Workplace Vitality: 5 Imperatives For Facility Leadership

By Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCR

One paradox of facility leadership is that typically, the more successful it is, the more invisible it is. Bill Stumpf, a brilliant industrial designer, defined ‘true comfort’ as the absence of awareness — and perhaps this is an apt comparison for facility leadership. When the “facility” is operating perfectly, it is “facilitating” work, essentially, ‘making it easy’. This is often evidenced by users’ lack of awareness — from security to grounds to energy consumption and maintenance — less awareness of the facility is often a good thing because it is the best evidence that it’s effectively supporting the business and the work.

Despite this potential “invisibility”, facility leaders have a powerful role to play in the business and its success. This impact is evident through the lens of Workplace Vitality™ which is based on Mars Drinks’ research of 4,000 people across the globe. Workplace Vitality describes a place that is vibrant, thriving, and alive with potential at the intersection of collaboration, engagement, well-being, and productivity. It’s the kind of place that sets organizations up for business success, and the kind of place facility executives are essentially seeking to create.

facility management leaders
At Mars Drinks in West Chester, PA, a mix of individual and collaborative areas were designed to boost productivity and general well-being. (Photo: Mars Drinks)

The facility leader has a distinct vantage point and depth of experience that, arguably, no other leader has. He or she is driving building and workplace decisions and can therefore influence toward Workplace Vitality. There are five imperatives for this leadership, outlined here.

Leverage Data to Foster ENGAGEMENT.

One key factor in Workplace Vitality is engagement, which is the emotional commitment that results in work effort. From research, it is clear that employees who feel their organization is energizing are more likely to feel this sense of engagement. In turn, a leadership imperative for facility executives is to leverage data in order to foster engagement. With the Internet of Things and data that is available about facility usage and performance, the facility leader can keep a finger on the pulse of the employee experience and the extent of their engagement. When and where people show up in the building, around which coffee area they choose to congregate, and which spaces are most selected, all provide a sense of which parts of the built environment are most energizing and contribute toward this critical sense of engagement.

facility management leaders
(Photo: Mars Drinks)
Supply Spaces to Create COLLABORATION.

Contributing toward a common goal, coming together, and working as a team are critical to employees feeling a sense of collaboration, which in turn contributes toward Workplace Vitality. Effective facility leaders are recognizing the power of space to bring people together. From research, we know that break areas, amenity spaces, and work cafes are becoming one of the most important ways that people come together. Creating these kinds of spaces for connection over coffee or breaking bread together become important features in the facility and investments for the business. When people connect over coffee or a refreshment, they are more likely to collaborate, engage, and feel a sense of well-being. And these all contribute to a strong and effective culture.

Provide Choices that Enable WELL-BEING.

Far from just another buzz word, well-being that results in health, happiness, and work-life fulfillment turns out to be very good for the business. Well-being is becoming an imperative that leaders cannot afford to ignore, and the built environment sends important cues about the value a company places on well-being. Facilities that boast walking paths or healthy drink and cafeteria options are supporting new behaviors and healthy choices. In addition, when the organization has systems for scheduling hoteling spaces and supporting mobile working through appropriate tools and technology, these facilitate a sense of well-being for employees.

Understand the Work Process to Support PRODUCTIVITY.
facility management leaders
(Photo: Mars Drinks)

The lens of productivity is about supporting the work holistically — all kinds of work for all kinds of workers. The facility leader who deeply understands the work process at both a macro level and at micro levels is most able to support Workplace Vitality. This can includes macro planning that organizes functions across the building according to the overall value chain and ensuring that departmental spaces support the range of work within a function or team. What is key, is attending to the work process as drivers for facility decisions.

Make the Invisible, VISIBLE.

Overall, facility leadership will be most successful when it connects the physical environment with the business strategy, making the invisible, visible. Facility leaders are well-placed to understand the business strategy and direction, and create a built environment to support this direction.

And this, in fact, this is one of the most important parts of Workplace Vitality: taking a holistic view of the built environment and how it contributes to the user experience and the business as a whole. Engagement, collaboration, well-being, productivity, and visibility become leadership imperatives, especially for facility executives. From grounds to security to energy consumption, workplace, and more, the facility leader holds a central role in creating a place that is vibrant, thriving, and alive with potential, and which is contributing to positive business results.

facility management leadershipBrower, PhD, MM, MCR is the Global VP of Workplace Vitality for Mars Drinks and the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations. Dr. Brower’s work has been featured in multiple publications and she is a 3-time recipient of the CoreNet luminary award for speaking and a recipient of the UofH Real Estate Innovative Practices Award. Mars Drinks is an international workplace beverage solutions provider based in the Greater Philadelphia area.