Five Workplace & Facilities Productivity Hacks

As facilities management (FM) and workplace professionals, we are often the ones tasked with putting out fires; figuratively and sometimes literally (I’m looking at you rogue catering burners and faulty e-scooter chargers), and this can throw a wrench into planning and productivity.  I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gone into an organization and preached the importance of moving from a reactive to proactive strategy only to find out that reactiveness dies hard. 

This can happen for many reasons but as my colleagues in HR and IT can relate to, our customer is essentially the organization and oftentimes we may have been left out of the planning process wholly or often have to prioritize others over our own. 

Traditionally FM hasn’t done the best in looking towards strategy either (or technology…we have some work to do but we continue to see new generations and innovators buck this trend) and I’d argue many of us especially early in our careers didn’t really have many references on how to be productive because we were too busy being reactive.  Fret not however as I’ve delegated (one of the tips below!) some of my other tasks to bring you some tips for facilities managers to improve productivity.

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1. Goals, Priorities & KPI’s

If you ever ask old school FMs what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) they use, you may get some great answers, but you’ll probably get answers like this: I don’t need any KPIs because I can run this building in my sleep. The problem is we aren’t getting much sleep because we’re working all the time with no goals or KPIs.  Things as simple as cascading your organizational goals to your team, setting business unit goals and KPIs that they can directly relate to (you’d be surprised at how selling x amount of widgets doesn’t excite a FM but if you tell them they can eek out a kilowatt hour by changing to a new bulb, they’re all in) and KPIs that are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) are often forgotten about in the FM world, but using them can make us, oh so much more productive.  Ensuring key metrics are captured is super important for any FM team, and pretty easy to ideate on. Using metrics such as number of tickets completed per month, saving x amount of dollars per sq ft, or time critical equipment is down each month.  It may take a little bit of change management to get buy-in from your team, especially in stagnant organizations, and can vary generationally.  Finally, prioritization can also help your team if they know something takes precedent allowing you and your team to manage reactive tasks more efficiently.

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2. Delegate Tasks Effectively

If I had to pin my biggest weakness early in my career… it was delegation. I’d often take on everything myself and insist I put the team on my back and carry them across the finish line at the cost of my health and my own tasks.  During my military days, I was horrified by desk duty because I wanted to be out in the field all the time, but we can’t all be the star athlete forever. And so I moved to a coaching mindset where I look at it more so of utilizing my talent the most efficiently. I’ve seen a great deal of improved productivity across boards and what is more it’s been great for my mental health.

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3. Take Breaks and Manage Stress

Speaking of mental health, if you ever want to get laughed out of a room faster, tell your construction buddies that you took part in a 10 day silent meditation called Vipassana.  A few hours later after their laughter subsided, I realized something…In FM and workplace, we do a really poor job of taking breaks and managing stress and in turn it’s added to our poor job of maximizing productivity.  It doesn’t have to be as extreme as Vipassana (though if you can pull yourself away that long, I highly recommend it) but ensuring your people are taking breaks, holidays and watching their mental health can ensure productivity continues indefinitely since working in a service industry, we often forget to serve ourselves.  It’s crucial to know your audience here as well and remember that yoga and meditation aren’t the end all be all for those who may be resistant.  Sometimes a different approach is needed and I’ve had just as much success with a fishing trip or daily stretches through an app such as Pancea.

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4. Use Technology to Automate Tasks

Whether it’s utilizing something such as ChatGPT to assist in writing standard operating procedures and goals, built-in features in Slack and Airtable or utilizing a third party automation tool such as Zapier to connect things such as asset management tools like Upkeep with ticketing software like Zendesk.  And it’s only getting infinitely more helpful and more importantly EASY.  You do not have to have an in-depth background in coding or technology to utilize these tools like you used to. 

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5. Communicate Effectively with Staff and Tenants

Long gone are the days when a FM could lock him or herself in an electrical closet and shun all social interaction. It wasn’t productive back then and it really isn’t these days especially in the wake of these new hybrid and remote ways of working. If anything, communication has become even more crucial in order to run a productive shop. Check-ins with key groups in the organization, walking around your site and talking to folks on the ground and debriefs after events and or providing service for your customers (employees) go a long way in improving efficiencies and productivity.

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BONUS: Be Proactive and Anticipate Problems

I’ve always said that the number one trait that makes a good facilities manager is problem solving and the ability to anticipate those problems beforehand will ensure that you’re not having to come up with solutions on the fly.  Redundancies and emergency action plans are great standards, but putting yourself in the mindset of the guests or from a security standpoint a potential threat can help you anticipate any and all problems so when they arise it’s not a scramble.  Something as simple as pretending you’ve never been to a building and asking yourself would I know where to park?  Are there identical buildings with no building numbers?  Oftentimes we take our building for granted because we’re often there 5-7 days a week but something as simple as working with your recruiting team so talent knows where to park could pay huge dividends.  I would often scout venues when I worked at Sirius XM and ask myself if I was a determined Swifite fan how would I circumvent security to sneak in the venue. Where are my weak spots, what resources could I run out of, etc. These introspective questions are very similar to how user experience and products are crafted and could be utilized much more frequently within FM/workplace.

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Learn more about our Author: Jonathan Johnson is an operations, facilities and workplace professional based out of Denver, Colorado who has founded facility start-ups and had stints at Flexport, Bolt Threads, Sirius XM + Pandora and Guild Education. He is currently a consultant offering fractional facilities and commercial real estate expertise to small and medium sized organizations. He has a MSc in Facilities and Environmental Management from University College London and speaks frequently at conferences such as World Workplace and is a military veteran serving in the United States Air Force with the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron serving in both OIF and OEF.

*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.