becomes a source of truth in decision-making. With clean, organized, reliable data from various property funnels at their disposal, it’s easy for managers to delve into the portfolio with a mind for each property and its contribution to the whole.

What do real estate portfolio managers do?

In a nutshell, real estate portfolio managers make sure a company’s investment in property is worth the ROI is offers. Rather than dissecting the microcosm of any individual property, portfolio managers make higher-level decisions that affect the company at large—decisions like whether to move headquarters, consolidate facilities, or buy vs. lease a property. Most important, they juxtapose real property to the business in fundamental ways that allow for better decision-making.

Keep reading: What Can You Do with Real Estate Analytics?

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

School’s In – For Educational Facility Improvements

By Danielle Moore
Director, Archibus Marketing

The pivot to distance learning during COVID-19 has left many schools empty. For some students, it’s been over a year since they’ve seen the inside of a classroom. Since the onset of the pandemic, educational institutions of all types have been looking for ways to safely restart classes.

But those silent halls and rooms are not being ignored. Educational facilities managers are taking advantage of vacant buildings to perform routine upkeep and make structural, system, and aesthetic improvements. A powerful integrated workplace management system (IWMS) can help organize, schedule, and manage these projects start to finish.

Most educational facilities wait until the summer months to begin construction, renovation, and maintenance projects. Improvements and upkeep projects can be complex and difficult to manage while class is in session. With distance learning, facilities managers are finding plenty of opportunities to get jobs done outside the typical eight- or nine-week summertime window.

COVID-19 fuels introspection

School administrators are looking within to prioritize projects, specifically health and wellness improvements. HVAC system upgrades are top of mind for many. The forced air infrastructure in schools works overtime to deliver clean air to classrooms, study areas, cafeterias, gyms, and offices. Unfortunately, HVAC is likely one of the most under-maintained, antiquated systems in a school. According to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley and UC Davis, only ~15% of classrooms in California meet the state’s ventilation standards for schools. Empty school rooms mean facilities managers can orchestrate much-needed updates and maintenance.

There’s also the future to consider. COVID-19 has forever marked how education is delivered. We’ll likely see ongoing sanitization standards and public health measures to help keep schools open if another crisis hits.

Now is the perfect time for schools to install hand sanitation and washing stations, realign floor layouts to accommodate social distancing, when needed, and create new facility protocols that foster health and safety for students and staff. That also can mean creating new strategies for teaching and how they affect the physical learning environment.

Highlight referendum projects

School closings are a prime opportunity for referendum projects. These plans—which have already been funded by taxpayers—are generally large and protracted. They can be disruptive to students when noisy construction work spills over into the school year.

Vacant buildings mean facilities managers can make vast headway-or even complete-bigger buildouts before classes resume. These projects can include everything from gymnasium and auditorium renovations to new campus buildings or the decommissioning of shuttered facilities. Even sport complex and parking lot improvements are more feasible.

Referendum projects across the country are gaining support as distance learning drags on. The Madison County School District in Wisconsin saw more than $350 million approved for school infrastructure in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. It was not alone. Districts in TexasCaliforniaIllinois, and dozens of other states passed coronavirus-fueled school construction and renovation projects ranging from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. The bane of distance learning quickly rolled into opportunities for school improvements.

Small improvements matter, too

Those big, taxpayer-funded projects are just a beginning. Now is a perfect time to tackle the backlog of support requests from educators, administrators, and students. When classes are in session, many  repair-or-replace projects are backburnered. It’s not easy to resurface the gym floor when basketball games are scheduled. Nor is repaving the parking lots when spots are filled with student and staff vehicles.

With space to work, facilities managers can divide and conquer to empty the support ticket queue. No cars in the parking lots makes repaving a breeze. Canceled sporting events means a fresh coat of lacquer for the gym floor can dry and cure. Though small in scope, resolving support ticket requests will make a huge difference to teachers and students when classes resume.

The silver lining of distance learning

School facility projects accomplished during COVID-19 come with a greater sense of purpose. Instead of a race against the clock to complete projects before students return to class, administrators can focus on coordinating projects from a value standpoint. It means looking at improvements and maintenance from a long-term benefits perspective, as opposed to strictly a cost-benefit or time-sensitive approach. It’s not “Which projects will be less disruptive to students?”; it’s “Which projects will deliver the most benefits?”

This opportunity for improvement to school facilities spans every type of institution—from K-8 to high school to college campuses and even satellite learning centers. When the bell rings and students come back to class after the long hiatus, they’ll find themselves in a learning environment that makes that return seamless. It may not be the school they left, but it’ll be one they can learn to love.

Keep reading: Facilities Management Software for Schools


Hybrid Workplaces are the Future of Work

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

More people than ever before are working remotely. But not everyone is logging in from a home office. Some people still prefer the structure of a physical workplace, and will gladly get up and go to one each day. The result of this duality is a hybrid workplace: one that supports both remote and on-site employees. It’s a concept that pre-dated COVID-19, but came to fruition largely because of it. Now, hybrid workplaces are here to stay.

Forced to make it work during the pandemic, companies and their employees have begun to get their bearings and figure things out. Patchwork fixes, stopgaps, and workarounds have congealed into new processes and permanent solutions that allow remote workers to be as productive as their in-office counterparts. Better still, the adoption of a hybrid work model has given time for distributed teams to learn to work together.

Hybrid workplaces are still in flux, but they’re becoming a much more permanent reality. What’s certain is their staying power. Now that people can work the way that is best for them, there’s no going back.

What is the hybrid workplace?

A hybrid office supports both in-house and remote employees at the same time, and offers flexibility for ebb and flow between these two work styles. It’s a concept that encompasses both physical and digital workspaces, as well.

The goal of the hybrid workplace is to support every work style and every employee—especially when these variables are inconsistent. Can Sanjay work effectively in-house today and continue his work tomorrow from home? If Marsha usually works from home and needs to come back in-house for a week, will she find the work environment she needs? These questions—and dozens more like them—are what facility managers ask as they plan for the new norm of flex work.

Hybrid workplaces can take many forms and feature many systems of governance. Hoteling is the most popular because it offers checks and balances companies can use to manage their workers, yet still offers employees optionality. Other hybrid examples include hot desks, desk neighborhoods, flex spaces, and more. No matter how it’s comprised, the hybrid workspace is one that’s wholly supportive of every employee’s work style.

Why are hybrid workspaces quickly becoming the new norm for companies big and small? It’s because there are benefits for employees and businesses alike.

How does the hybrid office affect employees?

For employees, the hybrid office offers a seamless experience that’s conducive to flex work styles. In-house or remote, single work or group work, no matter the variables, the hybrid office delivers.

  • Employees have the option to choose their workspace or desk type
  • Freedom of movement in the office makes transitioning between tasks easier
  • Mobility makes it easier for employees to work independent or as a group
  • More autonomy for employees can result in better work habits and practices
  • Employees feel empowered to make decisions about how or when they work
  • The transition between in-office and at-home work is more fluid and simpler

The bottom line on hybrid office benefits for employees is more freedom and the ability to work comfortably. Whether they work at home, in-office, or split their time, they’ll have the support they need to do their best work at all times.

How does the hybrid work model affect businesses?

On the business side, a hybrid work model offers an abundance of cost-saving benefits, as well as management opportunities that improve workspace utilization. Some of the core benefits of a well-run hybrid workplace include:

  • Better space utilization and reclamation of unused space from traditional desking
  • More productive workforce that feels supported and trusted in their work style
  • Improved workplace safety during times of disruption (illness, renovations, etc.)
  • Fewer disruptions to work caused by an inflexible workplace concept
  • Saved costs associated with less strain on or demand for unnecessary facilities
  • Opportunities to cultivate a more modern, inclusive culture and workforce

The practical benefits of hybrid workplaces for businesses become evident in gains to productivity, the bottom line, and the company culture. Less rigidity in the business model opens the door for more flexible avenues of growth.

Hybrid workplaces will continue to evolve

We haven’t figured out hybrid workplaces completely yet, but we’re further along than we were at the outset of the pandemic. As new processes connect remote workers to on-site staff, the hybrid workplace will continue to evolve. Hybrid workplaces offer plenty of opportunity for adaptation, which is a boon to businesses and employees alike. Embracing a hybrid concept may well be what enables businesses to remain nimble in the face of future hardship or—perish the thought—another pandemic.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success


Six Workplace Portal Functions That Are Essential in the Era of Flex Work

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Called the “workplace intranet” in a past technological era, the concept of a workplace portal has been around as long as workplace computers. Today, many companies still host intranet sites and work portals, and for good reason. They’re highly useful means for bringing together employee resources in a single destination.

Like all things that involve workplace tech, the employee portal has evolved with time. Namely, it’s evolved on the heels of better integrations and business clouds, which have given portals much more than simple hyperlink and static text capabilities. The modern capabilities of a work portal demand businesses take a second look at theirs, to make sure it delivers real utility to employees.

What is a work portal?

A work portal is a hosted repository for information and resources that’s accessible only to employees on the business’ network. It features oft-used resources that might include:

  • Payroll information and time-off request forms
  • Access to the company directory or site map
  • An announcement board for company-wide information
  • Submission forms for IT requests or equipment check-out

Anything employees routinely need access to is best put in a portal. It’s something employees can get familiar with as soon as they start with the company and something they’ll likely interact with every day in some capacity.

Now, as facilities become more complex and flex work entrenches itself as a mode of operation, companies have found new utility from their work portals. Here’s a look at six portal functions that can and should become standard in companies with evolving workplaces.

1. Support ticketing and requests

The more sophisticated workplaces become, the quicker maintenance and repairs need to occur. For example, if the motion sensor for the lights in the lobby stops working, visitors could find themselves greeted by darkness. Getting problems like these fixed needs to be as easy as submitting an urgent ticket to maintenance through the work portal.

Non-urgent requests should be just as simple. Need to take out an AV cart? Want to request an extra recycling bin for your department? The work portal is the place to make these requests a one-minute, no hassle task.

2. Space reservation and seat booking

For companies that explore hoteling and other reservation-based seating arrangements, the work portal is an ideal place to encourage scheduling. While an ideal reservation system will have multiple methods of seat booking (Slack, email, dashboard, etc.), the employee portal should be the most accessible and robust. Employees already in the habit of checking the portal daily will quickly attune themselves to desk booking through this channel. It’s a great way to get employees on board with a reservation system.

3. Real-time updates and announcements

In the era of COVID-19 (and beyond), company-wide announcements are important. Employees deserve to be kept apprised of everything from scheduling changes to new company policies. While memos and email announcements are still standard, scrolling them in a portal or posting them on a company bulletin board is still a great reminder. Moreover, executives can control who sees what message by targeting different departments via their login credentials. With an employee portal, vital announcements are front-and-center every day.

4. Employee directory access

The employee directory has become a critical tool with the rise of remote work and flex work. Without static desks or schedules, employees may have difficulty finding each other at any given time. And while the company directory has long been a part of many employee portals, new integrations have made it more robust and useful.

Companies can tie directory information to wayfinding and the desk booking system, to show employees where someone is at any given time and how to get there. They can also tie in apps like Slack or Calendly, so that clicking on a person gives you their messaging information or access to their calendar. There are limitless integrations, amounting to infinite possibilities for how useful an in-portal employee directory can be.

5. Wayfinding features and integrations

Like the employee directory, a company’s wayfinding system is highly useful as part of the employee portal. As employees use more of the workplace, they need to feel comfortable navigating it. Access to wayfinding tools through a portal they’re already used to using can make them more amiable to using the workplace in new and effective ways. And, as mentioned, wayfinding features are a great tie-in with a newer, more robust employee directory.

6. Facility information

Simple additions to the workplace portal can be some of the best—especially when they concern facilities. Companies are wise to build out a section for facility information that includes information such as cleaning schedules, a common contacts list, asset locations, and anything else important or specific to the workplace. When employees have questions, this should be the first place they look—and the last place they need to look.

The beauty of a work portal is that it’s a single, simple point of action for employees—one that empowers them to interact with the workplace in a meaningful way. With the correct integrations and a little organization, a workplace portal can become something employees use every day, to great benefit.

Keep reading: What is Employee Experience?