By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing

Within facilities management, there are hard and soft services. Most FMs are familiar with hard services—fixed parts of facilities operation you can’t change. But what are soft services in facility management?

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Soft services comprise actions and services you can change. They’re often non-essential and come with a wide degree of variability in how they’re managed. But the most important part of soft services is how they’re used and who they benefit. When executed correctly, soft services elevate the workplace in ways that benefit employees and the work they’re doing.

Soft vs. hard services in facilities management

To understand the unique importance of soft services, we need to better distinguish them. That means asking, “What are soft and hard services in facility management?” Here’s a quick explanation for each, as well as a list of hard and soft services in facilities management.

Hard facilities services

Hard services are physically integrated into the building. They can’t be removed and are vital to the workplace environment. They directly or indirectly impact every person in the building on some level. Some examples include:

  • Heating
  • Lighting/electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Fire safety systems
  • Air conditioning
  • Mechanical

Soft facilities services

Soft services aren’t integrated into the building and directly benefit employees who interact with them. They’re not essential—instead, they’re meant to make the workplace more comfortable, enjoyable, or secure. Some examples include:

  • Building security
  • Cleaning
  • Landscaping
  • Office decorating
  • Catering
  • Office moves

The difference between hard and soft services is far from subtle. Facility managers need to understand the roles of both in creating an optimal workplace.

Benefits for employees and the business

While considered non-essential, soft services are critical in cultivating a well-run workplace. They directly impact variables like productivity and job satisfaction. It’s important not to see them as perks or superfluous costs, but rather investments in a more productive, functional workplace.

Take landscaping, for example. Landscaping doesn’t directly impact your business’ cash flow or revenue. But it does have value in its effect on employee mood. Giving workers a place to go outside and enjoy their lunch or conversation boosts their spirits when they return to work. Lower stress and positive mood directly contribute to a job well done. That does affect cash flow and revenue.

The same goes for every soft service. The service itself may not directly impact business success, but it will have indirect consequences.

Raising the value of your workplace

What many businesses often realize is that soft services raise the value of their workplace. Not in a fiscal sense, but in a qualitative sense.

Catering lunch every Friday doesn’t increase the value of your physical workspace, but it does boost employee morale. It’s also a great way to attract and retain talent, and supplement your business’ perks. The value added here is cultural. Employees feel appreciated and encouraged to do their best.

Cleaning, decorating, moving, and similar soft services support the core function of the office space: accommodating employees. It’s not just about giving them the tools to work; it’s about ensuring they feel welcome, valued, and empowered.

Good facilities management practices 

Many facility managers are hired to manage hard services—and they do. But a good workplace manager also recognize the value of soft services. Not only will they make the proper investments in these services, they’ll communicate the benefits to get stakeholder buy-in.

The best way to understand which soft services are important is by listening to employee feedback. Understand what employees’ needs and wants are. Develop a mode of feedback such as an informal workplace survey or a suggestion box. Look at the efficacy and urgency of the feedback to understand the best course of action.

Say a chief piece of feedback is “not feeling safe leaving the building after dark.” This clues FMs into the need for on-site security. This soft service not only improves morale, it shows genuine concern for employee wellbeing. Juxtapose this with suggestions like “bringing in a masseuse” to understand what’s vital and what’s a perk.

Support services are essential

What are support services in facilities management? Soft and hard services are part of ensuring your facilities are living up to your expectations and supporting workers on a daily basis. Soft services are the difference between simply having facilities and creating a workplace. The right approach to managing support services is to correlate effort to outcome.

Keep reading: automation and the IoT for facility management.

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