Facility management and the modern workplace

workplace tech for facilities management
February 21, 2023
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Real estate is one of your company’s most expensive line items. How do you ensure that the assets within your real estate portfolio are running efficiently for both your business and employees? 

Enter your facility manager. 

Every business is looking to increase employee productivity and engagement while decreasing unnecessary costs. While those goals may seem competing, finding the balance between them is one of the core initiatives and responsibilities of your facility management team. 

Defining facility management

Facility management includes the tools, processes, and services that support the functionality, safety, sustainability, workplace experience, and operational efficiency of a company’s real estate footprint and built environment.

Facilities management is often broken down into two categories: 

  • Hard facilities management (Hard FM): Focused on physical assets such as HVAC, plumbing, and wiring
  • Soft facilities management (Soft FM): Focused on people-based tasks like lease accounting, security, groundskeeping, and custodial services

The sweeping range of duties of a facilities manager includes:

  • Lease management
  • Real estate management and facility maintenance
  • Capital project planning and management 
  • Energy efficiency and sustainability management
  • Occupancy and space management 
  • Employee and occupant experience

Why is facilities management important to the modern workplace? 

With hybrid work becoming more prevalent, companies need to create a work environment that inspires employees to come, stay, and return to the office. 

Is there a particular workspace type that employees flock to? What kinds of amenities empower productivity? Is your office welcoming and worth the commute? 

These are the questions a facility manager is tasked with answering, which is why a seasoned facility manager can and will contribute to your company’s bottom line. 

The work of a facility manager can optimize:

  • Real estate portfolio
  • Employee productivity 
  • Energy management
  • Workplace experience

Let’s look a little closer at each of those opportunities.

Real estate portfolio  

Real estate is usually the second-highest cost for an organization. A smart space management strategy run by critical insights can result in cost savings up to 30% (Research and Markets)


Reports by McKinsey reveal that the average capital project runs 80% over budget and 20 months behind schedule. Integrating capital project management technology can reduce project costs by 45% (McKinsey and Company). 

Employee productivity

U.S. employees spend 160 million days per year searching for desks, office rooms and colleagues, at an estimated loss of $27.5 billion per year. Integrating technology and upgrading workspace designs can improve overall experience and decrease this loss of productivity time (Senion). 

Energy management

A smart building with integrated systems can experience up to 30–50% in energy savings (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy). The General Services Administration optimized HVAC efficiency based on the occupancy data measured by Density, resulting in more than 10% whole-building energy savings (GSA). 

Workplace experience

Companies that rank high in employee engagement have 59% less turnover, 17% more productivity, and 41% less absenteeism (Gallup). 

Technology and facilities management

Technology has revolutionized space management. The manual techniques used in the past to understand occupancy rates and O&M costs, manage day-to-day operations, and design floor plans are vastly outperformed by today’s software, especially when managing large offices or real estate portfolios.

However, this doesn’t mean that technology is making facilities managers and workplace teams obsolete. Far from it.

The best tech solutions empower your facility management department to make data-driven decisions by integrating analytics and AI into powerful tools, such as an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). 

Computer-aided facilities management software (CAFM) encompasses the different types of software that support better decision-making space planning. These systems automate and improve the accuracy of data collection, allowing facilities managers to spend more time problem solving, monitoring important metrics, A/B testing, and creating future projections to help companies advance operational infrastructure while reducing costs.

Facilities management has become increasingly important for the post-pandemic workplace. Companies face rising costs, increased competition for talent, and new employee demands, so it’s vital to have FMs armed with the tools they need to optimize the office effectively. 

Key technologies for facilities management in the workplace

The hardware and software listed below all play important roles in supporting FMs’ decision-making and risk management competencies. 

Though they are all different, they can be grouped into at least one of three categories: visual data, real-time information, and task automation. 

  • Visual data allows space planning teams to understand data at a glance, so no time is wasted trying to mentally consolidate information into a meaningful conclusion. 
  • Real-time information means space managers can spot and fix problems as soon as they occur. Real-time data also feeds software such as desk reservation systems by showing what’s available right now. 
  • Task automation reduces human errors and saves time. The less time FMs spend on tedious tasks, the more time they have for higher-level management.

1. Occupancy sensors

Occupancy sensors tell you when people are using different spaces such as a conference room or phone booth, what time they were there, and how long they stayed. This information is often in real-time and can work with other technology such as digital wayfinding signs or reservation software.

With the information you collect from occupancy sensors, you can identify underutilized areas and reclaim that space for a better purpose. Rather than automatically expanding square footage to accommodate new hires, you can review sensor data to see if the current space is ever at capacity. If it isn’t, the company doesn’t have to spend money on more office space.

Sensors also allow you to A/B test how changes to the workplace perform. This is the true test of whether new policies or layouts are effective. Did the tech upgrade in the conference room make people use it more? If so, you can deploy this change across your portfolio to increase the utilization of conference rooms in every location.

2. Reservations

As more organizations move to hybrid models and hot desking, it’s becoming essential to have a system to manage when and where people go when they come into the office. Reservation technology helps move your office into the modern era of work by creating a system for this. And when employees can book a desk or a conference room without assistance, that's one less thing workplace teams have to worry about. 

Reservation software can inform policy changes by collecting data about missed bookings, inappropriately sized rooms, and unused desks. For example, if employees are booking desks for solo work and then never showing up, you can implement a time limit for check-ins. If the employee doesn’t check in within 10 minutes of the reservation, it’s immediately made available to others.

3. Virtual floor plans

Using software to create digital floor plans allows you to visualize changes before implementing them. You can spot potential problems such as bottlenecks or wasted space before you’ve moved a single chair, and you can test numerous designs to see which one will work best. It's more cost-efficient (and less frustrating for both FMs and employees) to work out floor plan kinks in the planning stage rather than the implementation stage. 

4. Asset management 

Managing assets is a significant part of facilities management. It’s essential to have up-to-date information about your resources, from total square footage to the number of chairs in a specific office location. In addition to a general inventory, FMs also have to monitor the maintenance cycles of assets such as HVAC systems and the building itself. Staying on top of preventative maintenance and repairs ensures you don’t have a cascading series of breakdowns that affect building operations.

A key goal of space management is to reduce expenses, and asset management software can help ensure you never make unnecessary purchases. When asset details are paired with utilization data from sensors, you get even more valuable insights. If one location needs 50 new desks and you see another site has extremely low desk utilization, you can simply reallocate those resources to the location in need. This is one small example of the type of problem-solving that the right software can help you achieve.

Choose the right CAFM tools

  • Look for software that’s easy to use. The less training it requires, the faster you can start benefiting from its features.
  • Select technology that comes with support from the provider. When it comes time to update software or troubleshoot hardware issues, you want the reassurance that someone will be available to answer your questions.
  • Choose software that's compatible with your existing technologies. The more technology you can integrate, the more comprehensive and easier to manage your data becomes.
  • Keep your budget in mind, but don’t forget the value technology brings to space management. Budgetary constraints are unfortunate, and it can be expensive to invest in new technologies. However, be sure to factor in the ROI that comes with making data-backed decisions rather than educated guesses and the additional time that automation provides.

What the future of facilities management looks like

More than half of CEOs surveyed by IBM in 2021 emphasized the need to become more agile and flexible across their organizations over the next three years. 

The built environment is not immune. 

As the workplace becomes a destination for group work and collaboration, workplace leaders and facilities managers will need to focus on how best to create a place that nurtures teamwork and connection—without compromising others’ need for a place for heads-down work. 

Configurable furniture has become an attractive, cost-effective option for many workplace teams. It allows individuals to create the space they need for any specific moment. Need a 10-person meeting? A scrum space? A dedicated workstation? 

No problem. 

Learn more about how facilities management departments are creating an agile workplace here.