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21 October 2018
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FM and productive workplaces

BIFM event report: ‘The facilities manager is best placed to deliver productive workplaces’. 

18 March 2014

The Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once said: "Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result."

Last week at an event organised by the BIFM’s international special interest group, two sides debated whether the facilities manager is best placed to deliver a productive workplace.  

You could give compelling for and against answers to the motion. But realistically and most of the time, a number of different factors contribute to a situation’s success and to varying degrees. 

An FM will inevitably have a role when it comes to building a productive workplace. But other factors also play a part in how effective he or she can be in influencing productivity in an office. 

In this vein, Samantha Bowman, UK services manager for Aramark Ireland, argued that FMs are best placed to enable productivity rather than deliver it. 

“Every organisation is not the same and most FMs work as part of a bigger team. FMs play an enabling role as part of a wider team,” said Bowman.

FMs are enablers because by working with other departments such as IT, they open up collaboration and widen the attention to other details within a workplace, said Bowman. 
This may include playing a part in supporting wellbeing programmes, managing space, designing a workplace and facilitating other kinds of change. 

Bowman concluded that productive workplaces were more aligned to how people work, not where they work and the FM had a role to play in this but not in fully delivering it.

Similarly, Tim Oldman managing director of workplace data collection company Leesman, who was arguing for the motion, said the facilities manager could be best placed to deliver productivity in a workplace but must get better at measuring the effectiveness of his or her role to really prove this is true.

“We’re not arguing whether FMs are delivering this, but whether they are best placed to deliver… What we are not debating is how to measure productivity,” he said.

The majority of things within an office are within the governorship of an FM, added Oldman. “FM is already there, but how loaded is the spring in order to take it to the next level?” he asked.

Nigel Oseland, MD of consultant Workplace Unlimited, who was arguing against the motion, added: “FMs are in a prime position to collate that data.”

Julie Kortens, the incoming BIFM chair and head of corporate services at Channel 4, was altogether more upbeat, arguing for the motion. She said: “We enable people to be productive… I don’t think it is all about cost-cutting, it’s about getting the best out of a budget. We [FMs] are the nuts and bolts that keep people going.” 

She argued that the very simple act of paying positive attention to people influences productivity. 

FMs are often influential in an intangible way. But the more FMs are able to measure what they do, whether through metrics or surveys, will guarantee a solid evidence base for their effectiveness in helping productivity in a workplace.