By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
Officer is a title that commands a certain amount of respect. Whether it’s Officer Friendly who’s writing you a speeding ticket or the Chief Operating Officer at your company, we defer to officers for direction and leadership. There’s no different when it comes to facilities management.
What is a facility officer? While this title actually has different meanings depending on context—like what part of the world you work in—it nevertheless commands a certain amount of respect. Below, we’ll dive into what a facility officer is, what their roles and responsibilities are, and how they factor into the greater function of facilities management.
The many faces of a facility officer
Facility officer is often another way to describe a facility manager, and there are actually upwards of two dozen titles to describe a facility manager! Facility officer (or facility management officer) is most commonly used in the United Kingdom and Australia. It’s the international parallel to facilities manager—or whichever synonym best fits someone in charge of facilities upkeep, oversight, and maintenance.
There is one caveat to the role of “facility officer,” and that’s as a member of the C-suite. More and more, companies are promoting a Chief Facility Officer to the boardroom. This person operates in the same way a Chief Operating Officer might, only instead of focusing on operations, a Chief Facility Officer focuses on the systems that facilitate those operations: the facilities themselves.
Roles and responsibilities
Facility officers concern themselves with management, maintenance, and general upkeep of facilities. What is included in facilities management? According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), there are six clear areas of focus for a facility officer:
- Building technology (smart buildings)
- Employee health and safety
- Recruitment and training
- Environmental efforts
- Maintenance and upkeep
- Culture and social support
Each of these aspects factors into the broader role of facilities: to support the workforce that relies on them. It segues into an even more important question: what is the role of a facility manager? While the exact answer depends on the company in question, there’s a fundamental purpose that underscores this role in any setting.
The role of a facility manager (or facility officer) is to transform facilities from a cost center into a competitive advantage—turn one of the company’s largest single expenses into an asset. Facility professionals need to constantly look for ways to leverage facilities into ROI, whether that’s supporting employees or bottom-line cost-saving improvements.
The growing need for facilities leadership
Facility officers are quickly becoming in-demand positions for companies of all sizes. They help small companies make the most of limited facility resources and assist large companies keep their facilities costs in-check. They promote efficiency and workforce optimization for companies of any size.
The biggest driver for facility officers is the changing workplace landscape. Post-COVID-19, the workplace looks very different. While open-concept workplaces and hot desks were already standard pre-pandemic, they’re quickly giving way to more complex work environments that include free-assign workspaces, flex work schedules, and distributed teams. Companies need leadership within these new paradigms—both in how to utilize the workplace effectively and in the development of new processes and protocols. The task falls to facility officers.
There’s also the rising cost of commercial real estate to consider. Space is getting more expensive! That means companies need to work harder to utilize it more efficiently. Flexible desking concepts help maximize space utilization, but they’re not enough by themselves. Companies also need to implement new space management strategies and maximize building upkeep to stay competitive.
All these demands come with one very important caveat: facilities still need to support workers. This is at the heart of why demand for facility officers is growing. More than executing on changing workplace trends, companies need to act with purpose and mindfulness. Facility officers bridge the gap between change and purpose, so companies and employees alike can reap the benefits of a changing workplace.
Put someone in charge of facilities
Your company likely has a Chief Operating Officer (COO) and a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), among other leadership positions. Why not a Chief Facility Officer?
Facilities are a central part of operations and a major contributor to business success. It’s vital for companies to put someone at the helm of their facilities, in a leadership position to coordinate the many facets of facilities upkeep and optimization. It’s not only a smart way to prioritize facilities—it’s becoming an essential role as companies lean into optimization aspects of a commercial real estate strategy.
Keep reading: What is a Facility Maintenance Manager’s Scope of Work?