For facilities managers who manage hotels, university spaces or office complexes, a decrease in the number of employees might represent an opportunity for business growth, as opposed to a sign of economic problems.
The lack of visible workers might mean that companies are embracing telecommuting, space-sharing, flexible schedules and other aspects of what’s referred to as mobile workplace initiatives. Today’s worker is no longer necessarily tied to the life of an office dweller from 9 to 5.
“There are still business owners who want all employees to work in the same place at the same time,” says Sande Golgart, a leasing expert at The Regus Group. “But the best office space is structured to help employees be more productive — which may mean not working in an office at all. Businesses can save up to 60 percent on space costs by doing this, and a good facilities manager can help them achieve this.”
A Growing Trend
The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) published a report on the mobile trend called “Distributed Work,” which highlighted opportunities for facilities managers when it comes to overseeing properties that serve the needs of a mobile workforce. The benefits of these properties include real estate portfolio reduction, lowered operating costs and a reduced carbon footprint.
Included in the report were results from a survey of more than 950 IFMA members. Among the findings:
- 56 percent of organizations using facilities offer telecommuting, especially within IT and sales departments. Laptops, wireless devices and videoconferencing are common IT tools among these companies.
- 60 percent of respondents say they have unassigned workspaces — such as common areas multiple employees and teams use — in their facilities. The most popular unassigned spaces to implement are called “touchdown spaces,” which are areas where employees or visitors work for a short period of time. Also popular are “huddle spaces,” which are smaller rooms for daily team/staff meetings; and “war rooms,” which are larger conference rooms booked for weeks or months by a project team.
- 54 percent of respondents say they have a shared workspace in the building. This is especially true of larger buildings with more than 5,000 employees, in which 77 percent of facilities have shared workspaces.
Working on the Go
To meet the demands of these mobile-friendly buildings, facilities managers are using more mobile devices to do their jobs. George Thomlison, president of the Academic Facility Council of IFMA, agrees that facilities managers find that the investment in handhelds and other wireless communications devices is worth it, given the resulting increase in productivity.
Thomlison, a facility manager who oversees inspections for university buildings in Alberta, Canada, says that after years of recording inspection data manually, on-campus inspection teams now have mobile devices. Before the change, the division teams would oversee 120 annual inspections. Today, they complete 750 a year.
“The inspectors used to do this all by paper,” he says. “They’d go out in the field, do the inspection, and then spend the rest of the week in the office crunching the numbers. Today, using an electronic template file that’s already loaded up for them, they do the inspection, input the numbers right there on their [devices], come into the office and download all of it into the computer. Then, they print the report and move on to the next job. We do many more inspections now than ever, and that’s where the value is.”
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