What Does WFA Mean for Facilities Management?

Considering our present day workplace realities, more businesses are seeking alternatives to the traditional idea of having a fixed work location. The time is right for forward-thinking employers to seriously consider the Work From Anywhere (WFA) approach.

No matter how workplaces evolve, one thing that remains the same is the need for organizations to facilitate a productive work environment, regardless of where that environment may be. This is where facility management becomes an item that needs to be addressed.

Under WFA, employers usually allow any of three different working arrangements. Below, we look at how building maintenance can impact workers’ productivity under each arrangement, and how maintenance cost and responsibilities change depending on the working arrangement.

1) Working from home

Many of us have been living in a work from home scenario since March 2020, so we're quite familiar with the pros and cons. In this scenario, the company is pretty much powerless to ensure business continuity because each employee is in a workspace of one. Just some of the issues that employees have encountered include power outages (SW Louisiana in Aug. 2020, Texas in Feb. 2021) and general connectivity issues.

Those are issues that are out of both the employer's and employee's control. But many issues could occur due to poor maintenance on the employee's part. Obviously, the employer has minimal control over how maintenance happens. So, when the building maintenance function for a employee's home is incompetent or subpar, it throws up many challenges that could eventually frustrate this arrangement altogether.

Maintenance cost and responsibilities

Under a work from home arrangement, an employee bears the cost of maintenance. However, the employer might need to provide support to the worker to create an effective “office” setting by providing any specialized furnishing and equipment that an employee might require to do their job properly. This might involve providing office materials, moving the PC from the office to the employee apartment, purchasing headsets and cameras, and setting those things up. There are bound to be some technical issues along the way so IT departments will have their hands full.

2) Flexible offices

If employees make use of flexible offices, then business continuity is much more reliable. Flexile offices are usually located in an office building and are fully furnished and equipped for corporate work. 

Similar to the work-from-home arrangement, the employer has limited direct control on maintenance. Operational headaches that are not handled properly or quickly enough can cause major problems to workflow. 

Maintenance cost and responsibilities

The norm is that these buildings are managed by professional facilities management companies. Therefore, everything maintenance-related such as heating, safety, power, cleaning, etc. is the combined responsibility of the building owner. You, as the organization, have to hope that the team maintaining the working space is fast and efficient. It might be a good idea to discuss these kinds of things before making a commitment. You can ask about the venue's process for receiving maintenance issue re and how much time it usually takes for these tickets to be addressed.

Typically, employers can expect a pay-as-you-use arrangement for daily usage or all-inclusive monthly fees.

3) Using the headquarters

Most larger companies will choose to retain a corporate headquarters or a constellation of corporate-owned office building. Depending on the size of the buildings, there is a full range of building systems that require an in-house maintenance team or an outsourced professional service provider. 

One change is that most company offices will house fewer workstations and cater to fewer employees than before. Some buildings might even change in their primary function, transitioning to a mix that includes more meeting and training facilities for employees who need to come in at intervals. The facilities management team will need to understand these new dynamics and provide optimum support for all the building’s users.

Maintaining a large office building can be challenging enough. But imagine that instead of 1,000 employees occupying the same space from 8 to 5, you now have 1,000 different employees and guests moving throughout the facility across different day parts. The building now operates more like a conference center or hotel than a traditional office. Yet, the facilities team still needs to maintain strict control over systems from security to cleaning to safety to asset and space management. If you’ve ever experienced heating/cooling issues, unstable internet connection, broken printers, out-of-work elevators, you know how much these issues lower overall employee productivity and raise frustration levels across the organization. In the new version of HQ, these issues will be more dynamic – and more critical – than ever before.

Maintenance cost and responsibilities

All maintenance-related costs will be the responsibility of the organization, directly if it's an in-house maintenance team, or indirectly if maintenance is outsourced. It's hard to estimate which approach is cheaper, as there are a lot of variables at play. The main difference is how much control you want to have. For an in-house team, you can hire a facility manager, implement a CMMS system, and help him build his own team and have direct control over everything. The alternative is to find a reliable vendor to whom you can outsource everything. It is a riskier approach, but can be much simpler and easier to execute. 

What is the most cost-effective approach?

You would have the lowest maintenance costs if all employees continued working from home. However, that is not the most productive approach and can hurt your team building efforts.

The WFA approach seems to be the way of the future. You can significantly downsize your HQ, incorporate a few flexible offices, have part of the workforce remain working from home, and rotate as necessary. This might require some up-front investment and resources to set everything up, but long-term maintenance costs should drop compared to the pre-pandemic mode that required everyone to go to the office. 

In conclusion

Remote work is more acceptable now than ever before, and employers can no longer ignore this fact. Instead, they can focus on how to offer employees a choice of different workplace locations without facing a new set of maintenance-related problems. Interestingly, more and more options are becoming available that offer employers and their staff the best chances for successful WFA programs. An example is the Codi and LiquidSpace partnership that provides vetted residential spaces for more near-home options. This way, staff can conveniently work in the neighborhoods where they live.

About the Author

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

Topics: WFA Management

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