Tricks Of The Trade: Facilities Staff Allocation

By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the March 2009 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q I have a twist on the frequently asked question about standard operating costs; instead of dollars per square foot, is it possible to calculate facilities staff per employee? For instance, if you have a 100,000 square foot building, how large should the facilities staff be? Would the size of the staff be based on square footage? Or would it be more accurate to calculate per building occupant?

Nick Hamilton
Facility & Event Management
Records Manager
Suffolk, VA

A The good and bad part about facilities management is the uniqueness of each site. No two buildings are exactly alike, and so many types of commerce can be conducted in each. There are leased facilities and owner occupied, which create different operational philosophies for each type.

If you manage a school, operational data is available (American School and University’s “Absence of Resources: The 32nd Annual M&O Cost Study”) which shows the median square feet maintained by custodial workers (24,167) and maintenance workers (95,120).

I checked on numerous research sites and reference materials to see if I could find any type of general studies reflecting average staffing size. Operating costs, no problem, but facilities head count? That’s another story, and it’s a big problem!

Some of the research reports from IFMA break down staffing by facility size, but the method in which it is presented makes it very difficult to arrive at a staffing per square foot figure.

One of the obstacles you have is the building density. A law firm would have fewer employees in the same amount of space occupied by a call center. Hours of operation would further affect the numbers. A facility running multiple shifts will put more demands on the facility (compared to a general office with one regular shift).

The more common benchmark is the number of department full time employees (FTEs) in relation to total headcount. This is a good start, but these issues will need to be factored in, such facility age, churn, industry, and location. Other benchmarks relate to performance or service levels. Number of work orders processed per FTE; average response time, etc.

Elledge,facility/office services manager for Dallas, TX-based Summit AllianceCompanies, is the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA), is an IFMA Fellow, and isa member of TFM’sEditorial Advisory Board. All questions have been submitted via the “Ask TheExpert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.