The Workplace Is Not Dead

Here is a nice article from Forbes that describes the positive changes that are going on in the workplace. Finally, work places are being designed for people, not machines. While technology organizations (think data centers and R&D labs) will always be designed with equipment in mind first, at least companies and other leading organizations now understand that you need to design space for people to attract and retain talent, improve collaboration and productivity.

Click on link below for full article:

Forbes Article

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Top IWMS Benefits

There are many benefits to Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS). Here are my top picks:

 

  1. Streamline Processes and Optimize Resources

In every organization there are a lot of processes that help individuals to optimize their contribution to the primary process of the organizations, usually to make sales profitability. While Real Estate & Facilities Management (REFM) professionals rarely are tasked with sales primary processes, their processes can have a large impact on profitability, usually by controlling costs.  Integrated Workplace Management Systems can easily help you to streamline those processes to save time, reduce cycle times for work requests and eliminate waste, thereby lowering operating expenses.

 

  1. Optimize Space Utilization & Occupancy

Real Estate costs account for 10%-25% of an organization’s cost base. As cost reduction programs have made it to C-level, organizations need to have an accurate and timely view of their real estate portfolio to ensure that both current and future  organizational space demands are aligned with their supply. Facility maintenance and operations costs are largely derived from the amount and type of space in its portfolio. Therefore organizations need to optimize space utilization and not serve extra space or under-used spaces. IWMS helps you to quickly identify space vacancies or under-utilized areas of your portfolio, which can be used to improve your REFM metrics and the organization’s bottom line.

 

  1. Monitor Performance to Optimize Resources and Organizational Flexibility

Matching service demand and delivery is extremely important for every organization. You need to be able to monitor both in-house and service provider performance to ensure that you have appropriate resources to support the organization’s goals. In addition, you need accurate, timely data to ensure that the Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) negotiated with your outsourced partners are aligned with performance. Through  custom, easy to generate Dashboards and advanced reporting functionality, today’s IWMS empowers your organization to effectively manage service delivery quickly and accurately.

 

Organizations that haven’t outsourced their service delivery will benefit from the resource planning and allocation functionality that most IWMS systems provide. Team leaders can easily schedule tasks to available resources and effectively plan their workload.  What’s more, resource allocation in IWMS can enable allocating tasks only to appropriate resources and help identify gaps to justify additional resources and training development plans for staff.

 

Lastly, some REFM tasks can be automated by an IWMS. The system reduces the required human interaction and thus, reduces the staffing requirements. REFM organizations can do more with less. This is especially helpful during ramp-up and expansion where a 25% increase in productivity could be achieved via IWMN instead of hiring another staff member. Indeed, expected productivity gains should be a key part of any justification or ROI analysis for IWMS implementation.

 

  1. Minimize Human Errors

Humans make a lot of mistakes. About 80% of all Facility Management and Real Estate processes can be standardized and automated. Standardization and automation of processes in an IWMS ensures a reduction in human errors. Fewer errors also mean faster cycle times, higher customer satisfaction, reduction of redundant work and fewer costs involved with error recovery which has a direct impact on the bottom line.

 

  1. Enforce Organizational Policy

Every IWMS can enforce organizational policies. By enforcing policy adherence,  you ensure that people actually comply with your business goals and regulations instead of only considering them as guidelines.

 

  1. Never Lose Your Data or Waste Time Finding It

IWMS is a central location for all you REFM data. Better yet, the best IWMS systems are SaaS, Software as a Service, meaning that it’s in The Cloud, available whenever and wherever you have internet access. It gets better: because the software and data reside off-site at professional Cloud Providers, you never need to get I.T. approval for hardware, software, updates or changes. You control your destiny, not I.T.

 

With IWMS costs and implementation timelines at a fraction of where they were just a few years ago, there is no reason why any REFM organization is not using a SaaS based system today.IMG_20151111_152326

Epicus Group Announces Partnership with iOffice

Press Release

Epicus Group Joins iOffice’s Global Channel Partner Program

HOUSTON, TX–(Marketwired – Oct 5, 2015) –  iOffice, the only people-driven integrated workplace management solution (IWMS), today announced the domestic and international growth of its Channel Partner Program. “Through iOffice, we have increased our competitiveness and clients that use iOffice have increased their space utilization and achieved better control over the workflow of work orders,” said Peter Mellin, SVP Service Operations, Sodexo Nordics. “The collaboration between our company and iOffice works great, and we’ve even been able to include our own features like e-commerce and Innovate.“

The iOffice Channel Partner Program serves resellers, implementation partners and service providers who are trusted advisors to their clients seeking innovative IWMS solutions. iOffice Channel Partner Manager Rich Peacock said, “The global growth of our channel partner program is a direct reflection of how easy it is to sell, deploy and use iOffice’s SaaS technology. Clients love the intuitive user interface, mobile apps, and the low barriers to entry, and resellers appreciate our highly incentivized, straightforward program that’s dedicated to our partners’ long-term success.”

What this means to you is that you now have a local iOffice implementation partner to support your Integrated Work Management System (IWMS) needs for:

  • Space Management – visualize floor plans on-line, in real-time from any device to understand space utilization and easily plan for future needs
  • Employee Data – Oracle, SAP and other HR systems can be integrated with iOffice to ensure seamless and timely data updates
  • Service (Work Order) Request – submit, update & manage facility service requests, such as repair notifications, equipment installations, and general maintenance activities from desktop and mobile devices
  • Move Management – seamlessly coordinate employee and asset moves, adds or changes with minimal disruption
  • Asset Management – track location, contract terms and on-going maintenance of tangible assets in real time
  • Updates via Mobile Devices

iOffice space screen shot

About Epicus Group
Headquartered in the Bay Area and serving Northern California, EPICUS GROUP is a professional services firm that plans, designs and manages  highly complex ​facilities and projects.  Our team provides “Integrated Project Delivery” by leveraging our internal staff of Project Managers, Construction Managers, Engineers, Architectural Designers, Facilities and EH&S professionals.

Visit www.epicusgroup.com and connect with us on LinkedIn

About iOffice
iOffice is the leading workforce-centric IWMS software and the only 100% SaaS platform designed for facilities management leaders. iOffice equips C-suite executives, strategic planners and facilities managers with the real-time data and communications tools they need to plan effectively for the future of their workforce and workspace. With ten, open and customizable modules, iOffice was built to be agile and robust, requiring minimal training to accomplish any task. Founded in 2000, iOffice supports more than 2.1M users in 1,500 fast moving companies including BMC, Under Armour, Big Fish Games, Zillow, Adobe, McKesson, Hess, Dynegy, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, SPX and more.

Visit http://www.iofficecorp.com and connect with iOffice on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn @iOffice.

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The Importance of a Spatial-based Asset Management System

Background

Recently, I was hired to lead the relocation of several labs for a company. We relocated and installed over 100 tools that require special utilities, OEM support, certification, calibration or other special requirements.

While our team documented the equipment requirements in order to get them installed promptly and correctly, this data has remained in disparate spreadsheets. In addition, much of the critical equipment data, such as purchase dates, warranties, service contracts, calibration reports, etc. may not exist for many critical tools or is difficult to find because the information may be in other systems. The responsibility of equipment asset management at this company is left up to the lab department with no central oversight.

Here are some examples of problems when you don’t have a centralized asset management system:

  • Equipment falls out of calibration
    • During an installation of antennas and coax cables, a lab engineer checked each cable after installation to ensure the systems would perform as required. When he tested some of their cables, the test results showed that the installation went beyond the manufacturer’s specifications. Turns out, the cable analyzers were out of calibration; the systems tested satisfactorily when a different analyzer was used.
  • Equipment orphaned after a Project is terminated
    • A lab manager informed us that he might be purchasing a profilometer for his lab. When we informed him that an unused one might be available because a project had been cancelled, he wanted understand how he could procure it  rather than buying another one. Since there is no centralized asset management system in place, aside from word-of-mouth, he likely would have bought a new one had our tribal knowledge been lost.

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Benefits of CAD-Based Asset Management Systems

Simple: implement a centralized CAD-based Asset Management system. The system should:

  • Integrate with the organization’s financial system.
  • Be cloud based, Software as a Service (SAS), that can be updated in the field with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. You shouldn’t have to pay for this software, just a nominal subscription hosting fee.
  • Be provided by a reputable company with numerous satisfied customers.
  • Be supported by local, certified Implementation Partners who can quickly (inexpensively) implement asset data and maintain the system if the client chooses not to undertake this with in-house staff.
  • Be easy to search and update.
  • Have extensive and easy reporting functions built in and not pay for expensive custom reporting.
  • Be on a secure site that is backed up regularly.
  • Can easily generate work orders or tickets for service calls, maintenance or other required actions and updates. This is an important feature because oftentimes, an Asset Management system is just one benefit (module) that the provider can offer, which can include space management, move management and other useful FM / operational functions.

It is important to know the location of critical assets, not just the original financial data in a system such as Oracle. Not only does this greatly help to locate assets, but it will also help you to manage them if they need to move, change department ownership, retire, etc.

Other benefits of an asset management system include:

    • Entering contract terms associated with asset ownership, including attaching associated documentation
    • Lease or maintenance contracts & contacts to call for maintenance and repairs
    • Overall performance data for decisions about repair/replacement of assets.

This problem is not unique to this company. In my 20+ years experience as a Facilities Manager I have seen that many organizations have this problem: information in multiple disparate spreadsheets or databases. As a Facility Manager, access to real-time, accurate information about the operation’s assets in a centralized, spatial-based, dynamic database is critical for ensuring asset performance, reliability, optimal utilization and cost management.

My Picks for the Top Facilities Sustainable Trends for 2014, Part 2 of 3

Introduction

Welcome to part 2 of 3 of My Top Sustainable Trends for 2014. In my last post, I titled it the top trends for 2013, but since 2014 is just around the corner, I’m changing the title to reflect the new as I expect these trends to continue for the near future. The previous post covered my top three trends and I tackle numbers four through six in this one. Here again is my Top 10 list:

My Top Sustainable FM Trends for 2013

  1. Energy Efficiency
  2. Indoor Environmental Quality
  3. Water Conservation
  4. Workplace Management
  5. Waste Management
  6. Transportation
  7. Materials and Resources
  8. Sustainable Services
  9. Site Impact & Landscaping
  10. Sustainable Roofing

Benefits of Sustainability

In part 1 I explained why I believe sustainability is important for facilities management and described the three primary benefits of sustainability:

  • Financial F
  • Environmental E
  • Social S

Please read my prior post for more details on each sustainability benefit. As in my previous post, I list the primary (Capitalized) and secondary (lower case) benefit for each trend. Your situation may be different and you may be able to justify any sustainable initiative by any of these benefits.

Continue reading below and I’ll explain why items 4 through 6 above made my list.

4. Workplace Management – Fse

When I mention Workplace Management to some of my friends and colleagues as a top sustainable FM trend, many have told me that they aren’t completely sure what Workplace Management means. Having spent most of my FM career over the past 20 years helping organizations to optimize their workplaces, Workplace Management seems second nature to me, and I’m surprised to find that many organizations don’t formally practice it; therefore they don’t understand how beneficial and sustainable it is.

Workplace Management is the practice of managing facilities and facility assets in a way to obtain the best possible return on the organizations’s investment. To do this, look at the workplace as an asset, a very expensive one that you want to make sure is used well. It’s like buying a computer or and expensive vehicle for work. It will cost you a lot of money to obtain the work-space, infrastructure and systems needed to make sure that it helps make some of that money back. If you buy a delivery truck, but only use it a few times a year, I’d say that you are either foolish, very rich or both. Most of us are not that fortunate, so we would want to make sure that we use this vehicle as much as possible for deliveries that our customers are willing to pay us to deliver. The workplace is kind of like that delivery truck: you want that investment to help return some of the money that it’s costing you.

Organizations spend a lot of money for rent, improvements, infrastructure and operating expenses to house their employees and their operations. If you decided to lease a large building, say 50,000 SF and only used 5,000 SF for your employees, equipment, inventory, etc., then you would not be utilizing that space or asset very well unless you were reasonably certain that you could put the remaining space to good use quickly. Most people are not foolish enough to take on too much space, but what if they used to have 8 times as many people, then had to fire most due to a business down-turn. Now you need to figure out what to do; this is where I have helped many companies to right-size their facilities to their current and future needs.

But that’s not all. Even if virtually all your desks were assigned and you had equipment, inventory and other assets in other parts of your space, you still may not be optimizing it. For example, how well and often do your employees actually work at their desks? I have written a book on strategic facilities planning / workplace management, and could go into a great detail more, but will only touch on a few beneficial highlights here.

  1. Higher utilization – find out your rates and hire an experienced professional to find ways to improve.
  2. More flexible spaces – the days of dedicated private offices and cubes are coming to an end. A room can serve multiple functions and its used should be reconfigured quickly and easily to adapt to different uses.
  3. More choices & collaboration areas for employees – just as you don’t spend all your time in one room doing one thing in your home, employees and other building occupants spend their day doing a variety of tasks, including collaborating, which is becoming increasingly important for successful teamwork.
  4. “Focus Space” – of course, employees don’t collaborate all day and need to find places where they can quietly focus on individual work. No, cubicles are not the solution. Please see my July 2013 posts for more information about Focus Space.
  5. Technology tools – requirements for today’s 24/7 mobile workforce.
  6. Telecommuting & transportation – I discuss sustainable transportation options below (Top Trend No. 6), but the key point here is that by providing your employees with alternative transportation options to/from work (public or private) you can significantly impact both space requirements as well as utilization. For example, if your facility is located near good public transit with abundant nearby 3rd party places for people to work, you may be able to reduce or eliminate some the the “Third Spaces” within your facility, such as large break rooms.
  7. Culture & Change Management – changing the workplace will effect your culture, so a move can mean more than just a different address. It’s the perfect time to initiate change and align yoImageur workplace to your culture.

5. Waste Management – Ef

Sustainable waste management practices can be divided into two categories:

Anytime you can avoid a new construction project, you are usually operating more sustainability than if you undertake a project. However most sustainable projects are better for an organization than “do nothing”/ maintain status quo, so we should learn how we can implement sustainable construction practices. There are several ways to manage construction projects more sustainably.

First, goals should be established to produce less waste, especially to landfills. Not only is this a win for the environment, but with waste disposal costs forecasted to continue to climb, it will also lower your project costs. Work with your contractor to determine their waste management strategy and how they can share their cost savings with you prior to contracting the work.

BIM and off-site prefabrication are gradually becoming common practices for larger construction projects – and for good reason. By determining more precisely the amount of piping, ducts, electrical conduits, etc., prior to the start of construction you can eliminate over-ordering and project generated waste. I once worked at a company that was continuously changing lab equipment, which required frequent changes to expensive piping, such as high-purity stainless steel. Since no one could determine exactly how much would be required for each project, the piping contractor simply ordered extra inventory, then would use as needed. We could have saved a lot of money if we had ordered just what we needed for each project, especially if much of it could have been prefabricated offsite beforehand. BIM allows you to do this.

Numerous Operations and Maintenance waste reducing opportunities exist once a facility is occupied and operational. These include:
  • Recycling
  • Paper, Printing and Copying
  • Food
  • Paper Towels
  • Batteries and e-Waste

By now everyone is not only familiar with recycling, but also practices it at some level. So how can this be a top trend for 2013? Because there is always room for improvement and we still send too much waste to landfills, I believe that we are going to get more creative with finding ways to reduce or eliminate waste, reuse what would have been tossed out or recycle items that we didn’t think possible a few years ago. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that we all had to pay to get rid of electronic waste. Today, there is a very competitive market willing to pay pretty good money for your old e-waste junk.

While our communities are making it easier to recycle by sorting off-site (single stream), I believe that duel-stream (where each of us pre-sort our waste) will become popular again because the economics will drive this. For example, in San Jose, they recently switched trash collection companies because the new one is contracted to keep something like 95% of the waste it collects out of landfills. This is great, but unless you pre-sort your waste, you are paying for this service. Thus, recycling, great for the environment but also makes financial sense and will continue to do so.

Today’s multi-function devices (MFD) do a lot more than just print and copy – they can actually help reduce paper and toner use. By requiring users to log in to a MFD (which can be as easy as waving an employee badge by a scanner), it forces users to only print what they need and not reprint documents when someone else accidentally retrieved their document. With more and more documents going to the cloud, I see the need to print finally heading towards that “paperless office” we’ve been hearing about for years.

Dealing with food waste is a huge opportunity. Composting is just getting off the ground at many larger corporate sites but there are many other opportunities for food waste, including cooking oil for bio-diesel.

Lastly, I continue to see the dreaded Z-fold towels in facilities. These enemies to the environment and your operations budget should not still exist in 2013! Many cheaper, better alternatives have been available for so many years that and facility manager worth their salary would have replaced their Z-folds in their first 6 months on their job. I did 5 years ago at a company that required an ROI of 6 months or less! I declare 2014 to be the year of the death of Z-fold towels!

6. Transportation – Se

I’m sure that many of you are surprise to see transportation on my top sustainable FM trend list. After all, aren’t we talking about buildings. We’ll, yes and no: we are talking about buildings, but buildings without people would be a ghost town. How people get to and from your buildings has a tremendous, perhaps the biggest impact on how sustainable your site is.

Automobiles continue to be a leading source of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Even with better emission standards and more fuel-efficient vehicles, the sprawling “automobile infrastructure ” has paved over excess natural land and open space. In addition, the cost to maintain sprawling development is much greater than a concentrated one. Lastly, as Jane Jacobs enlighten us over 50 years ago, interesting, diverse, mixed use environments are much more safer and sustainable than monotonous ones where most trips are via autos.

While the primary benefit of sustainable transportation is to provide a better way for employees to commute to and from work, the real, hidden benefit is the environment. Unfortunately, making the financial benefit argument is so difficult, that most organization don’t really think about it until it is too late and their employees are screaming for a better way to commute.

With the recent establishment of SPUR (www.spur.org) in the Bay Area, I believe that our metro area and others throughout the U.S. will finally bring transportation problems AND solutions to the forefront.

Here is my list of the top ways that you can provide more sustainable transportation to your building occupants.
  1. Public transit – the good news is that we in this country have a lot of opportunities to
    improve. Regardless, close proximity to adequate public transit should be near the top of your list when looking for space.
  2. Car pool & van pools – anything you can do to get people out of their SUVs is good for all.
  3. Flex-time – unless you have a manufacturing operation, why force your employees to waste time and energy in traffic?
  4. Parking – do you offer your employees with free or subsidized parking? If so, why? Consider charging them as an incentive to get out their cars or at least carpool.
  5. Bikes – biking to work is becoming an increasingly popular commute choice for employees. Invest in secure, weatherproof bike storage along with showers to keep up with the growing demand.
  6. Electric vehicles – it’s amazing how quickly electric vehicles or “plug-ins” have become. Last year I was asked to install the four charging stations at a facility, which I’m sure are well used by now.

As you can see, there are many ways that you can support sustainable transportation practices as a facility manager and the demand to do more will continue to increase.

Building Siting & the Building Envelope – The Developers’ Curse

Five years ago the Silicon Valley chapter of IFMA created a special suppliant to the Business Journal called “An Inside Look at the Facilities Management Profession”. I recently found a copy of it in my office and an article titled, “Adding Value through Sustainable Practices” got my attention.

In the article I noted “that our building is not performing well – we are 71,000 SF on three floors, and the building was constructed in 2003”, only five years old at the time. I went on, “this was a spec building. It looks great on the outside but when it comes to energy costs there is a lot lacking – for example, the north and south parts of the building are designed the same.” So were the east and west: a square glass cube, with no regards for solar siting. I concluded by proclaiming that, “I am going to encourage people to think more about the design of future buildings – solar design is going to be quite important.” And five years later we continue to construct buildings in Silicon Valley the same old way without regards to the Building Siting or the make-up of the Building EnvelopeThe Developers’ Curse to the Facilities Manager.

Attention to Building Siting and the Building Envelope have been of interest to me for a long time, but like many people, I became complacent in the 1980s and 1990s with the return of cheap and abundant oil. I studied Passive Solar Design in college and only became interested again five years ago after managing the horrible spec building that I described above. Since then, I have joined Passive House (http://passivehousecal.org/), completed a LEED-credited “Green Building” class earned my BPI certification as an Energy Auditor (http://www.bpi.org/professionals_designations.aspx) and my SFP (Sustainable Facility Professional) last year. Thinking about the building siting and its envelope comes naturally to me now and I’m surprised that it doesn’t for more facility managers.

Why is the Building Envelope Important?

Beyond its core function to keep the outside environment (rain, critters, etc.) from entering the facility in a way that would be detrimental to the facility, the Building Envelope is also the main means to minimize extreme hot and cold outside temperatures from effecting the interior temperatures of the facility.

The top three components to designing a facility with a good Building Envelope are:

  • Siting – how is the facility oriented on the site? Ideally, buildings should be oriented east-west with the long facades facing north and south. Western-facing windows should be minimal and northern ones designed to capture indirect natural light. One should also factor in the site’s slope, climate, prevalent seasonal wind directions and natural vegetation as well as adjacent land use and structures.
  • Solar Radiation Mitigation – generally, direct solar exposure to facilities in our climate should be minimized to avoid heat-gain even in the winter. South facing windows are good, but in our climate we need to worry more about too much direct solar radiation rather than collecting it for additional building heat-gain as one would in a colder climate. Reflective roofs or green roofs with vegetation a are great ways to minimize exposure of solar radiation from the roof.
  • Materials
    • Companies like Serious Energy have developed products that help make up for the minimally required building materials (such as single-pane windows) that developers will approve without regards to thermal barriers
    • Awnings are a great, simple way to block unwanted solar radiation for south-facing windows and doors. So are porches, but we don’t seem to be designing very many commercial buildings these days with them despite a legacy of porches in early California architecture, ideally suited for our climate
    • Window Films – a minimally costly way to decrease the U-Value of windows
    • Insulation – more is generally better, but check the material content of the insulation material to avoid hazardous and high imbedded energy materials
    • While not a material, all the triple-paned windows and insulation won’t do you much good if you have a leaky building. A single air gap in the Building Envelope can make the rest of the Building Envelope materials underperform and create an expensive and uncomfortable workplace.

With all these ways to make the workplace more comfortable and save energy costs why do decisions about the Building Envelope continue to be made so carelessly? It usually comes down to up-front costs and the FM willing to accept whatever an inferior product that the developer knows they can likely get away with. When you look beyond the First Costs or Rent, you will likely save a significant amount of money if Building Siting and the Building Envelope are seriously considered during the building’s design.

First Costs vs. OPEX

Many decisions about the Building Envelope are made on First Cost basis only without regard to what it will cost to operate the facility or life-cycle costing. This is especially true with facilities built by developers on-spec, where the Building Envelope decision makers, the developers, will never occupy the facility; they never pay for many of the operating expenses (OPEX), such as heating and cooling costs. When the facility is un-leased, the developer / owner simply shuts off the utilities; when it is leased and occupied, the tenant / occupant pays the utilities, either directly to the utility companies or via the landlord as a pass-thru expense. Either way, the developer wins and the occupants (including the facility manager) are cursed.

Rent vs. OPEX

Too often real estate brokers and their clients only focus on the rental rate when evaluating facilities rather than considering all the costs of occupancy. Utility costs, especially electricity, which generally makes up over 50% of a facility’s utility cost and can approach the monthly rental amount in a poorly designed and constructed facility. A well-sited facility with a well-performing building envelope can result in additional benefits beyond greatly reducing utility and operating costs, including:

  • Environmental Benefits
    • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 45% of U.S. electricity is generated from coal with another 23% from burning natural gas, both contributing increases of CO2 and other global warming gases. With over one-third of a typical facility’s electricity used for HVAC, considering the facility’s site and building envelope in the design can greatly reduce carbon emissions generated directly or indirectly by commercial facilities.
    • Social Benefits to your organization
      • Every experienced facility manager knows that the top work request is: Too Hot / Too Cold. Considering the Building Site during design and improving the Building Envelope can greatly increase the comfort for building occupants, which can only help improve your organization’s performance.

So now that you know the importance of Building Siting and the Building Envelope, here are some things that you can do next.

  1. Spread the word.
    1. Talk to your brokers and designers if you are searching for new space or developing a new building. Ask them what is being done to improve the energy efficiency via Building Siting and the Building Envelope if you are working or seeking new space. For existing buildings that you are considering leasing, ask your broker to provide you with data that shows how energy efficient the building is or what the landlord can do to improve its performance. Some items, from landscaping changes to awnings to new windows are a minimal investment by a landlord compared to the future rent of a prospective tenant
    2. Talk to your manager and business unit leaders about the advantages – savings, occupant comfort & environmental – of investing in Building Site and Envelope improvements if a landlord won’t pay for them.
    3. Talk to your employees and building occupants. If you are considering improving a space that you currently occupy, then find out how satisfied they are with the cost and comfort of the space. Your EH&S and Human Resource departments should be able to assist.
    4. Benchmark your facility. Even if you obtained a good Energy Star rating a few years ago, update it. If you haven’t done this yet, get started as this may be a requirement for all commercial buildings soon and why wouldn’t you want to know?
    5. If you have recent energy usage benchmarking data, but haven’t done much lately to improve your building’s performance, then pursue a professional energy audit. There are many good companies in our area that can do this for you (several are chapter members).
    6. Contact me if you want to learn more or share your experience with making Building Site changes or Building Envelope improvements. I’d love to hear from you.

Focus Space – It’s What You Need

Sometimes the inspiration of what to write comes from unexpected places. Recently, the phrase “Beg, Steal or Borrow” somehow got lodged in my brain and wouldn’t get out unless I started writing. But, where do start? I know – Wikipedia, of course! This proved to be a dead-end as I only found a reference to an obscure corporate pop band who made it big over 40 years ago tweaking a popular coke jingle, “I’d Like to Give / Teach the World a Coke / Song”

In my attempt to connect “Beg, Steal or Borrow” with Facilities Management and the Workplace, my editors convinced me to try again after writing comments like: “lonely paragraph”, “not on topic” and “unnecessary data” on early drafts. Wow, time to regroup.

Focus Space – part of a good, Balanced Workplace

Somewhere along the way, I ran across a new workplace study from Gensler[1], the global design and architecture firm. The study found that collaboration is not the key to office productivity that we have been led to believe and concludes that we need to achieve something called a “Balanced Workplace”. A “Balanced Workplace” is one where employees have a choice of work options, including collaboration space, but more importantly, “Focus Space.” According to their findings, “focus and the ability to collaborate is an essential framework on which employee engagement and business success can be built. Focus and collaboration are not in conflict, they complement. Ensuring the ability to focus is the critical first-step[2]” to providing an effective workplace.

According to Gensler, their “study confirms that employees who can effectively focus are 57% more able to collaborate, 88% more able to learn, and 42% more able to socialize in their workplace than their peers who are unable to focus. They are more satisfied with their jobs, more satisfied with their workplaces, and see themselves as higher performing. Get focus right, and you’re already well on your way to creating an environment in which your employees can thrive.”

Now this is indeed interesting and on-topic (finally).

More Focus Needed

The bad news is that some offices are going too far with the open concept and it is hurting productivity, with only one in four knowledge workers in the United States working in an optimal environment or Balanced Workplace. Many of today’s office designs aren’t putting enough emphasis on Focus Spaces because the thinking has been to get employees to collaborate via more open office designs. According to the 2013 study, “The trend towards open workplace environments has been emerging since the 1970s, driven by the need for more collaboration and communication. In some cases, the pendulum may have swung too far, with too much emphasis on open communication and not enough on focus. The workplace environments, when not designed effectively, can have unintended consequences—the result is that many U.S. knowledge workers are less able to focus than in 2008, the date of our last survey.”

These findings are not surprising to anyone who has followed recent office design trends towards more open, “collaborative” spaces. Having worked in Silicon Valley for the past 20 years, I have seen and experienced work environments where management admires and rewards rugged individualism not teamwork, just like the ole “wild west”. Culturally, we are trained to work individually in this country and are rewarded individually, exemplified by the extreme bonus and stock option offerings from Silicon Valley companies that make it big. Similarly, when someone at work comes up with a great new idea (a new product, feature or way to deal with the workplace, for example), we usually recognize the individual, not the team. Often times I have seen that it is not the individual that came up with the idea that is rewarded , but the “Champion” who borrows the idea. The borrower knows from experience that most employees are “Sheeple” (non-assertive people who prefer to follow and not initiate change) so the Champion gets the credit and is rewarded handsomely.

Thus, the Gensler study makes perfect sense: we have been trying to create too much “collaborative space” and not enough “Focus Space” for the American individualistic worker. Think about your workplace and the work that you do and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have adequate “Focus Space”?
  • Do the employees, contractors and other workers that you design, build and support workspace have enough “Focus Space”?
  • Have you even asked them whether they have enough “Focus Space”?

Yes, teamwork and collaboration are important but I believe that the Gensler study points to a real problem with the latest office space trends. When you factor in Mobility (which is not a fad and will only increase), with a Balanced Workplace, then you will likely find yourself with a workplace that is not hurting productivity but may actually be enhancing it.


[2] My italics

Sidebar – What is Focus Space?

Interestingly, the Gensler study failed to define what Focus Space looks like, so I thought I would provide my definition.

Focus Space:

  • Designed for the individual, rather than for team work – think private office
  • It is quiet (or filled with music of the individual worker’s choice), free from all that noise from co-workers
  • It offers visual privacy – no need to be distracted by those co-workers walking and moving about
  • It is comfortable and flexible, with ergonomic furniture
  • Filled with all the technology tools that a good individualist capitalist worker needs because there is no one else around to help