How to Shape the COVID-19 Employee Experience

How to Shape the COVID-19 Employee Experience

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Fear. Frustration. Exasperation. Weariness. These are some of the many emotions that define the COVID-19 employee experience. Whether they’re back in the workplace or still doing remote work, employees are no doubt feeling upended and all the emotions that come with it. Not only has the situation grated on employees, it’s caused disruptions to everything from productivity to collaboration. It’s a situation begging for change.

While the world may be at the mercy of coronavirus until a viable vaccine deploys, employers can boost employee experience during COVID-19. Amidst mask mandates, social distancing, sanitizations, and contact tracing, employees need a reason to stay optimistic and positive. Employers should give it to them.

Instead of COVID-19 changing employee experience, employers need to take the reins and affect their own (positive) change. Here are a few suggestions piquing the interest of pandemic optimists:

Make the virtual workplace more authentic

The biggest transition for many employees during the pandemic has been the loss of socialization in the workplace. Messaging on Slack and even the occasional Zoom meeting aren’t enough to replace idle banter in a conference room or the happenstance run-ins at the copy machine. To redefine the experience for remote employees and those living vicariously through digital channels, humanize it.

Host virtual happy hours and encourage off-topic messaging at appropriate times. See who can come up with the best Zoom background. Run trivia through Slack. Employees may lack the in-person interaction, but employers can inject variety into virtual workplaces to rekindle socialization.

Practice social-emotional leadership

A little empathy goes a long way toward improving the COVID-19 employee experience. Encourage employees to take breaks or step away from their workstations to decompress. Institute a policy for mental health days—no-questions-asked time off when the stress is just too much. Managers should also take time to shepherd their flock—check in individually with employees to see how they’re doing or let them vent. Above all, encourage leadership to listen and understand the things employees struggle with so you can take steps to correct them.

Prioritize happiness for all employees

What can you do to lighten the emotional load on employees? Inspiring happiness needs to be a core principle for companies that expect continuing productivity and engagement from their teams. If employees wake up and dread going to sit in front of their computer screen or step foot in the office, the emotional toll will weigh on them throughout the day and become an anchor on their morale.

Managers should dole out praise and support early and often, and find ways to unburden employees of unnecessary stressors. Focus on both sides of the coin: picking employees up and jettisoning the things that put them down.

Destigmatize mental health

Mental health and wellness has become increasingly important in workplaces, with more transparent initiatives to promote a positive culture surrounding it. During the pandemic, significantly more people report a decline in mental health—from anxiety to depression to apathy.

Prioritize mental health initiatives and destigmatize this topic in the workplace. Make telehealth options available to employees, institute mental wellness breaks, adopt a mental health day policy, and make it clear to employees that their mental health is a priority above all else. Affirmation of the mental health woes we’re all facing makes it easier for employees to see the signs and confront them early, knowing they have the support of their employer behind them.

Stay in communication (and provide insight)

Especially for distributed teams, make an effort to check in and keep abreast of individual employees—not only in a managerial capacity, but informally as well. Likewise, maintain consistent informative communication. A weekly memo, timely updates, or emergent messaging show that the company is paying attention and being mindful of employees by keeping them in the loop. Whether it’s commentary on the pandemic at large or a company-specific update about changing processes, employees feel better when they’re in-the-know, as opposed to in the dark.

Listen for and correct problems

There’s no such thing as a totally seamless transition from pre-pandemic work to whatever protocols your company has adopted. It takes time to adjust to change and settle in. As obstacles pop up and problems arise, listen and take note—then find a way to address them. Even small problems will grate on employees and can make them feel like they’re unsupported. Especially when it comes to technology struggles, do everything in your power to help ease the transition and acclimate employees.

Stop normalizing the “new norm”

Learning how to enhance employee experience during the pandemic comes from understanding what’s disrupting your workforce. What, specifically, causes them anxiety or trepidation? How can you ease the frustrations of their new work arrangement? What will give them a reason to smile behind their mask, as opposed to frown?

The ‘new norm’ we’ve been hearing so much about has a stigma attached to it—a sense of inevitable disruption. Employers need to stop normalizing the idea that disruption is here to stay and instead, adopt solutions-driven initiatives that define the future in spite of the pandemic.

Keep reading: Covid-19 Workplace Resources


Space Planning vs. Floor Planning

Space Planning vs. Floor Planning

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

The realm of workplace management is a semantic minefield. What might sound like one thing, means another—if you’re not careful, you could find yourself talking about one concept while someone else registers it as another. Such an example of important semantic differences is space planning vs. floor planning. While they may sound the same, they’re very different and have differing connotations in context. 

A tale of two terms

What’s the difference between space planning vs. floor planning? It comes down to what each term encompasses.

  • The space in space planning refers to how a section of the floor plan is used. During space planning, you might decide you need a conference room, a cluster of hot desks, and a breakout space. You’re devoting portions of your office’s overall space to these purposes. 
  • Floor planning stems from the idea of organizing space. That conference room goes over here. The hot desks go over there. The breakout space will reside here. Where are these spaces within the context of the floor of a building? 

Floor planning is the where; space planning is the how. The two terms have an important relationship with one another, but are independently important. There’s a big difference between space planning initiatives and a floor plan concept, for example. 

A look at space planning

Office space planning is arguably the first concern of facility managers because it deals with space type and utilization. For example, you wouldn’t put a bunch of single-person desks in an office that revolves around group work. Before you can deploy a space in the context of a floor plan, you need to know what type of space is best. 

Space planning is dependent on a number of variables, including demand for certain space types and availability of square footage. For example, during COVID-19, many businesses are converting conference spaces into hoteling environments based on demand, and the space requirements for these workspaces are less than a single conference room, making them feasible. 

Finally, space planning considers the habits and needs of different work groups. A workforce that’s half in-office and half-remote might need less collaborative space than a team that’s all in-office. The engineering team might work better with a benching concept so they can collaborate openly. The many variables that govern work also govern space planning, and space planners need to account for them as they shape different facets of the workplace. 

An overview of floor planning

Floor planning gives context and application to space planning. A floor plan delegates space and lays everything out in real terms, against the actual square footage of a building’s floors. It also provides parameters for space planning. For example, you can’t put a 12-person conference room in a section of the building that only measures 10’x10’.

A floor plan also shows how much real space is delegated to a particular concept, which informs metrics for efficiency, utilization, and cost. If 40% of your total square footage is hoteling space, but the work that happens in these spaces accounts for 75% of your revenue, that’s a metric worth knowing. It starts by understanding where and how different space concepts exist in reality.

There’s also spatial awareness that comes from a floor plan. When you ask “where does Mesha sit?” the answer needs to come from the context of a floor plan: “the southeast corner of the third floor, by the blue conference room.” Floor plans are so important because they tie space to application, especially through applications like wayfinding, directories, or desk allocation. 

Put them together for maximum effect

Much of the confusion between space planning vs. floor planning comes from execution. For example, you’ll likely use space planning software to create a floor plan—a concept confusing in and of itself. The key difference to remember is that space planning involves finding purpose for the space, while floor planning involves placing it within the context of the workplace. This is, in fact, where the two come together and best complement each other. 

Companies can use space planning data to inform better floor plans, then continue to improve floor plans based on evolving space demands. Conversely, if there’s a hole in a floor plan, the context of that gap can inform better space planning—the need for a breakout space or a quiet workstation, for example. 

In either case, space planning and floor planning, used in tandem, are a powerful combination for maximizing the practicality of a workplace. You can’t have one without the other, and both have important definitions and meanings in the context of total workplace planning. 

Keep reading: Space Planning Software Buyers and Info Guide


Post COVID-19 Return to Office

Post COVID-19 Return to Office: How to Cope with Spikes

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

As of November 2020, the United States was riding the third wave of COVID-19 to new highs in daily positive cases. Or rather, the third surge of the first wave. Almost one year into the pandemic and it continues to spread unchecked. It’s causing disruptions for businesses at every level—especially for those hoping for a post COVID-19 return to office work. 

Many companies chose to open up their workplaces in late August during a downtrend in cases. Unfortunately, positive tests ticked up again in late September and have been on the rise ever since. This has spurred a return to remote work for many companies, while others are hunkering down to weather what appears to be a pandemic ready to surge into 2021. However they’re handling it, companies face many uncertainties and no small number of frustrations as they struggle to predict and plan for the pandemic. 

Is the workplace safe right now?

During the August bout of business reopening, many employees expressed concern over returning to the workplace for fear of a spike in cases. These fears are at a head—although not because of the workplace. In fact, there are few workplace hotspots reported. Experts attribute the uncontrolled rise in cases to the fact that “lockdown measures have lifted, more people are spending time indoors as weather gets cold, residents are feeling fatigued by safety measures, and cases never dropped sufficiently.”

Workplaces may in fact be safer than normal due to the stringent policies adopted at the outset of the pandemic. At-home self-assessments, mask mandates, workplace distancing, increased janitorial measures, and distant desking concepts combine to keep transmission opportunities low in the workplace. 

How to cope with spikes

Even if an employee doesn’t catch COVID-19 in the workplace, it doesn’t mean that workplace isn’t affected. Space utilization falls as more employees stay home. Spaces may be off-limits for disinfection after an employee tests positive. Other employees may need to self-quarantine in lieu of a positive test, due to the virus’ incubation period. These factors and countless others affect the workplace and make it more difficult to mount a successful return to work strategy. 

To cope with uncertainty, employers need to create stability. Just as they adopted new cleaning and social standards to help employees safely return to the office post COVID-19, companies also need to institute policies that drive predictable results. Here are some examples:

  • A hoteling policy allows employers to reorganize their workplace to optimize space utilization, control occupancy, and create contact tracing standards. 
  • Create a rolling schedule that separates employees into in-office and at-home groups, rotating bi-weekly to preserve a 14-day buffer in the event of a positive or false-positive.
  • Build in standards and protocols for each workspace that govern which employees can use them, when, and for how long, to dictate space utilization habits. 
  • Restructure the workplace to repurpose shared spaces into hoteling stations or single-person workstations, compliant with social distancing standards. 

To create predictability and certainty in their workplaces, employers need to embrace flexible work concepts within the context of a well-governed framework. This means managing hotel desks with office hoteling software or pre-scheduling workplace sanitization tasks as employees book spaces. A return to work that’s structured and managed is necessary to combat spikes in COVID-19 cases and the disruption that comes with them. 

Consider employee fears and frustrations

Even the best desking policy or the most thorough cleaning standards aren’t enough to quell employee fears about COVID-19. To assuage those fears and promote a safe, productive, comfortable return to work, employers need to be transparent in their efforts. 

  • Show employees exactly what changes you’ve made to accommodate them
  • Explain in specific detail how these changes promote safety and reduce risk
  • Lay out protocols for how contact tracing and employee privacy factor in
  • Recognize the severity of COVID-19 and empathize with concerned employees
  • Don’t dismiss fears or concerns; address them specifically and thoroughly

Ultimately, some employees will not feel comfortable with a return to work, no matter how broad your precautions are. If at all possible, find alternative work solutions for these individuals. If remote work isn’t possible, work to accommodate them in-house in as many ways as possible. 

Get back into the swing of things

Regardless of employee trepidation or rising COVID-19 cases, a return to work will take time. After working remotely for months or flexing back-and-forth between the office and remote work, employees need time to reset and settle themselves back into some semblance of a “normal” work environment. Whether it’s the one they enjoyed before COVID-19 or a “new norm” brought on by the pandemic, a post COVID-19 return to office work will take time. 

Read Next: Workplace COVID-19 Resources


Space Planning for COVID-19

Space Planning for COVID-19: Four Effective Solutions

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

The concept of workspace allocation has been in flux since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some desking concepts are now inefficient in their use of space utilization, while others are downright inapplicable due to new standards for distancing. It has many businesses reevaluating their approach to space planning for COVID-19.

As they consider new workplace layouts and desking concepts, facility managers need to consider them within the context of the coronavirus pandemic. What desking concepts comply with social distancing standards? What spaces could need to change to promote better utilization? Are there policies to govern when, where, and how employees use specific workspaces? Above all, how can facility managers bring these criteria together through functional space planning?

It’s impossible to plan for an end to the pandemic, and failing to do anything means an inefficient workplace for as long as the pandemic rages on. Here are four effective solutions given the current predicament. 

1. Adopt a hoteling standard

Hoteling has emerged as one of the de-facto desking concepts during the pandemic. The relative flexibility of hoteling—combined with a framework of oversight through hotel space planning software—makes it easy to allocate the right space to the right people. Employees still get the freedom to choose their desk for the day or week, and facility managers get a clear understanding of occupancy and utilization. 

For hoteling to be effective, companies need to create hoteling stations that meet the needs of employees. This might mean special accommodations for different work groups or a specific location within the building, near certain facilities. Hotel stations need to be comfortable, adaptable, accessible, and conducive to concentration and productivity. 

2. Repurpose group work spaces

As companies explore new desking concepts like hoteling, they’ll need to borrow space from current facilities to make these concepts work. The simplest solution is to repurpose group work spaces, which are less likely to see usage during the pandemic (and after). A rise in Zoom meetings and virtual collaboration means many conference rooms, collaboration space, and group work areas can be dismantled and revived as hoteling areas or flex work spaces.

While it might seem dramatic to convert group workspaces into smaller workstations, realize that this is one of the most likely office space trends post COVID-19. Video chat and virtual collaboration changed group work in a major way by taking the need for proximity out of the equation. While the conference room is unlikely to ever go away, businesses should plan to dedicate less square footage to these spaces in the future. 

3. Schedule buffer time

Repurposing space and changing the desking strategy aren’t the only factors that affect space planning. How and when employees occupy a space also matter—as do the precautions that go into sanitizing it in a pandemic. In concepts like hoteling and hot desking, multiple employees will use the same desk over the course of a day or week, necessitating sanitization between uses. During these times, that space will be unavailable, which means planning to seat employees elsewhere during that time. 

Schedule appropriate buffers between start and stop times, so shared spaces receive cleaning between uses and employees aren’t disrupted while they’re using the space. This is as easy as generating support tickets along with space reservations or scheduling routine cleanings every few hours as bookings expire. This will keep the space clean and viable, in-play as part of a new workspace floor plan. 

4. Put parameters on workspaces

An often-overlooked COVID-19 office space planning tip is to limit who can use certain spaces or when they’re available. It seems counterintuitive for space optimization, but can help facility managers better-govern space, as well as the flow of employees through the workplace. 

For example, if the hotel desks on the fourth floor are off limits to anyone other than the sales team, Sales is less likely to spread out across the entire building. Likewise, the second floor might only be for Marketing, because the amenities on that floor are conducive to graphic design, print, and copywriting teams. 

This type of space-specific control ensures workplaces are available for those who need them, where and when they need them. It can avoid overcrowding in certain areas or bottlenecks for specific workspace types. Simple controls and parameters make a big difference in the effectiveness of a new workplace concept. 

Plan for COVID-19 and beyond

The great thing about these space planning solutions is that they all work together—and, they all create a framework for the workplace of the future. The marriage of flexible space planning with controls in place to govern workspaces sets the stage for an adaptable office environment. There’s no telling how long the pandemic will last or what the outcome will be. These solutions put more control in the hands of businesses as they consider the future of their physical workplace. 

Read Next: COVID-19 Workplace Resources


How to Set up Hoteling Stations

How to Set up Hoteling Stations

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Hoteling has become a prominent solution to the rise in flex work created by the coronavirus pandemic. Companies with limited in-house staff or those with rolling in-office schedules have turned to hoteling as a way to accommodate workers with more flexibility and predictability. To make this work, they’ve reconfigured the office to create hoteling stations. 

Hoteling stations come in many varieties, yet serve the same purpose: to provide a temporary workspace for employees in dynamic work environments. These spaces can take on many different qualities, depending on the type of work an employee might do at them or for what length of time they’ll be there. It’s up to facility managers to coordinate hoteling stations that meet the needs of their employees during this period of workplace disruption.

What is hoteling?

Hoteling involves assigning employees to desks for a predetermined period of time. Rather than a permanent, static desk all the time or only free-flowing workspaces, hoteling exists in-between. It combines the structure of assigned seating with the freedom of employees to pick that seating, or to explore new seating options with each hoteling reservation they make. Hoteling is a managed process, overseen by office hoteling software, a facility manager, or a combination of both. 

What is a hoteling station?

A hoteling station is a workplace, designed for short-term or temporary use—hence the concept of hoteling. It can be as simple as a desk and chair with basic hookups for a laptop, but is often more specific to the work habits of employees that may occupy it. For example, a hoteling station designed for product engineering might have two screens and a drawing trackpad, to facilitate better 3D modeling. 

How to optimize hoteling stations

The goal of hoteling is to maximize space utilization in facilities that need a system of governance for unpredictable or flexible work habits. To tap into the real value of hoteling, employees also need to get maximum value from the hotel desk they’re at. This goes beyond designing a space to fit a task. Here are a few other ways to optimize hoteling stations:

  • Place hoteling stations near amenities relevant to employees, such as hotel desks for creatives near meeting rooms where they can gather to collaborate on an idea. 
  • Consider sound and other stimuli. Employees will struggle to use a hotel desk if their surroundings are too much of a distraction. 
  • Make sure hoteling employees can access an admin or manager in case something goes wrong with the desk they’re at or they need additional support. 
  • In larger facilities, incorporate wayfinding with hoteling so employees always know where they’re going and how to get there, even if they think they know. 
  • Create diverse hoteling stations to accommodate different types of work in different areas of your facilities. Diversity helps every employee find their ideal work conditions. 
  • Create term limits or schedules for hotel desks. This encourages employees to embrace the flexibility of hoteling and discourages territorialism over particular spaces.

Above all, make sure the hoteling process is a seamless one. Employees should be able to search for open spaces during a given time, book that space for the time they need it, navigate there without issue, check in to their booking, and work without interruption. A hassle-free hoteling experience is what governs the success of this concept in the workplace. 

How many hoteling stations do you need?

The number of hoteling options you need depends on how many employees you expect to seat during any given day. This further depends on what kind of scheduling or flex work system your employees are on.

If employees come and go as they please, determine the average daily occupancy of your workplace over the course of a month, then compare this to the total number of employees. Buffer this percentage with an acceptable margin of extra hotel stations or create overflow areas for times when in-house occupancy spikes. 

If you have a set, rolling schedule for employees—for example, two weeks in office, two weeks remote—figure the highest number of in-office employees at any given time. This is the minimum number of hoteling stations needed. Fewer will leave employees “homeless” at work; too many extra will lower space utilization rates. 

Build hoteling stations employees will use

As is the case with hotels, there’s a broad description of what, exactly, a hotel room is. A hotel at the Ritz Carlton is much different from the one you’ll get at a Business Inn and Suites. The same holds true for workplace hoteling stations. Facility managers need to furnish employees with a space that helps employees enjoy their hoteling experience and makes them embrace the concept. 

A well-designed hoteling station sets the tone for an enjoyable hoteling experience, which rolls into everything from better space utilization to better productivity—all at a time when many workplaces feel up-ended and chaotic. It’s no wonder hoteling has emerged as a viable solution to quelling workplace uncertainties. 

Read Next: Streamline Desk Booking with Office Hoteling Software


What is Facilities Maintenance Support Services?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Facility maintenance encompasses a broad spectrum of tasks, big and small. While we tend to think of something like elevator repair as the definition of facility maintenance, you could also argue that changing a lightbulb or changing the break room garbage are also simple forms of maintenance. Such a broad scope of upkeep is why most facilities managers rely on support services from vendors.

What is facilities maintenance support services? Depending on the size of a company and its facilities, support services can encompass some or all of the upkeep of a building. A facility manager delegates these services to approved vendors through service-level agreements (SLAs), so that when the time comes for specific action, there’s no question of who, when, how, or what’s involved. Facilities maintenance support services are an integral part of what keeps facilities running smooth.

The scope of facilities maintenance

What does facility maintenance mean? In a broad sense, it’s anything to do with building upkeep. Landscaping, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and more are all examples of integral property systems, each with a host of demands to facilitate upkeep. These are also known as “hard” facilities management tasks.

Within each system, the concept of maintenance breaks down into two schools of thought: proactive and reactive maintenance. Proactive maintenance—also called planned maintenance—is anything a facility manager can budget and plan for. Reactive maintenance encompasses unexpected, unplanned repairs.

  • Proactive maintenance includes items like HVAC tune-ups or weekly janitorial services
  • Reactive maintenance includes tasks like snow removal or unplanned plumbing repair

What is the function of facilities maintenance? Whether proactive or reactive, facility maintenance is vital across systems. Failure to keep up on HVAC maintenance can lead to AC failure during a heat wave. Lack of janitorial planning leads to unsanitary workplace conditions. These examples and countless others show why facilities maintenance is a priority for any company.

A look at vendors and SLAs

When you consider the broad scope of facilities maintenance, it’s apparent that no single person can do it all. This is where support services come in—namely vendors and SLAs. While large companies may have in-house staff to handle everyday maintenance and upkeep of facilities, vendors and SLAs cover everything beyond the basics. Here are some examples:

  • Plumbers for anything related to water supply and drainage
  • Electricians for all wiring, lighting, and power supply systems
  • HVAC techs for climate control fixtures and supply systems
  • Landscaping companies for groundskeeping and exteriors
  • General contractors for infrastructure upkeep and remodeling

The list of craftspeople that may become part of a company’s vendor pool is nearly infinite and depends on the demands of the facilities themselves. Have a brick façade? Add a mason to the list. Operate a sterile environment? You’ll need specialty janitorial services. The list of needs and service professionals goes on and on.

Every vendor lending facilities maintenance support services operates on an SLA. This document outlines the services that vendor provides, in what capacity, the rate they charge, what the expectations are for the working agreement, and anything else pertinent to delivery of services. It effectively governs the relationship between the vendor and the company, to expedite delivery of support service. SLAs are also an important budgeting tool.

Integrated facilities management

Speaking of SLAs, it’s important to understand how complex the web of facilities maintenance support services can become. Dozens (or hundreds) of vendors with unique SLAs is overwhelming. It’s enough to make facility managers consider integrated facilities management.

This strategy combines support services under larger SLAs with fewer companies. Instead of using three companies for janitorial services, an integrated approach gives the contract to a single company capable of delivering a full scope of work. While efficient, this strategy requires careful consideration. What are the types of facility maintenance your building needs? What are your current vendor relationships for these services? What is the cost of each SLA vs. an integrated SLA?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing maintenance support services. That said, integrated facilities management has proven effective for many companies with growing support service needs. It’s likely to continue trending upward as stakeholders pass demand for bottom line savings on to facilities managers.

It takes a village

No single person can give facilities the complete attention they need when it comes to upkeep. From plumbers, electricians, and HVAC techs, to carpenters, glass repair experts, and landscapers, every craftsperson has a role. Each segment of facilities maintenance culminates in a well-run, well-managed, well-maintained building.

Whether through many different SLAs or an integrated facilities management approach, it’s up to facilities managers to delegate and coordinate facilities maintenance support services. Done effectively, facilities will have no trouble serving the needs of the people relying on them.

Keep reading: Get Familiar with a Facility Maintenance Plan


What Makes a Good Facility Manager?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

An air traffic controller isn’t qualified for the same job as an architect, who isn’t likely equipped to be a marine biologist. Given these examples, it’s obvious that certain jobs demand certain skills. It’s no different for facilities management. Not just anyone can be a good facility manager.

What makes a good facility manager? It starts with a unique set of traits, skills, and education, tailored for this role. Below, we’ll dive into not only what a facility manager is and what they’re responsible for, but how to hire for success in this position. With the right person in the role, companies can look to a facility manager for broad benefits they might not otherwise enjoy.

What is a facilities manager?

A facilities manager oversees the upkeep and use of property. This spans everything from delegation of maintenance tasks to vendors, to coordinating space utilization among the workforce. Facility managers are the link between facilities and the people who use them, as well as facilities and the broader goals of the company.

At a macro level, a facility manager might provide data to a corporate real estate manager about the cost and productivity of their facilities, which informs decision-making across a broad property portfolio. In a micro capacity, a facility manager is responsible for overseeing the room booking software employees use to reserve workspaces. These examples illustrate the broad scope of facilities and the need for a person (or team) to oversee them.

Facility manager is also a broad term that covers many different synonyms. Depending on the emphasis of job duties for a particular position, companies may use one of more than two dozen different terms to describe the role. At the end of the day, a facility manager is a little bit of everything: a strategist, coordinator, analyst, manager, and all-around problem-solver.

Roles and responsibilities

What is a facilities manager’s responsibilities? According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the primary duties of a facility manager span six different areas of focus:

  • Building technology (smart buildings)
  • Employee health and safety
  • Recruitment and training
  • Environmental efforts
  • Maintenance and upkeep
  • Culture and social support

Within each of these areas of focus is a long list of sub-focuses and tasks, each directly linked to the building, business operations, and the people involved in them. They’re split into hard and soft facilities services.

A good facilities manager will know how to attend to the needs of a building so they benefit the people using it. This ranges from something as simple as proper space planning to prevent overcrowding, to establishing a multi-input system for support ticketing and facilities maintenance task delegation.

The primary responsibility of a facility manager comes down to one very simple concept: transform facilities from a cost center into a competitive advantage. A good facility manager is always asking “How can we turn this cost into an investment that yields a return?”

The traits of a good facility manager

A good facility manager is someone who can transform one of the largest balance sheet expenditures (facilities) into a strategic asset for business success. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a refined set of skills, logic-minded thinking, and a knack for problem-solving. IFMA lists the following 11 core competencies as the most valuable for a facility manager:

  • Communication
  • Facility information and technology management
  • Finance and business
  • Leadership and strategy
  • Occupancy and human factors
  • Operations and maintenance
  • Performance and quality
  • Project management
  • Real estate
  • Risk management
  • Sustainability

Successful facility managers understand how to marry these traits to the strategic initiatives of a company. How can we reduce facility upkeep costs to improve bottom-line financials? Will a new desking concept improve employee productivity? Are we practicing sustainable initiatives? These are just a few of the questions facility managers need to ask and answer as they look for ways to leverage facilities.

The right traits can help facility managers see opportunities amidst headwinds and long-term benefits ahead of short-term struggles. It takes competency in the above traits to bring such a complex concept like facilities management into focus and improve it in measurable ways.

Set your company up for success

What is the importance of facility management? You can’t put a price on a smooth-running workplace and the operational efficiencies it creates. A good facility manager can be the difference between a comfortable, efficient, hardworking team and disorganized, unmotivated employees.

A good facility manager has the traits and abilities to look at facilities and understand their interconnectedness to other aspects of business. A great facility manager will continually find ways to identify opportunities and improve the workplace to affect positive outcomes for the business.

Keep reading: Facility Manager Communication Tips for Promoting a Healthy Workplace


Five Employee Engagement Strategies That Create Empathy

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

We’re living in a tumultuous time and have been for the past several years. Social justice and civil rights are at the forefront of numerous conversations, creeping into more and more aspects of daily life. Now, with the work-from-home movement in full swing, the lines between work and home have blurred. The need for employee engagement strategies is growing.

What are examples of employee engagement?

What is employee engagement strategies? They’re initiatives designed to strengthen different employee relationships, often correlating to a particular aspect of work. You might have an engagement initiative designed to foster teamwork, for example.

Today, there’s an urgent call to action for employers to create employee engagement strategies focused on empathy and empathetic education. Empathy is the key to understanding, which is vital for coping with the many social causes and movements active today. #MeToo, for sexual assault survivors. Black Lives Matter, for racial equality. Pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them), to foster a gender-inclusive environment. These may be social movements, but they touch the workplace in a variety of different ways. It’s important to address them.

Empathy can be taught and learned, and employee engagement strategies are among the best tools for bringing empathy into the workplace. Here are five examples to help create empathy.

1. Diversity and inclusion training

One of the easiest ways to engage with employees and prioritize empathy is through diversity and inclusion training. While these types of seminars have a bad connotation, they’re as much a proactive teaching tool as a reactive one. Frame this type of training as an opportunity for employees and make sure there’s a safe space to foster discussion post-seminar. For many people, learning about race, religion, culture, sexuality, or gender outside of their own is a new experience. Healthy engagement is good for empathetic growth.

2. Match company values with initiatives

Get employees engaged by aligning your company’s core values with actionable initiatives. Build homes for the impoverished through Habitat for Humanity. Do a beach cleanup for an environmental movement. Help people register to vote. Actions speak louder than words, which makes company-led engagement opportunities among the most powerful for tying the company mission and values to empathetic causes.

3. Create a system for feedback and betterment

Engagement is impossible without the ability to be heard. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing—even when that means voicing disagreement or an unpopular opinion. A simple way to promote engagement is to create a system for feedback and betterment. Think of it like a new spin on the classic “suggestion box” concept. Employees submit concerns or considerations, and leadership creates opportunities to discuss those items. The goal is total company betterment, driven by a system where everyone has a voice and everyone is accountable.

4. Promote transparency in operations

Employees will actively disengage if they feel like there’s someone behind the curtain, pulling the strings. They demand transparency as part of their buy-in to company culture and expect to know how the company they’re affiliating themselves with presents itself. Has your business made political campaign contributions? Does it support local causes or charities? What public statements is leadership making about current events? More than anything, employees want to know what’s going on. Being upfront and honest with them is a core part of garnering buy-in and engagement.

5. Address social concerns openly

Especially in an era of changing work styles and standards, there’s more overlap between personal life and work life. Employees can’t turn emotions on and off depending on their surroundings or time of day. Companies need to promote open, honest, empathetic discussion about factors that may weigh heavy on their staff. Issues like mental health, social justice, economics, and politics loom large over people’s lives. Create a framework for discussion about these sensitive topics—one with proper guardrails and bumpers to keep conversation civil and respectful among peers. Even more valuable, give employees a forum to vent via a telehealth appointment or staff counselor.

An empathetic workforce is invaluable

How do you develop an employee engagement strategy focused on teaching empathy? Why take the time to create and foster an empathetic workforce? Because it goes beyond the social causes and conversations we’re having today. Whether you have a diverse workplace or one that’s relatively homogenous, the ability of your employees to be empathetic to the changing social paradigms of our time will have a direct and dramatic impact on the success of your company.

We’re living in a divisive and uncertain time. If there’s one thing we could all benefit from, it’s a little bit of empathy. To empathize is to understand and accept, even when you disagree. Teaching it as part of your workplace curriculum ensures that your workplace is a socially and emotionally inclusive one, able to identify and reap the talents of an increasingly diverse world.

Keep reading: Accountability and Acceptance for Remote Employees


What is Facility Management in Real Estate?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Facilities underscore just about every aspect of operations, which makes them an important consideration in various facets of business planning. Among the largest of these considerations is real estate. What is facility management in real estate? What considerations do facilities managers need to make to optimize facilities, to offset the cost of real estate on the balance sheet? These are questions companies need to answer as they plan for the future.

Facilities management is a segment of broader real estate oversight. It’s focused on understanding the role of facilities in the total scope of a company’s physical presence. In addition, it identifies costs and needs associated with facilities and how they impact the business’ mission, goals, and strategies.

What is the role of facility management?

The role of facility management becomes an important part of planning for real estate decisions. What’s the total cost of ownership for your office space in Los Angeles, CA? What kind of capital expenditures are on the budget for next year? Do you have the maintenance staff to take on 10,000 square feet of additional space? These real estate questions are only the tip of the iceberg and part of a significant reliance on facility management.

Through hands-on facility management, stakeholders can get the answers they need to make high-level real estate decisions. Using the above examples:

  • Lease data and cost of upkeep can shed light on total cost of ownership
  • Enterprise asset maintenance (EAM) data shows upcoming capital expenditures
  • Evaluation of current square footage and maintenance staff helps plan for expansion

Without facility management insights, it wouldn’t be possible to make data-driven decisions about real estate at a high level.

What is the difference between property and facility management?

There’s often confusion between property management and facility management, especially in relation to broader real estate decision-making.

  • Property management involves working on behalf of the building owner to address tenant concerns. Property managers fill vacancies, oversee the safety and security of property, and, above all, maintain the profitability of the building for the owner.
  • Facility management encompasses the day-to-day and ongoing maintenance needs of the building and its occupants. The primary focus is on the building itself and the impact of its many systems on the occupants and visitors.

For businesses that own the building(s) they operate in, there’s likely a property and facility manager on staff. For companies leasing, their facility manager likely liaises with a property manager to ensure frictionless operation. In either case, property and facility management are important for real estate planning.

For example, if a property manager needs to raise the rent on behalf of the building owner, it’ll affect the cost of operation for the company occupying that space. Or, as a building ages, facilities costs might go up. It’s up to a facility manager to recognize and communicate this uptick in cost from a real estate perspective. Both perspectives come together to enhance the decision-making capabilities of real estate managers and C-level stakeholders looking ahead.

Consider facilities management software

Data is the most important link between facility management and real estate decision-making. To get it, facilities managers need to be diligent in collecting it, which means creating channels to collect and aggregate it. This is where facilities management software shines.

Consider a question like “Do you have the maintenance staff to take on 10,000 square feet of additional space?” It’s impossible to gauge without data to support an answer one way or another. Facilities management software can collect and yield relevant data to answer this question:

  • Total support tickets filed over the last 12 months
  • Average time between ticket submission and resolution
  • Average number of tickets worked per maintenance staff member
  • Total cost of maintenance over the past 12 months

These variables and others distill down into the variables required to provide a clear answer for real estate planning. A company might look at the data and say “based on the expediency of support ticket resolution and available staff, yes, we can handle an additional 10,000 square feet.” Or, they may find insufficient capability to absorb more duties over a broader scope of facilities. Either way, data bridges the gap between the current situation and next steps. It’s only possible with data gathered through facilities management software.

Real estate considerations are paramount

Consider the cost of real estate on your company’s balance sheet. What are you getting in return? Facilities management as a function of real estate planning lets companies see where their investment takes shape and how it impacts broad operations. It’s a look past the numbers, at how important real estate is and what it takes to keep your workforce, facilities, and company on a trajectory for success.

Keep reading: Why is Facility Management Important for Productivity?


What is Facilities Management Support Services?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Facilities are complex, comprising many moving parts and pieces. There are structural systems like HVAC, plumbing, and electricity, as well as systems such as access control and emergency alerting. Landscaping and exterior upkeep are important, as are janitorial and interior workplace management. All these aspects and more add up to the cumulative concept of facilities. It’s impossible for any one single person to oversee it all, which facilitates the need for facilities management support services.

What is facilities management support services? In short, they’re the many individuals, teams, and service partners responsible for delivering FM support services. Without the ability to delegate, facilities wouldn’t function and facilities managers wouldn’t be able to provide employees, visitors, and stakeholders with a superior workplace experience.

Delegating is key to keep facilities running

Facilities tasks span daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual schedules. Each aspect of facilities has hundreds (possibly thousands) of individual tasks. The only way to stay on-schedule and ensure proper upkeep of facilities is to delegate.

Delegating not only ensures tasks get done, but that they’re done by qualified personnel in a timely manner, with proper recordkeeping. To delegate appropriately takes a wide range of support service outlets. It doesn’t make sense to call an electrician to replace a lightbulb, just like it’s impossible for a janitorial staff member to install a new rooftop HVAC unit. Proper delegation sends the right task to the right person, at the right time.

Get familiar with support service providers

Facilities support services span many avenues and require a wealth of knowledge, experience, skills, and equipment to satisfy. Here’s a look at some of the broad-ranging service providers who may have a hand in facilities upkeep at the direction of a facilities manager:

  • In-house staff: These are individuals on-staff, generally tasked with routine, low-level maintenance. Staff may include special craftspeople if operations demand it.
  • Janitorial services: Janitorial staff take care of routine cleaning and sanitization, to keep facilities clean and employees in good health on a day-to-day basis.
  • Grounds maintenance and landscaping: Groundskeeping staff oversee campus maintenance and upkeep of all exterior foliage and hardscaping.
  • Private security services: This may include on-site security guards, cybersecurity firms, campus security, and access control experts tasked with employee safety.
  • Waste management services: Waste management considers routine disposal and haulage needs, dependent on the waste generated by facilities.
  • Seasonal service providers: These professionals may include everything from seasonal landscapers to energy efficiency experts who tend to season-specific building needs.
  • Tradespeople and craftspeople: Plumbers, HVAC techs, carpenters, electricians, and other tradespeople define this essential group of support service partners.

There’s an even broader scope of support service partners out there, dependent on the needs of each company or building type. Examples include testing and inspections experts for environmental health and safety initiatives, and even legal and administrative partners to advise on special aspects of building upkeep and maintenance.

Not every facility manager will need a complete scope of support personnel, and not every company needs support in the same capacity. It’s up to facilities managers to identify the needs of the building(s) they manage and staff to meet them.

Software is essential for facilities management

How do managers coordinate all these tasks between such a wide breadth of support personnel? To do it effectively, they rely on facilities management software. Features like support ticketing can route requests for facilities upkeep to the right support team, while digital twins and enterprise asset management (EAM) software keep the most important aspects of building maintenance top-of-mind at all times. There’s also reporting and benchmarking to consider, which help determine the total cost of building ownership.

Software joins the many layers of facilities management to the many outlets that accomplish essential maintenance tasks. By automating, facility managers can delegate quickly and with precision, leaving them available to focus on high-level aspects of their job—like planning for the next capital improvement or recognizing opportunities for an integrated facilities management approach.

Facilities are growing more complex

Not listed above, but growing more prominent by the year, are support services surrounding intelligent buildings. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is creating demand for tech-savvy service professionals to maintain digital systems. It’s yet another reason to invest in FM software and embrace emerging concepts like integrated facilities management.

There’s an old saying that “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same could be said for facilities upkeep. No single person can keep facilities operating smoothly—only the combined efforts of facilities managers and a broad, diverse range of support service providers.

Keep reading: Why is Facility Management Important for Productivity?