How is facilities management changing in the workplace?

There have been enormous changes in the past few years, in the way that people view their workplaces, and this, in turn, has led to significant shifts in the part played by facilities management. It’s not just tech startups that feel the need to design a workplace that makes its users feel comfortable. Even major, traditional companies have recognised that there’s a strong link between people feeling that their workplace gives them a sense of well-being and consequent rises in productivity.

Growth in project work and home working

With more and more people working on project-based assignments, workflows are often dictated by the demands of the project, and this can lead to occasional long hours for employees who are key to project delivery. An environment where these people feel relaxed yet can work professionally can make extra hours spent delivering a key project more acceptable.

Similarly, the growth in home working has made the formality of office life look increasingly constrained. With many employees spending a couple of days a week at home and the rest of the time in the office, it’s become clear that a formal office environment is not necessary for productive work. That has led people to question whether it is necessary at all, and what function it is performing.

New types of facilities managers needed

In addition, when people do come into the office, they are looking for a more sociable environment and they don’t wish to sit in rigidly separated structures. To achieve the balance between home working and office life, facilities have had to change and facilities managers have had to become far more customer-focused in order to provide the kind of workspaces that modern organisations demand.

The facilities industry needs to recruit a new type of manager who is capable of understanding these shifts in the working environment. Previously, the industry was seen by the public as concerned with lighting, heating and the most basic aspects of the workplace. That’s changing, although the industry still has a long way to go to persuade new recruits to look at facilities management as a forward-looking and rewarding career that integrates many aspects of building design and functionality.

One way forward is to ensure that professional qualifications, including those offered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), are seen as part of the development path for those entering the industry. Facilities management is exceptionally well-placed to recruit a diverse workforce because it is one of the industries most likely to promote those from the shop floor – almost literally – those who perhaps started as cleaners or caretakers can work their way up to leading and influential positions, collecting relevant qualifications as they go.

As buildings change, so do the challenges of the facility, and environmental management is now seen as a key driver of workforce wellbeing in both new and old buildings. The facilities manager is taking an increasingly important role in building design and sustainability initiatives, and this should encourage new entrants who are interested in new technology and new ways to work.