FM trends for human-centric workplaces

Future of Work

Facilities Management Trends in 2020: Creating an Employee-Centric Workplace

As a company striving to help others create an awesome workplace experience, we try to stay up to date with all the different components that make up the workplace. From office culture best practices to the latest in workplace tech to trends in facilities management and commercial real estate, we cover it here.

When it comes to facilities management (FM), this group of professionals has a lot on their plate. According to the IFMA:

Facility management (FM) is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety, and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process, and technology.

Head shot - Zack Farrar Facilities Management Leader

We had the opportunity to catch up with Zachary Farrar about the future of the facility management field and how FM professionals contribute to stellar workplace experience. Zachary, CFM, AssocRICS is a Facilities Management leader for Jacobs Engineering, serving diverse clients across the globe. He’s Chair of the membership committee for IFMA Southeast WI, a top contributor on the IFMA Engage platform, and has been working in, on and around facilities for more than a decade.


Looking to improve how you manage your workplace resources? Schedule a demo with Robin today.

1) What does workplace experience mean to you and how do you think facilities management professionals play a part in creating a work environment that employees can thrive in?

To me, workplace experience as a whole is the entire process of coming to, navigating around and utilizing a person’s place of work. Not just the physical infrastructure, but the culture and general feeling as well. In the way of facilities management professionals depending on the organization, this can mean space planning, ergonomics, brand guidance, and usability of the space.

The days of cube farms are slowly dying out for new concepts like activity-based workspace and it is up to practitioners to deliver usable, sustainable, and modern options. FMs are coming out of the boiler rooms to deliver an employee workplace experience today like never before, and we need to continue educating ourselves, as well as the next generation on how to do so. We are no longer just fixing things that break, we are creating the workplaces of tomorrow.

 2) What kind of technology do you think will have a large impact in the facilities management field in the near future?

We are accelerating into the future of building and operations management through technology at a breakneck speed. That means we’re leaving a lot of buildings and practitioners in the stone age. As tech advances and becomes more affordable and easier to implement, the world of FM will become very reliant on IoT (internet of things) devices, like sensors that provide real-time data from field devices. They may be temperature, vibration, frequency or any other number of device-measured factors that can predict maintenance needs.

Generally, a strong understanding of technology is required to succeed in the facilities management field. Many large facilities need a controls technician/engineer to avoid significant downtime these days and it’s imperative we not only train our people on how to utilize the tools of tomorrow but also how to attract and retain the talent required to continue evolving into the future.

Open office - Facilities management trends
Occupancy sensors are a type of workplace IoT devices used by facilities management professionals to monitor utilization in open areas in an office.
Photo by Proxyclick Visitor Management System on Unsplash

3)  Does the layout of a workplace affect how you approach a project? Are there different challenges associated with creating an open office, closed office, or a hybrid, flexible office?

In my experience, no. People, places, and workplace resources tend to require a basic number of things, but the methods applied to achieve this may differ depending on the type of project at hand. 

I’ve found that no matter what sort of physical change is happening in the workplace, the toughest challenge to overcome is causing as little disruption to employees as possible. A solid communication plan is key for everyone that could possibly be affected. Keeping everyone informed helps manage expectations and eliminate as much uncertainty as possible. People naturally fear change and it is up to FMs to make any major transition as frictionless as possible.

A few specific tactics I’ve used in the past to manage expectations is through transparency and ensuring leadership is bought-in from the start. For example, in a recent remodel of a few smaller offices, I built out a Gantt chart for the project and shared that with the leaders in each office as early as possible to set the tone for transparency throughout the project. As the project developed, I made sure to continually share updates and pictures so the final product wasn’t far off from what they were expecting to see. Of course, with every project, there’s some hesitation to change but I’ve found that visibility and clear communication makes a world of a difference.

Open office - facilities management trends
No matter the workplace transition, Zack says facilities management professionals are responsible for effective change management. Photo by Shutterstock

4) What advice do you have for facilities management professionals looking to create a safe workplace for employees?

Like all organizations should, everyone at Jacobs takes safety very seriously. At Jacobs, we follow a BeyondZero safety mentality. Aiming for zero injuries at work doesn’t cut it. Instead, safety is a regular part of all workplace conversations and ingrained into company culture. BeyondZero® is about keeping our people safe. That means not getting injured, not allowing others to be injured, and not allowing unsafe practices, behaviors, or conditions to exist. Beyond that, it’s about creating a culture of caring by actively engaging and involving employees and influencing their beliefs and behaviors.

“The culture of caring is not about a passive emotional connection; it only comes to life when each of us cares enough and has the courage to take action and change the intentions and behaviors of those around us.”

A misconception is that creating a safe workplace requires a lot of heavy lifting when really, safety is all about paying attention to the details throughout the workplace. For example, office workers are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling injury at work than employees who don’t work in an office. However, these injuries aren’t usually caused by a major accident like a file cabinet falling on someone’s head. Slips, trips, and falls are the main culprits of in-office accidents. By paying attention to the details, avoidable injuries should be a thing of the past. It’s as simple as taking the few extra seconds to smooth over walk-off mats that elevates a workplace to a safe place.

With real estate and facilities being one of the most costly assets for an organization, it’s on the shoulders of facilities management professionals to ensure the workplace is being leveraged as effectively as possible. However, stopping at space efficiency isn’t enough. Like Zachary said, “We are no longer just fixing things that break, we are creating the workplaces of tomorrow.”