By Dave Clifton

Content Strategy Specialist

SpaceIQ

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?