Access Control, Energy Management and Lighting, Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Security

What Facility Managers Need to Know About Hybrid Workspaces

As with the concept of remote work, hybrid work may have already existed before COVID-19, but the pandemic took the idea of hybrid workplaces to the next level. Forced government lockdowns, social distancing, and other measures ensured that hybrid ways of working became more accepted and normative across many industry sectors. As such, the trend has impacted and continues to impact the way in which facility managers operate.

For the purpose of this article, hybrid work or a hybrid workplace will refer to an arrangement, whether informal or formally scheduled within an organization, whereby workers can conduct their tasks between the office and their home, as agreed upon between employer and employee and primarily for the sake of productivity and convenience. It can be considered a blend between work that is office-bound and working at home, or remotely. Hybrid arrangements are highly flexible and can be done in countless different permutations.

But what are the benefits of a hybrid workplace? Importantly, what are the primary ways in which this fairly novel and fast-growing working arrangement affects facilities management? What does a facility manager really need to know about hybrid work? This article will provide insights into those questions.

The Benefits of Hybrid Work

Ø Increased productivity: This is a leading benefit of accommodating hybrid work. Allowing workers to work flexibly between the office and home not only makes them happier, but also more productive. This is backed by studies: For example, a 2021 study by The Adecco Group, a human resources (HR) solutions company, found that 82% of respondents felt as productive or more productive since the remote-hybrid work paradigm took hold worldwide due to COVID-19.

Ø Reduced operation costs: With more employees working some or most of the time from home, an organization can save costs across the board, from office space to utilities such as electricity and computer networking. This can have a positive impact on facilities’ budgets and the allocation of resources.

Ø Best of both worlds: Whilst productivity globally went up with remote work during the pandemic, there were also many reports, including Microsoft’s internal Work Trend Index, of workers feeling exhausted and stressed by working longer hours remotely. Hybrid blends the upside of working in an office (more set hours, more social interaction with colleagues, etc.) with the best of remote work (greater flexibility, not having to commute, etc.).  

Ø Greater flexibility: The hybrid work model is the epitome of flexibility. Management and workers can choose any number of options that works best for all. One example is the so-called “3-2-2 model,” in which work is done in the office for three days of the week, at home for two days, and with time off the remaining two. This flexibility translates into more flexible options for the facility manager regarding how office space can be optimized, for example.

Hybrid Workplace Issues for the Facility Manager

There are a number of ways in which the hybrid work revolution has affected facilities management. Three of the most important areas for facility managers to consider include:

1. Hybrid Workplaces and Utilities

With offices and buildings having fewer occupants on average than before, the facility manager has an ideal opportunity to be inventive about the ways in which electricity and other forms of energy are utilized. The emphasis should be on smart energy usage. Motion sensors that save electricity make more sense than ever before, particularly in communal or non-work areas, such as stairwells, seldom-used corridors, and restroom facilities. Even meeting rooms will benefit from these sensors, so as to further minimize the unnecessary use of lights.

Sub-metering, which provides for far more detailed energy usage data for owners and managers of large properties, is another way in which energy efficiencies can be more accurately planned. Energy management platforms and similar software, of which there are many options, are a further technical means by which facilities management can ensure that energy consumption is smart and fit for purpose.

2. Hybrid Workplaces and Space Usage

Due to the switch to hybrid work models, office buildings and similar workspaces can no longer be perceived solely as areas typically at full capacity and attended by all on a daily basis. The facilities department needs to have a proactive response as to how spaces are optimized throughout a building. Too many “dead spaces” or double-bookings for work areas, such as meeting rooms, or for individual work stations, need to be avoided at all costs so that productivity is not unduly impacted.

Office space optimization software (of which, once again, there are many options on the market) can be very helpful for the facility manager in effectively planning, allocating, and managing office spaces and other work areas. This software can provide invaluable practical insights and analytics into space-related issues. Importantly, there needs to be open collaboration with other departments, such as HR, IT, and relevant line management, in order to ensure that space management maximizes employee satisfaction and, hence, productivity, whilst still remaining a practical process that doesn’t put undue stress on members of the facilities department. And that is important, since any maintenance program is only as good as its (happy and productive) maintenance team.

3. Hybrid Workplaces and Building Security

Internet and data security are not the only forms of security that have been transformed, sometimes adversely, by the move to more flexible working arrangements. A hybrid workplace also means more unknowns on a daily basis as to who is in and out of buildings and office areas. This can have serious security-related repercussions. Access control measures may need to be implemented or tightened in order to ensure greater security. Other measures may include biometric authentication or mobile identity verification, which can also be used to remotely protect data. Facilities management will clearly need to be involved in both the decision-making and implementation of many of these measures. 

A study by Entrust, a provider of identity and data protection solutions, titled Securing the New Hybrid Workplace, surveyed 3,000 business leaders and employees in 10 countries and found that security issues are a major concern for all. These fears include building and office security. As reported in the survey: “Visitor management is an in-office priority: Having a detailed record of who has been in and out of a company’s office is a larger priority in 2021.” A resounding 96% of business leaders and 93% of employees believed that entry logs and the tracking of visitors who enter and exit work areas need to be ramped up and given top priority, according to the Entrust study.

To conclude, the hybrid workplace is here to stay. It is a work model with its flaws, since not everyone can work optimally from home. Furthermore, it obviously cannot be an option for many jobs, including in healthcare, manufacturing, and law enforcement. But the overall benefits of hybrid workplaces do outweigh their drawbacks. It is indeed a dramatic evolution in the future of work. The facility manager does well to be at the forefront of that momentous change.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

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