By Anand Subbaraj
Facilities management by definition has a much broader scope of work than other field service organizations that focus on a single industry. It includes orchestrating not only the tools and services related to hard facilities management (plumbing, electrical, elevators, HVAC) and soft facilities management (cleaning, security, groundskeeping, leasing), but also the teams in the trenches doing the actual work. Increasingly, these teams are hybrid and composed of onsite and remote employees of various skills and responsibilities.
Facilities management leaders can’t avoid the new reality of hybrid workforces. COVID accelerated the trend, but advancements in digital technology, major demographic changes in the field service industry, and current macroeconomic conditions are also catalyzing change. A recent Facilities Executive article about the shift to hybrid work for Massachusetts government workers captured the upside of this change nicely:
“The future of work has been an opportunity for many organizations to re-imagine what the employee experience and what the customer experience could be using cloud-based technology, where companies get to design a great environment to work from anywhere and to help their employees do their best work wherever they are inspired.”
For facilities management, this ethos does have limitations. You can’t clean an office building, shovel snow, or replace a broken swimming pool pump remotely (yet anyway). However, tech advancements are enabling teams to remotely diagnose and service electrical, HVAC, security systems and more without having to automatically dispatch an onsite engineer or technician. Tech is also enabling teams to more easily collaborate and communicate with each other.
Here are some key ways technology can empower and benefit facilities management hybrid teams – today and in the future.
Making Hybrid Possible And Increasing Employee Productivity
For facilities management, technology is helping to improve employee productivity on many fronts. New “smart buildings” and their core facilities are being increasingly built with modern digital equipment that is powered by IoT and software. Older buildings are also being retrofitted with such equipment. This includes IoT-enabled HVAC, electrical and security systems, sprinklers, appliances and even swimming pools. Predictive maintenance technology is leading the shift from reactive to proactive service and it’s also changing the role of the field service engineer.
Before this technology, companies would have to dispatch an engineer or technician to first diagnose a problem manually – greatly increasing the total amount of time (and cost) required for each job. Now, more than a general diagnostic role, field service engineer roles are more procedural and specialized in nature. In many instances, technology is eliminating the need to dispatch a worker at all – both enabling the preferences of a hybrid workforce and increasing its productivity through remote support and troubleshooting.
On the software side, there has been an increased demand by facilities and property management/maintenance companies for Property Management Software (PMS). For residential and commercial buildings, it used to be required to have an onsite office staffed with workers that could manage leasing agreements, rent payments, tenant interviews, and maintenance requests (e.g. a tenant has a leaky sink that needs fixing). PMS is enabling front office and maintenance teams to manage many of these functions remotely via mobile devices.