On Feb 25 2022 / by Wyoming Paul

The future of facilities management: Technology, people, and sustainability

Are you ready for what the next decade in facilities management will bring?

Traditionally, facilities management has been associated with building maintenance, administration, and cost efficiency, but leading facilities managers predict that global trends are set to transform the industry. Businesses are becoming more concerned with technological advances, human experience, and sustainability - and facilities managers are increasingly expected to add business value and become more involved in the long-term, strategic planning in each of these areas.

In what ways will facilities managers interact with these trends?

  • Technology and digitisation are transforming the way people live and work, with new technologies available to increase workplace efficiency and gather data. In many cases, it will be up to facilities managers to implement and utilise these technologies.
  • Views about the purpose of the workspace are also changing, as business leaders become aware of the importance of workplace design for human experience, and how this affects recruitment, retention, productivity, and engagement.
  • An intensifying focus on the environment will also affect the FM profession, as facilities managers are put in a position to advocate for and implement new sustainability strategies and services.

Digitisation and technology

Digital technology is disrupting facilities management, with IoT in particular creating opportunities for far more efficient and effective systems, doing away with pen-and-paper or spreadsheet methods. By using IoT to gather real-time data and applying analytics, facilities managers can deliver business advice, foresee challenges, and better predict the success of different solutions.

“Armed with data, FM teams are no longer simply processing orders for desk moves or responding to complaints about burned-out lights ... Instead, data and analytics are used to predict space demand, save energy and keep equipment running optimally.”
- Maureen Ehrenberg, President of Global Integrated Facilities Management at JLL

Digital services can also be used to improve the employee experience and remove obstacles to productivity. Instant messaging channels like Slack reduce the need for meetings and emails, while software like Skedda allows staff to book meeting rooms and apps like Parkable make parking spots both bookable and shareable between staff. Parkable also uses IoT technology to improve the efficiency of car park administration, allowing staff to open car park barrier arms and gates with their phones, and collecting information on car park use through sensors.

Using technology and data, asset management will become more efficient, leaving facilities managers with more time and resources to focus on their increasingly core responsibility - human experience.

Human experience and productivity

Companies now see their workplace as a physical representation of their brand, culture, and strategy - a way to engage with both staff and customers, and to play out their values. At the same time, competition for excellent employees and business competition puts recruitment, retention, and productivity at the heart of company concerns. Because of these trends, workplace design that enhances staff satisfaction, wellbeing, and productivity is likely to become a main focus for facilities managers of the future.

The design of built environments has a big impact on our mental, physical, and emotional health, and much of our lives are spent in these spaces. Accumulatively, the average person will spend over thirteen years of their life at work, and nearly 90 percent of their time indoors. Despite this, many workplaces are lacking in the biophilic design elements that make people happier, healthier, and more productive - and that affects people's decisions to accept or decline job offers and remain with their employers.

“Today every big company is trying to get their hands (and heads) around the workplace experience to make it an integral part of their efforts to attract and retain talent.”
- Peter Ankerstjerne, Head of FM and Workplace Experience at PxWe, EMEA at WeWork, and Vice Chair of IFMA's Board of Directors

Luckily, this is changing. Globally, employers spent $48 billion on employee health and wellbeing in 2017, with expenditure expected to grow to $66 billion by 2022 according to the Global Wellness Institute. This includes designing buildings around human health, with examples ranging from indoor greenery, to quiet booths for calls, to more natural light. Workplace experience is particularly important for younger employees, with desirable features including informal work spaces away from the desk, healthy food options, to intuitive apps and software.

Not only does great office design improve staff happiness and engagement, but it has also been shown to increase productivity and innovation. What this means for facilities managers is that their role is no longer just about maintenance - it’s about adding value to the company through enhancing staff performance.

“In an environment of high-velocity business change, FM teams need to help their companies balance agility with the provision of workspaces that inspire and motivate and provide all the technological tools employees need to be productive. The work of FM is no longer just about managing the facilities - it’s about how FM is creating organisational and strategic value.”
- Maureen Ehrenberg, President of Global Integrated Facilities Management at JLL

Sustainability and the environment

Climate change and environmental damage is arguably the most significant challenge of the modern age, and for businesses, government policies and customer expectations will act as a force for change. These are not problems that will only affect business leaders, as building construction and management is intrinsically linked to creating a more sustainable future. In OECD countries, 25-40 percent of energy use, 30 percent of raw material use, and 30-40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions is produced by built environments, putting facilities managers in a position to enact meaningful change.

“We need to act as sustainability custodians of the built environment and there are a lot of easy-to-implement initiatives we can do from replacing disposable coffee cups to using green cleaning agents, to using more natural lighting and reducing water and energy consumption.”
- Peter Ankerstjerne, Head of FM and Workplace Experience at PxWe, EMEA at WeWork, and Vice Chair of IFMA's Board of Directors

The push toward sustainability is already affecting businesses in a number of ways: supply chain, building design, management, maintenance, and workplace practices are changing to become more energy-efficient and less carbon-intensive. For facilities managers, challenges will include energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, and indoor ecology, as well as supporting major global trends like the transition to renewable energy and the rise of electric vehicles. While these changes are on the rise globally, they still require innovative facilities managers to advocate for and implement them.

In each of these areas - digitisation, human experience, and sustainability - global trends will impact the values and priorities of businesses going forward. For innovative facilities managers, there will be ample opportunity to implement new strategies and systems, add value to companies, and make a significant impact.

The future of staff parking

Parkable is a software that automates car park management and problem resolution, allowing facilities managers to focus on other important tasks. Using IoT and sensor technology, Parkable transforms mobile phones into remotes that open barrier gates, integrates with EV charging stations, and tracks car park occupancy. Staff parking experiences are improved with book-in-advance technology and carpooling. To learn more, click here.

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