Traditionally, facility manager’s jobs have gone unnoticed. Why? Because a smooth interaction of the occupants within a space is a reflection of a job well done by the facilities team. Then the pandemic happened and all eyes were on our facilities and how they could impact employee health and safety. Suddenly, the world has recognized just how critical the facilities management role is as they stepped up to the challenge to reimagine a safe and healthy workplace of the future.
That is why it is our pleasure at FM:Systems to name “Facility Management” as the Corporate Role of the Year.
Here are a few reasons facility management teams have risen to a more prominent role:
1) Remained Flexible While Thinking 20 Steps Ahead. While facilities managers are no strangers to responding to crises, this ongoing pandemic has certainly expanded their role to require a new level of thinking and communication – all while remaining flexible to changes as new guidelines and more information continues to unfold. From increased sanitization to identifying and eliminating pinch points that lead to unsafe occupant density (in adherence with CDC guidelines), the safety of employees, on-site contractors, and visitors became their first priority. Now, as we continue to adjust to the “new normal,” facility managers must constantly analyze new information on a daily, hourly, and weekly basis in order to ensure the safety of the entire building and its occupants.
2) Increased Occupant Confidence to Return: Creating balance between safety and effectiveness is no easy feat, let alone consistent from building to building or even from floor to floor. Added to this, they’ve also been charged to solve how to best allow occupants to return to an environment where they can be effective in their jobs instead of worrying about exposure with a potentially asymptomatic coworker. In other words, facility managers were tasked with creating a workplace that not only is safe but also feels safe.
On top of reconfiguring floor plan layouts to accommodate social distancing, details like the type of work being performed, the amount of sunlight, indoor air quality (IAQ), and density are all key considerations the facilities team now has to consider before reopening doors. If your organization is like most, you’ve discussed the escalating coronavirus outbreak and what it means for your business, placing the responsibility at the feet of your building’s facility team to let you know when and how it is safe to re-enter.
3) Earned a Strategic Seat at the Table: Because much of the facilities management work has been best handled behind the scenes, the partnership between building management and c-suite has oftentimes been overlooked or left to the HR teams to manage. By acting quickly and strategically, facility managers have increased organization’s resilience in the face of a global emergency and have earned a seat at the table with every company’s executive decision makers. Being in charge of the maintenance of buildings, organizations, and most importantly people, it became the responsibility of facility managers to take action towards implementing the right prevention and containment strategies in the workplace – overnight becoming the go-to and strategic lead of the workplace pandemic response.
As we push forward and look out into the future, these very tactical approaches will give way to a more strategic conversation with executive teams. In the years to come, I am confident we will see a rise of strong facility management interactions with CEOs and COOs – particularly as the office environment remains in flux with the move toward hybrid workplaces leading to a sea change in how we approach occupying our offices, universities, and healthcare facilities.
Forward leaning enterprises will approach their occupancy strategy in a way that emphasizes the mission and intended outcome of the organization. Meaning, universities and hospitals will refocus their facilities on the education of students and patient outcomes versus administrative functions. In corporate environments, workplaces will be tailored for collaboration, ideation, and culture building in order to create more ideal solutions for their clients. This refocusing of the facility towards the mission of the organization will have a dramatic and long lasting effect on how organizations approach their second-largest cost: the facilities their employees occupy. This revelation will only further the facility manager’s role within c-suite as a key strategic partner to help organizations combine the best of office space and remote work for furthered flexibility, efficiency, and ultimately cost-savings.
Pre-pandemic, a facility manager’s responsibilities may have been unclear and under-appreciated to outsiders, but we are proud to see it evolving and expanding with higher visibility. Facility managers are now the first line of defense in ensuring the safety of the entire building and its occupants and will continue to evolve in the years ahead – and that is a responsibility that deserves the 2020 Corporate Role of the Year.
Download the 2021 Workplace Planning Guide to help you create your workplace strategy for 2021.