What FMs need to know about making workplaces more responsive to today’s changing needs

5 FM lessons from agile workplaces

by Annemarie Fleming — December 2019 — More and more companies are changing how they work and introducing agile workplaces to allow employees to choose where and how they work daily and no longer do they sit at the same desk every day.  As Agile Working increases, it gives Facility Managers new opportunities to support collaborative workplaces.  However, it can also present challenges for FMs to get the maximum benefit out of these new spaces and support employees to perform their best work.

Here are some real-world lessons learned from FMs on how to prepare and respond to managing Agile Workplaces.

Observe and adjust

Agile working is dynamic, and employees will test its potential and limits.  Facility Managers must focus on leveraging the investment to maximize the use of every space in an Agile Workplace.  Keep an eye on what is working and adjust if something does not work as intended.  Think of managing an Agile Workplace as an iterative process rather than a static one.  Ask employees questions about what they like and what is not working for them to gather data to find new ways to improve the space.  By paying attention to how employees are engaging with their workplace and asking questions, Facility Managers can champion better ways to utilize these spaces to deliver their full potential to support the business.

Clean, clean and clean some more

Employees may behave differently in an agile work environment than when they work in an assigned seat.  They now have the freedom to sit anywhere and find the best spots to suit their work activities throughout the day and from one day to the next.  As desks become common shared areas, there may be a tendency to defer caring for the space to others and to not take full responsibility to take care of it like one’s own desk.  Therefore, Facility Managers may need to bring in additional cleaning services and tools.  Start by updating your janitorial service contract to add more cleaning service throughout the day if needed.  Keep cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer dispensers available throughout the space and ready for use to encourage employees to wipe down desk and work surfaces.  It will promote a cleaner workplace and minimize germs too.

Get managers on your side

Although we are all adults, employees sometimes may assume that someone else is going to clean up the space after they leave or move to another location.  They may leave dishes, used glasses or coffee mugs or other debris at shared desks or common areas.  If this becomes an ongoing issue for the Facilities team, then reach out to department managers and leaders and ask them for their support.  By working together to communicate expectations, everyone will benefit as every employee takes responsibility to clean up after themselves when using these spaces. This also makes it easier for the FM team to keep the workspaces clean and ready for quick turnaround use by everyone.

Say It with humor

At times people do need friendly reminders to turn off lights and to keep things tidy. Nobody really likes or pays close attention to boring signs posted throughout the workplace especially in the pantry and bathrooms.  Try to infuse some creativity and humor to get your point across.  Not only does humor disarm a defensive response but it may give the reader a chuckle.  People remember fun messages better and using humor may inspire everyone to chip in to keep the workplace clean up to the standard that benefits everyone.

 You are not alone… Build your FM network

Agile workplaces are still new and evolving.  Facility Managers are still learning how to get the most out of these spaces.  Unlike a traditional office, FMs may need to really engage with the people who work there.  Be proactive to build and expand your professional network with your FM peers and service providers who can share best practices emerging from agile workplaces.  Reach out for help from forums like IFMA Engage or join your local IFMA Chapter and attend educational meetings.  The Workplace Evolutionaries is a community of IFMA dedicated to bringing the knowledge of the best workplace practices to Facility Managers.  Join the Workplace Evolutionaries and attend local WE Hub events in your area (see we.ifma.org).  There are countless peers and experts available and happy to share their knowledge and experience with you.

Final thought

Today workplaces are constantly changing, and Facility Managers need to flex and adapt to these workplace changes.  Their leadership and commitment to offering best-in-class services are key to supporting their company’s teams and business.  FMs must be well rounded in their knowledge of workplace management and the newest building management trends to keep up with these fast changes.  Be a proactive learner and leverage your network to support your professional growth and knowledge of these workplace changes.  Continue to grow your people skills along with new building systems and technology so you can excel as the expert to the leaders in your company.

About the author

Annemarie Fleming is a Workplace Change Thought Leader.  She has been a Workplace Evolutionaries Leader since 2014 and founded and led the WE Hub NYC from 2016-2019.  Annemarie also a member of the IFMA NYC Board where she leads the Chapter’s GWI (Global Workforce Initiative) Committee to inspire the next generation of Facility Managers.  She also recently completed the Change Management Certificate from Cornell University and works with Facility Managers to improve workplace experiences in New York City.

Workplace Evolutionaries’ (WE’s) mission is to “change the world one workplace at a time.” It’s a global community of over a thousand professionals who care deeply about the world of work and where it’s going. Among its members are workplace strategists, change managers, facilities managers, architects, designers, HR professionals, IT managers, academics, and product and service providers. WE members enjoy three conferences a year, monthly WEbinars with thought leaders from around the world, a monthly round-up of the best workplace research and news, white papers, and a vehicle for connecting with fellow evolutionaries around the world. WE is a global Community of Practice within the International Facility Management Association.