The workplace of the future. Board Level Presence for Facility Management.

FM Workplace.jpg

I have spent most of my adult life thinking about Corporate Real Estate and Facility Management. Along the way, I have been influenced by many leaders. This inspiration has led me to think about the Corporate Real Estate and Facility Management industry in a more strategic way – outside of the mainstream. You may find my article on “Workplace Management”.

Physical office space is going through a remarkable change. Can you predict what will the future of office look like in 10-20 years?  The future of workplace is full of changes and new prospects. And this change just has only begun. Please find some of the ways we will experience the change in the workplace.

Work from Anywhere & Anytime

Space and time have become a limitation for most companies. The physical office reached the end of its effective use. The days of 9:00 to 5:00 is over for most of us. A new transformation started outside of the physical place and will continue to grow. We will all embrace the flexible work environments, a blend of home, office, co-working spaces, virtual spaces, and shared spaces and rely less on formal office environments and physical spaces. Some of the industries have picked up on this trend and has transformed how they carry out work. Others are very late on this train. Lynda Gratton and Tammy Johns have co-authored an article, The Third Wave of Virtual Work, which has been published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR). The first wave was home computers and e-mail and allowed an individual who might otherwise have worked inside a company to set up a one-person shop. The second wave was mobile technologies and global teamwork. During this phase, while organizations appreciated a work approach that enabled operations to set-up virtual teams across different time zones, they also began to feel that it meant less collaboration. The third wave, a new way of providing community, purpose and shared space has become important. This last wave will cure the side effects of virtualization and drive increased collaboration and engagement. “Understanding how your business participates in each wave will help you make wise decisions about technology, work models, talent sources, and people practices.

Designing the Future of Workspace

Companies will soon employ fewer people, rely less on long-term contracts and will outsource every job that is not part of the company core services. Administrative and non-client-facing tasks will be fully removed or outsourced. Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and freelancers will soon make up the majority of the independent workforce. They will rely less on physical space but their need for collaboration, transparency, and openness will continue to increase. These work values will also drive the need for strategically designed workspace. Peter Bacevice, Liz Burow, and Mat Tribner have co-authored an article, 7 Factors of Great Office Design for HBR. “Design and outfitting of the workspace is a major capital investment for any organization that can affect a number of business outcomes, including productivity, employee satisfaction, engagement, talent recruitment, and brand impact. Given the myriad ways to design and plan a space, leaders should approach workplace design in a strategic way.”

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working

As organizations become leaner, nimble, digital and less hierarchically we are also experiencing another challenge. People are not focused, engaged and committed. We work hard, obsessed with work, but we don’t know why we work so hard. Nobody is happy. The biggest opportunity to look at is how we get work done in an organization. How the work gets done can be a unique differentiator and competitive advantage for most companies. A great article on this topic came out of Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project and author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working. He is also the author of the several HBR articles on productivity.

The connection between Purpose and Performance

There is very little connection between what we do now and the future. We work so hard, we don’t enjoy life. Life is not meant to be just “work”. Do we work to live or live to work? Life is not about living and working meaninglessly. When work is about purpose and meaning, there will be more joy, peace, contentment, engagement, and happiness. And less of anxiety, fear, and tension in the workplace. There is an article on this topic published by Forbes, contributed by Rich Lyons, he is the dean of the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and also served as the chief learning officer at Goldman Sachs. Rich makes business his case on purpose: “Does purpose matter: Make Every Employee a Chief of Purpose Officer“? Famous motivational speaker and marketing guru Simon Sinek has also stated in his TedEx presentation that, “Everyone has a ‘Why’. Your “why” is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you. Knowing your “why” gives you a filter to make choices, at work and at home, that will help you find greater fulfillment in all that you do.”

Board Level Presence of Facility Managers 

Workplace management solutions are becoming more and more popular every day in corporate circles. How we get work done goes through transformational change. This emerging perception of Facility Management has recently allowed it to rise to a strategic level in corporations. It is now at least as important as the Human Resources, IT and Finance Departments. There is a great article on FacilityExecutive published by Tim Springer and Steve Lockwood. According to the authors, “The traditional approach to FM was built on a slower pace with longer life cycles for facilities. It was founded on the notion that managing space and costs were the key indicators of success.” In today’s digital world, facility professionals cannot focus simply on cost. They have to focus on value, throughput, and revenue. FM professionals need to speak the language of the industry leaders and focus on the human aspect of the business.

Strategic positioning of FMs will lead to a new breed of “Workspace Managers”

Virtual office environment will enhance the strategic value of the Facility Management services and its human aspect. Traditional lengthy and costly procurement process will lead to Uberization of the industry. Facility Management solutions will rely heavily on partnerships bringing together a variety of solution providers to enable the future of the workplace.

Employee Experience and Engagement

Facility Managers are now extending their influence over to Workplace Management leveraging the resources to influence the productivity, experience, and engagement of the employees.

Workplace Enablers: Environmental Health, Safety, and Wellness in the Workplace

The way we are working is no longer working for us! We can’t seem to focus. Health and Wellness will soon become a very large industry and there will be spill over to the various other industries. Workplace with growing focus on health and wellness will demand niche services and products. I suggest everyone read Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer Leah Weiss’s most recent book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind. She is also a lecturer at GSB with a course on Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion. According to Leah, “With all of the technological options we have for engagement, we need to be mindful of disruption. Many of us are in the habit of multitasking, but of course, that doesn’t exist. There’s only task switching, and that comes with a tremendous cost in terms of our productivity.

Workplace Enablers: HR Departments

HR Departments will need to adapt and support the future of workplace strategies. A recent Forbes article by Jeanne Meister is a good read and suggests that “HR must mirror these best in class experiences by leveraging artificial intelligence for all phases of the employee lifecycle from recruiting to onboarding and developing employees.

Workplace Enablers: IT Departments

IT Departments will also need to adapt and support the future of workplace strategies – with mobile cloud-based services, supporting different work styles and globalization. Fran Chambers, Bupa’s Center for Internal Communications used a software during their corporate relocation project. “When Bupa, an international healthcare company with 80,000 employees, decided to relocate its London offices, they approached Tangowork to create an employee chatbot to support the move.”

Workplace Enablers: Security Departments

New ways of working will push security to the forefront. In this environment, physical security and data security will remain key. Security concerns will keep us all awake at night.

Digital Transformation will Transform the Employee Experience

Technology is transforming the future of the workplace. Every one of us is connected online. Not only salespeople and field workers will be mobile, but we will all benefit from mobility independent of our job and title. With the support and contribution of AR, VR, and AI, this trend will continue to evolve. Smart AI driven advisors will soon take on administrative tasks. We have already started using them. Apple’s Sri is one of these B2C solutions. According to Facility Executive, important technology trends to follow are Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Drones, Robotics, Wireless Protocols, Artificial Learning, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning. According to Steven Lambert, COO at MCS, a provider of integrated real estate, workplace and facility management software solutions for large private or public sector organizations, “This ability to harvest “big data” is already a driving force behind the expanding role of facility management in an organization.” A recent Forbes article by Jeanne Meister develops a strategy and road map for artificial intelligence, she believes there are five work streams to begin this digital transformation:

  • Embrace artificial intelligence by experimenting with a range of piloting a range of chat-bots
  • Develop a shared vision with cross-functional stakeholders of HR, IT, Real Estate, Communications, and Digital Transformation
  • Understand the implications of implementation on the technology road map
  • Identify new job roles needed to fully leverage AI in HR
  • Up-skill HR team to understand the power of artificial intelligence in HR

Digital Transformation will Transform the Customer Help Desks

Client customer desks and call centers will also see a major change. Customer Service Desks supported by FM/IT Departments will evolve from an online work ticket pusher to an intelligent AI supported center.  According to Steven Lambert, COO at MCS, a provider of integrated real estate, workplace and facility management software solutions for large private or public sector organizations, “Developments called machine learning and deep learning are allowing computers to think for themselves, albeit in a guided fashion. By finding patterns in data using a set of algorithms, computers can build their own solutions to problems, and reinforce these with every new set of information they receive. This technology is what drives face detection on Facebook or chat-bots like Cleverbot, which imitates the contents and syntax of conversation based on what people have said to it. Again, this isn’t truly intelligent, but it is more adaptive than traditional systems.


Want to know more about on this topics, more articles on “Leadership”, “Teamwork”,  and “Workplace Management”:


A Leader in Corporate Real Estate and Facilities Management, Evrim Ay is the author of “Sustainable Facilities Management” book. In this blog, he makes a strong business case and a compelling argument for “workplace management“, “wellness“, and “productivity“. He believes that the way we are working is no longer working

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s