By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer
A cornerstone of facilities management is dealing with the ever-present issues of the facilities themselves. These are brick-and-mortar, tangible concerns. And often, facilities managers (FMs) are the chief points of contact for facility issues—even if they don’t directly resolve them.
Understanding the scope of facility issues gives FMs a broad view of the systems they’re responsible for maintaining. It’s also helpful to understand workplace upkeep trends and needs that impact cost planning for the maintenance budget.
Not every workplace will face the same facility issues, but there are a core group of commonalities that make up the foundation of good facilities management:
Common utility problems
Electricity, water, and HVAC are the three convenience pillars of any workplace and the most common facility issues revolve around them. Each comes with its own maintenance and repair cost structures and challenges:
- Electricity: The most frequent and familiar facility issue here is burned-out light bulbs. Other common electrical issues with wiring, overloaded circuits, appliances, and other equipment.
- Water: Plumbing issues take many forms—from leaky faucets to habitually clogged toilets. Even something like a water feature in your lobby falls into the mix. Every wasted drop of water costs the business.
- HVAC: Heating, ventilation, and cooling issues stretch from faulty thermostat to air quality problems. Aside from raising costs, HVAC issues put employee comfort and wellness at risk the longer they go unresolved.
Good FMs will see utility problems as opportunities. Use them to find reliable contractors and service providers, and use the data to find solutions for recurring problems.
Infrastructure refers to the building itself. From the rooftop to the foundation, facility management issues can arise around any single structural aspect. When they do, they’re liable to take form as:
- Glass: Windows and interior glass can crack, chip, or shatter. Specialty glass, such as decorative etched panes or tinted glass, only compounds the problem.
- Building materials: Time, stress, and the elements take a toll on building materials. Brick and stone erode, wood warps, plastics become brittle, and cement cracks. Caught early, routine maintenance is usually enough to resolve these problems.
- Design elements: Every building has its own unique design elements that need care and repair. Elevators, awnings, solar panels, and exterior fixtures are a few examples of features prone to issues.
Everything from the age of the building to the diligence of routine upkeep will determine how frequently issues arise and the seriousness of them. The more diligent your oversight, the more opportunities for preventive action.
Office facility issues aren’t exclusively large in nature. In fact, FMs spend the majority of their time focusing on smaller workplace issues. Most likely to revolve around installations such as:
- Electronics: TVs, audiovisual systems, kiosks, and smartboards are prone to the same issues as any component. FMs need to coordinate repairs, whether they’re done in-house by the IT team, outsourced to vendors, or sent back to the manufacturer.
- Wayfinding: Whether digital or static, wayfinding signage requires upkeep (read wayfinding best practices). Any rearranging of the office, workplace expansion, or shifting workspaces need to be reflected in wayfinding signage.
- Facilities: Bathrooms, breakrooms, and rest areas all have frequently used fixtures. From toilets to fridges, paper towel dispensers to espresso machines, sooner or later these installations require maintenance.
Using an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system or Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) makes facilities management easier at a granular level.
Furniture and workstations
The most common facility issues are those with the most exposure to daily users. Naturally, furniture and workstations are the primary recipients of daily wear and tear. Issues are bound to arise over time and will need FM oversight to correct:
- Furniture: Desks, chairs, break room couches, conference tables, and AV carts wear out and break down with use. When they do, FMs must handle replacements or coordinate maintenance.
- Computers: FMs are the point of contact for everything from workspace relocations to hot desk assignments. They handle the logistical issues of workstations and often bridge the gap between IT and employees.
- Sensors: In the expanding age of the office Internet of Things (IoT), FMs use sensors and beacons to glean critical knowledge about the workplace. These technologies aren’t without issue. They need frequent updates, configuration, and monitoring to work right.
A good facility manager’s job is never done. Issues across the spectrum are bound to arise, presenting opportunities to set them right and better the workplace along the way. FMs with a good handle on their scope of influence know how to act and react to these potential pitfalls and more. The more FMs know about what they’re up against, the more they’ll be able to do.
Keep reading: how to select the best facility management software for your specific organization.