A Brief Introduction to Facilities Management

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

From an outsider’s perspective, “facilities management” seems self-explanatory. For anyone pursuing a career as a facilities manager, it can seem like an oversimplification for a job growing more complex each year. To understand the title, the role, and everything that comes with them, it’s best to get a brief introduction to facilities management.

Below, we’ll explore what facilities management is, what its core functions are, how facilities managers do their jobs, and what the objective in all of it is. Keep in mind that while we’ll address the basics, facilities management is in an era of innovation right now. How businesses use commercial real estate, employee expectations for facilities, and the tools that govern facilities are all growing and changing.

What is facilities management?

Facilities management involves coordination, delivery, and management of building support services that impact operations. In most organizations, facilities management is the sum of multiple focuses, all related to the building and what happens within it:

  • Building operations
  • Grounds management
  • Project management
  • Real estate management
  • Employee safety and security
  • Space planning
  • Environmental and sustainability
  • Workplace strategy

Facilities management spans both “hard” and “soft” services, with a scope of work that can vary depending on the size of the organization or the complexities of facilities. Corresponding duties focus on the building (hard) and people (soft), and work to bring them together in a way that benefits operations. According to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA):

“Facility management (FM) is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.”

The functions of facilities management span 11 core skill sets, according to IFMA. Facilities managers need to consider each of them as they cultivate and maintain facilities that enable and empower employees:

  1. Communication
  2. Facility information and technology
  3. Finance and business
  4. Leadership and strategy
  5. Occupancy and human factors
  6. Operations and maintenance
  • Performance and quality
  • Project management
  • Real estate
  • Risk management
  • Sustainability

The beauty of facilities management is that it’s scalable. A small startup company with only a few employees and a small workplace won’t need the same oversight as a multinational company with thousands of staff spread across dozens of buildings in as many countries. It’s up to facilities managers to align their duties with the company mission, at the scale necessary for success.

A rundown of facility management software 

It’s impossible to talk about facilities management today without mentioning the exploding marketplace for facility management software. The rise in data-driven decision-making by companies has facilitated the need to not only de-silo data, but to quantify as much of the workplace as possible.

Today’s software, in conjunction with the Internet of Things (IoT), sheds amazing insight into how the workplace actually works. Whether it’s hot desk utilization or temporary floor plan development, software provides key insights that drive better decisions. Moreover, data collected and aggregated by workplace software becomes benchmarks for improvement. Whether for cost-control or productivity improvement, facility software paves the way for betterment.

As is the case with most technologies, today’s workplace software helps facilities managers do their job better and faster. Machine learning insights, automation, and robust data reporting all add up to a better picture of the perfect work environment—from individual workspaces to the building as a whole.

What’s the objective of facilities management?

The endgame for every facilities manager is to create a workplace that supports success at every level—from individual employees (micro) to the company (macro). Facilities need to be safe, welcoming, accommodating, empowering, versatile, agile, cost-efficient, and adaptable to meet diverse expectations.

Think of how many facets of business operation the workplace touches—even today, during the age of distributed teams and remote work. Wherever it’s involved, the workplace needs to provide unwavering support—whether that’s reliable wifi, a comfortable workspace, an emergency exit, clean air, sanitary bathrooms, and beyond. The core objective of facilities management is to proactively meet any and all demands of the workforce and the business, to foster success.

There’s growing demand for good management

Facilities manager is a position with growing demand in the corporate world. Beyond taking care of facilities or overseeing employees’ interaction with the workplace, facilities management is now a core part of a company’s strategy for success. Like a CEO manages operations or a CFO oversees finances, a facilities manager is a paramount addition to any company that recognizes the power of the workplace to affect success.

Keep reading: Why is Facility Management Important for Productivity?


A Peek into the Future of Agile Work Environments

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Just as many businesses were beginning to consider agile operating concepts, the business world took the full brunt of a global pandemic. Suddenly, agile wasn’t an opportunity to get the edge—it became a means for survival. Non-traditional shifts, remote work, flexible workspaces, and other agile elements became standard practice overnight. Now, businesses are starting to think beyond them, to the future of agile work environments.

Is the traditional office dead? Is the workplace shrinking or expanding? What’s the new definition of an agile workspace and will it continue to evolve as we enter a new norm?

There are many questions concerning agile work environments—perhaps more than there were before the pandemic, when the concept might’ve been novel to many companies. To understand where the agile office is going, let’s sneak a peek at how current forces are shaping demand for the workplace of the future.

More remote employees need fewer in-house seats

More people than ever are working from home right now, in a trend that’s likely to continue indefinitely, pandemic or not. As fewer people occupy in-house seats, companies will begin to consolidate and change their physical workplace. The shift to agile workspaces is an obvious one.

  • Traditional seats become hot desks or hotel desks
  • Individual desks disappear, replaced with breakout and team spaces
  • Room sizes shrink and workplaces become more open
  • The lines between workspaces and the greater workplace blur

Fewer in-house employees and fewer dedicated spaces open the door for agility in the workplace. The reason? There are fewer obstacles to broad workplace utilization. Fewer people are contending for the same spaces and there are more opportunities for workspace diversity.

How employees use the workplace is changing

Agile work environments maximize space utilization and efficiency, and give people access to the entire office by taking away their anchors. Agile seating is a natural replacement for assigned seating because it allows employees to interact with the workplace on their terms. Instead of sitting and working in a way that’s not conducive to their work style or schedule, they’re free to leverage the workplace as a resource.

Agile workplaces introduce broad opportunities for experiential work. For example, a conference room is no longer the only place to collaborate. They can start in the conference room, flex into a breakout space, break off into teams that collaborate over a bench-style workspace, and so on. Work follows people in an agile workplace, instead of forcing employees into specific parameters.

Sanitizing and hygiene remain top priorities

Even pre-pandemic, open workplaces faced sanitizing and cleanliness obstacles. In agile workplaces—where movement is ongoing and cross-exposure is inevitable—there’s an even bigger emphasis on sanitization that will linger longer after COVID-19. Employee safety and comfort hinge on their perception of a well-maintained workplace.

People may not wear masks forever, but things like electrostatic spraying and sterile wipe-downs will persist in agile environments. Janitorial and cleaning regimens will remain stringent. Offices redesigned with social distancing software during COVID-19 will linger as personal space becomes built into workspace design. It’ll all culminate in agile environments that buck hygiene and cleanliness critiques. If there’s one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s the cognizance and emphasis surrounding hygiene—especially in shared spaces.

Technology is the means to broader agility

It’s impossible to talk about the future of agile environments without mentioning the technologies used to govern them. While workplace management technologies are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were even a few years ago, they’re primed for even more significant advancement. The Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and AI will all aid in the transformation of big data.

In the same way agile environments take employees out of boxes and bring them into a broader workplace, facility managers need to de-silo data to glean insights about how employees use the workplace and what they expect from it. These insights will drive better decision-making about how to structure workplaces to unlock even broader agility. The goal? Real-time oversight and actionability that reduces friction before it has a chance to escalate. Everyone gets the experience they need from a workplace designed to adapt.

The future is flexible and agile to boot

Regardless of a company’s stance on agile workplace pros and cons, there’s no denying the winds of change blowing in favor of agile environments. Remote work, technology, and the lingering effects of COVID-19 are forcing businesses to be flexible, and that flexibility demands agility. It comes full circle in adaptable workplace designs.

Agility is almost certain to be a prerequisite for the workplace of the future. To harness it, facilities managers need to pay close attention to the needs of their employees and the expectations for their work environment. They’re certain to see a natural demand for flexible, agile workspaces.

Keep reading: What Are the Advantages of Flexible Work Environments?


What is the Future of Facility Management?

By Dave Clifton

Content Strategy Specialist


At a time when a significant portion of the workforce is doing their job from the comfort of home, there are questions surrounding the future of facility management. Do companies need a facility manager anymore? Will facilities management get more or less complicated as time goes on? What facilities management trends are prevalent now and how will they shape the future? Like all things through the lens of COVID-19, there’s much uncertainty about the changing workplace and its demands.

Aside from educated guesswork and speculation, it’s difficult to nail down exactly what the future holds for facilities management. After all, few could’ve predicted the predicament of a pandemic-induced work-from-home exodus. The best way to glean insights about the future of facility management is to look at the demands of businesses today and how they’re shaping tomorrow.

Here’s what the landscape looks like today and how these trends might influence the future of facilities management post COVID-19.

Flex work and distributed teams as the new norm

The obvious catalyst for a change in facility management is the shift to remote work. Companies across the spectrum now have distributed teams—some 100% remote, others mixed between remote and in-house, and still more juggling offset schedules. Whether they’re in the workplace or not, it needs to support all these workers.

The future is digital for facilities managers. In-house, a growing Internet of Things (IoT) will help them manage hot desks, flex spaces, and other elements of an agile office. This, in turn, will accommodate increasingly unpredictable schedules among the groups mentioned above. Outside the physical workplace, the digital one will quickly fall under the administration of facilities managers. Expect future duties of FMs to butt up against HR and IT services as companies welcome new remote employees to a digital workplace.

Growing reliance on workplace data

As workplaces become more agile, so must governance. By now, we all know that the best decision-making tools available to us come in the form of digital technologies. Specifically, facility management software.

From hot desk management to deep dives into space utilization metrics that shape commercial real estate (CRE) decisions, facilities management will become synonymous with data interpretation. Don’t worry, facility managers won’t need a degree in data engineering. They’ll be able to rely on machine learning and AI to help them collect, analyze, interpret, and use vital workplace data.

There’s a caveat to this. Companies need to make the appropriate investments in technology and data collection infrastructure now if they want to embrace the future of facilities management with confident decision-making power.

Less is more, especially amidst CRE uncertainties

Pre-pandemic, the commercial real estate market was an expensive one. Prices plunged in April and May 2020 before climbing briefly, then dropping again. Many prominent economists and real estate professionals believe another big drop is on the way, pending economic uncertainties. It’s this yo-yo effect that has many businesses rethinking their physical workplace strategy.

Do you need to rent the entire building? Can you operate from two locations instead of five? Is the overhead on your balance sheet worth the prospect of diminishing real estate returns? These questions and more are driving a more conservative mindset when it comes to CRE decision-making. As a result, future workplaces are likely to be smaller, more agile, and strategically located.

For many companies, real estate is their biggest source of overhead (behind employee salaries). A chance to reduce these costs via flex work and smaller physical workplaces is a great opportunity. Facilities managers will shoulder the burden of how to make it work and turn less space into more ROI.

Integrated facilities management

Speaking of doing more with less, integrated facilities management is one trend likely to define the future. Facilities managers will need to find synergies in how they manage support systems and teams, and coordinate the broad care and maintenance of the workplace. FMs should expect to consolidate costs, broaden the scope of service, and streamline vendor oversight through integrated facilities management. For many companies, it’ll be a matter of cultivating inclusive partnerships with trusted service providers and negotiating long standing SLAs.

Emphasis on cleanliness and sanitation

The pandemic will eventually end, whether through a drop in transmission rates or the development of a vaccine. What won’t go away are the engrained hygiene standards the majority of people now adhere to in a public forum. For some, masks will remain an accessory. For others, social distancing will remain a habit. For facilities managers, there will be an expectation to maintain COVID-19-era cleanliness and sanitization standards.

Today’s trends are tomorrow’s norms

The future of facilities management will be shades of what we know today, influenced by factors we might not be thinking about yet. What is certain are the catalysts driving change: COVID-19 and hygiene, CRE costs, the IoT, machine learning, new work habits, and countless other disruptors.

As facilities managers scramble to meet the rapidly evolving demands of today’s workplaces and employee needs, they’re shaping a foundation for the future. When the dust settles after COVID-19, facilities managers who embraced flexibility and developed sound processes will be the ones who shape the next iteration of the workplace.

Keep Reading: How to Select the Best Facility Management Software?


Remote Working Stats During The Great Work From Home Experiment

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

There’s no shortage of questions hanging in the balance of the pandemic, especially when it comes to work. Right now, a significant number of people wake up each morning and shuffle to their dining room table, flip open their laptops, and start their workday. There are mixed emotions.

The good news is, we’re deep enough into the Great Remote Work Experiment that data is slowly but surely coming online—data that not only qualifies how people feel about telecommuting, but remote working stats that answer questions people have been asking for months. Here are some key remote work statistics, in the context of some of the most important questions employees and employers are asking.

What are remote team leaders worried about?

There’s much uncertainty about the mass shift to remote work. For companies with little-to-no experience with it, trepidation runs high. Even those with experience managing remote teams or a distributed workforce report feeling challenged by the sudden office exodus.

What’s keeping managers up at night? Here’s a look at the top five concerns of remote team leaders, as reported by the World Economic Forum:1

  • 82% reduced employee focus
  • 75% reduced team cohesiveness
  • 82% reduced employee productivity
  • 70% maintaining company culture
  • 67% employees overworking

There’s a healthy (or rather, unhealthy) mix of stressors on the list, centered primarily around uncertainties about how to manage multiple remote employees as individuals and as a cohesive team. But there’s good news. Because we’re all in this together, there are new strategies, tips, tricks, and advice coming to fruition daily as everyone works to figure out telecommuting on a global scale, in real time.

Are remote employees still productive?

Perhaps too productive! There’s real fear that, not only are employees working longer hours, they’re starting to work non-traditional hours in addition to a traditional schedule. For example, Microsoft reports that Teams activity has increased more than 200% on Saturday and Sunday, indicating weekend work.2

Employees may be racking up as much as 28 hours of monthly overtime that’s likely going unpaid or unaccounted for on timesheets, according to one study. The reason? 86% of employees feel the need to prove they’re working hard and that they’re a valuable part of the team. 3

What’s the result of all this extra work? 37% of companies report seeing increased employee productivity after transitioning to remote.4 People are getting more done, but at the expense of work-life balance. It’s a trend that can’t continue if remote work does.

How is remote work technology faring?

Technology is the make-or-break driver behind remote work pre-COVID and today. The question is, do companies have the bandwidth, resources, and digital infrastructure to support a massive remote workforce?

Employers and employees don’t quite see eye-to-eye. While 52% of employees say their employer needs to invest in better technology, only 37% of business IT leaders feel that way.5 For most employees, the solution has been simple: use personal devices to bridge the gaps—often to the dismay of company IT and cybersecurity experts. 53% of telecommuters say they rely on a personal computer for work, spending as much as $348 on average to upgrade a personal computer for work.6

Unfortunately, there’s one telling statistic that says we’ve still got a ways to go in support a completely remote workforce. 84% of remote workers say they lose access to an application at least once a week, with 11% citing it as a daily occurrence.7 Remote work only works if the technology that supports it works.

How do employees feel about remote work?

How many can’t wait to get back in the office vs. want to work from home forever? How do individual employees see the benefits of remote working? The data paints a very telling, very lopsided picture of employee sentiment.

According to another World Economic Forum report, a staggering 98% of employees would maintain a work-from-home arrangement for the rest of their careers, given the option.8 In fact, an astounding 62% claimed they’d take a pay cut if it meant being able to work from home!9

Despite their emphatic love of remote work, employees are still adjusting. Many cite struggles unplugging or separating work from home, while others are frustrated with new schedules and communication modes. But it’s all worth it, as 85% of people say remote work ultimately makes for a better work/life balance.10

Are employees safe working from home?

During a pandemic, employee safety inspires concern for health and wellness. Naturally, employees are safer working from home largely because it’s a form of self-containment. That said, we’re talking about a different kind of safety: cybersecurity.

As of July, as many as 46% of global businesses encountered at least one cybersecurity scare since their shift to a remote working model. Businesses have countered. 73% of businesses have given staff extra cybersecurity training while working remotely, with specific training around passwords and log-in credentials.11

Despite an emphasis on cybersecurity, sentiments remain shaky about online privacy and safety. 71% of people believe remote working during COVID-19 has increased the likelihood of a data breach. Even more telling, roughly 6 in 10 employees say they felt more secure working in-office as compared to at home.12

The data continues to roll in

For most of the working world, we’re less than a year into the Great Work From Home Experiment. The longer people telecommute, the more we’ll learn and the more questions we’ll be able to answer. Until then, we can only go by what we know—and we know that remote work is working.

Keep Reading: Boost Team Collaboration with 10 Remote Working Tools




Meeting Room Setup During COVID-19: Four Safe Options

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

These days, the conference room most employees use is a digital one. Zoom, Teams, Skype, and other video chat apps are the safest way to bring people together. Unfortunately, there’s still no digital substitute for physical interaction. Sometimes it’s just easier to get together in-person. Companies that need this level of interaction should think about meeting room setup during COVID-19 before they ask employees to take a seat in a traditional conference room.

Coronavirus concerns still loom over businesses, and the situational awareness of the pandemic will linger long into the future. How can businesses reopen physical meeting rooms without violating distancing guidelines, endangering employee health, or creating unease and tension? Here are four safe options to consider:

1. Reduce capacity and socially distance

The simplest approach to safe meetings and events is to reduce capacity. Most businesses have already done this out of principle, but it’s worth it to focus on conference and meeting rooms specifically.

Don’t arbitrarily reduce capacity—be tactful. If a conference room seats 12, don’t cut it to six or eight without first evaluating the space. Is it totally enclosed or partially open? What are the dimensions of the room? What kind of furniture dictates the seating arrangement? These factors and more impact proposed capacity reductions.

For example, a 12’x22’ conference room might seat a dozen people, 3 feet in-between. A capacity cut to six people expands that to 6 feet—enough to meet social distancing guidelines. That said, you might be able to rearrange the chairs and remove a partition wall to increase usable space. The footprint of the room stays the same, but can now accommodate 10 people at a reduced capacity.

2. Change the furniture and floor plan

Furniture is an important aspect of any meeting space, but can also be the most cumbersome obstacle in reopening these areas to your workforce. Your 12’x22’ conference room feels a whole lot smaller with a 5’x14’ conference table in the middle of it. Likewise, if the room is organized around furniture instead of furniture placed to fit the room, you might not get the most out of the space.

As you welcome employees back to conference rooms, take a moment to evaluate the furniture and the floor plan. Can you replace clunky, imposing furniture with slimmed-down alternatives to gain back valuable square footage? Does it make sense to rearrange furniture and remove unnecessary pieces to create distance? In some cases, simple changes to furnishings and floor plan can help preserve room capacity and compliance with COVID-19 concerns and guidelines.

The beauty of this approach to conference room reopening is that it offers long-term benefits. COVID-19 might be the catalyst for change, but businesses will embrace the utility that comes with an optimized meeting room layout.

3. Update A/V and go digital

Meetings don’t need to be an all-in or all-out scenario. If two presenters need the floor and six other attendees are there to watch, there’s no need to lump everyone into an eight-person conference room. Why not settle for a meeting space with capabilities to stream to the viewers? It’s a smart concept for conference room management during COVID-19.

Companies that encourage mixed meetings like this will keep demand for conference rooms lower, which may lead to an overall reduction in total meeting spaces. You no longer need a 16-person conference room if your average meeting size is only four people, with 12 additional streamers. Likewise, it’s much easier to budget space for smaller in-person meetings when the only requirement is space to stream-in other attendees.

For companies receptive to mixed meetings and digital sharing resources, there’s no better way to meet social distancing than to keep physical attendance to the bare minimum.

4. Sanitize after every use

In some cases, there’s no getting around the 10-person meeting where everyone needs to attend in-person. For these instances, sanitizing solutions are essential. Even with masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer available, groups confined to an enclosed space for extended periods face coronavirus risks. Sanitization before, during, and after can mitigate that risk.

  • Thoroughly sanitize the meeting space 30 minutes before attendees arrive
  • Quarantine and sanitize the space immediately after the meeting ends
  • For extended meetings (multiple hours), schedule a sanitization break

Sanitization is a first line of defense when there’s no getting around an in-person meeting. Thankfully, it’s not a difficult process to implement and it’s an easy task to delegate as part of increased facility upkeep or janitorial services.

Meetings don’t stop for COVID-19

Online meetings continue to be the de-facto option for companies worried about bringing people together during coronavirus. If physical presence is imperative for a meeting, traditional meeting rooms are still the simplest way to get work done. The only difference is meeting room setup and interaction are a bit different. Follow the above guidelines to create a safe environment for those must-have in-person gatherings.

Keep reading: COVID-19 Workplace Distance and Contact Guidelines


The Basics of Facilities Asset Management

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

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

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

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


What are facility assets?

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

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

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

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

What is facilities asset management?

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

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

Key benefits of facilities asset management

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

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

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

Some terms to get to know

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

Keep facilities consistent with demand

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

Keep reading: Selecting the right facilities management software.

demo spaceiq


How to Improve Air Quality in the Office

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

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

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

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

Why is office air quality important?

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

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

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

Start with maintenance and service

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

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

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

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

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

Supplement with filtration and upgrades

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

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

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

Make HVAC an independent focus

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

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

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


What is an Alternative Workplace?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

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

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

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

Alternative workplace definition

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

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

Elements of the alternative workplace

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

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

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

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

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

Emphasize the worker instead of the workplace

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

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

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

Alternatives set to become the new norm

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

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

Keep reading: How to increase workplace productivity


Hot Desking Health and Safety During COVID-19

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

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

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

Are hot desks safe during COVID-19?

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for hot desking safety

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

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

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

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

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

Use hot desks to facilitate a safe return to work

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

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

Keep reading: How to use physical distancing software