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Blog

The Importance of Workplace Wellness

Poor diet and a lack of exercise have contributed to a rise in diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure in this country. More adults now suffer from illnesses that may otherwise have been prevented had they only worked out more and took care of what they ate.

Employers today are absorbing much of the cost associated with this health-related epidemic. Companies continue to suffer lost revenue and profits because their employees cannot physically handle the challenges of staying on the job. However, company leaders may curb their losses by placing more importance on workplace wellness.

Why Focus on Workplace Wellness?

What is so important about workplace wellness in the first place? To start, a company that fosters an atmosphere of fitness and wellness stands a greater chance of reducing workplace losses due to call-ins and absenteeism.

When a company's employees are too sick to show up to work, they cost their employers money in part because they are not there to generate revenue on behalf of the company. They also cost the business money with health insurance claims to cover the costs associated with treating Type II diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses that can be prevented with improved diet and exercise.

Healthy workers are more productive workers, which is why more companies today are focusing on improving wellness in the workplace. They find that their employees are more readily engaged with the tasks at hand each day. They also call in fewer times throughout the year and are more productive during the business day.

Tips to Improve Workplace Wellness

Once employers appreciate the benefits that come with improved workplace wellness, they may then wonder how they can implement such a plan into their own businesses. They can begin by asking their employees what they want or need to stay healthier and more fit.

This information can be gathered either by survey or simply by asking everyone in a meeting what kind of wellness measures they would like implemented into the workplace. Common suggestions could include:

  • free flu vaccinations for all employees
  • short morning breaks to walk around the block
  • healthier food choices in the break room
  • company-hosted wellness nights after work for employees and family members


Another way to improve wellness in the workplace is by communicating openly with employees using tools that already in use in the office. Many companies use programs like Stack or Nearpod to send and receive information. These methods can be used as well for wellness purposes. Company leaders can share playlists, for example, with workers to motivate them to work out or encourage employees to share their own workout playlists with others in the business.

Another simple way to get people to work out either on breaks or before or after work is to pass out fitness trackers like FitBit watches or pedometers. Employees can keep track of their own progress or even establish friendly wagers with coworkers about who will walk or jog the most on any given day.

Finally, to encourage everyone to take part in workplace wellness programs, company executives should also pay attention to employees' mental and emotional health. Some people may find it embarrassing to talk about losing weight or working out.

They may be depressed or anxious about the new program. Companies can make available mental health services either at work or by referral to facilities in the community. They should also encourage an open and friendly atmosphere among coworkers so that everyone can feel at ease at getting in shape and eating better at work together.

The importance of workplace wellness cannot be understated in the role it plays in productivity and profitability. When workers look and feel better, they are often more ready to give their all to the tasks at hand. Company owners, managers, and other leaders can reduce company expenses and improve revenue by implementing practices that will foster an atmosphere of better workplace wellness in their own businesses.

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Tax Law Implications for Facility Managers

The newly passed federal tax law brought swift reaction from CEOs and business owners across the company. This new law aims to save American businesses money while laying the foundation for their growth and prosperity. In particular, the new tax law is expected to make these notable impact with facilities managers.

Investment in the Business

The upcoming tax cuts will allow business owners and CEOs the opportunity to put more money back into their businesses. Until recently, many corporate owners and executives had to save money to pay their yearly taxes. They had little money left over to sink back into their businesses or to share with their employees.

The new tax law, however, will save American businesses more than $400 billion over the course of the next decade. This staggering amount of money means that more CEOs and small business owners will have more cash to reinvest into their companies. Since they are paying less in taxes, they also will have more revenue to share with employees in the way of bonuses or wage increases.

Debt Reduction

The high tax rates of the past put a tremendous burden on business owners who wanted to pay off their corporate debts. Many of them could only pay the minimum balances or face carrying their debts over from year to year. The value and integrity of their businesses suffered because of this financial burden.

The corporate tax cuts should allow more business owners to pay off their debts faster, however. As the corporate tax rate drops from 35 percent to 21 percent, more owners will have extra money in their cash flows. They can use this cash to pay off what they owe and free themselves from crippling corporate debt.

Freeing themselves from debt also should allow business owners and CEOs to expand their businesses and inventory lines. They will have the financial resources to expand their companies into new markets, improve their existing structures, and offer more products and services to customers.

The tax cuts will allow them to expand their brands to new audiences. The tax cuts also have convinced companies like Apple to move their operations back to the U.S. instead of staying situated in countries like China. The influx of companies coming back to the U.S. is expected to generate more revenue for the American economy and increase American consumer confidence.

Increased Hiring

The new corporate tax law aims to make it easier for American businesses to create more jobs and hire more people. In the last decade, businesses cut jobs and laid off workers to save money. The high corporate tax rate made it difficult for them to create new positions and to pay to hire more people.

As the tax rate drops by 14 percent, American companies are expected to have more money left over in their coffers.

Many corporate executives have already announced their intention to hire more workers for the new positions that the businesses plan to create. Many of the new jobs expected to come from the tax cuts will be full-time positions with benefits like 401ks and health insurance. They also will pay more than the federal minimum wage. The influx of workers going back into full-time jobs is expected to strengthen the economy.

The Trump federal tax plan is perhaps the most lauded piece of legislation to go through Congress in recent years. It has already been well-received by American CEOs and business owners.

However, the new federal tax cuts are expected to have several noteworthy implications for facilities managers across the country. The tax savings will translate into extra savings that will allow more workers to be hired and companies to be expanded to new markets. Facilities managers along with business owners and CEOs will experience the impact of these tax cuts savings over the course of the next decade as businesses save more than $400 billion in taxes.

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Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facility Management

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facility Management

In the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, time can be of the essence when it comes to erecting and maintaining buildings. Because you and your staff may not have time to tour an entire structure to identify and troubleshoot issues, you need a faster way to stay on top of the tasks for which your clients have hired you. You can stay on schedule and save costs when you implement building information modeling in your project today.

What is BIM?

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a concept that has existed in these industries for more than 50 years. However, it was not until the 1990s that BIM was brought to the limelight and given more credence by architects and engineers. Even at that, this concept was not truly held in its highest regard until the last decade.

Nonetheless, BIM is an organizational and maintenance system designed to hold all of the pertinent information about a building or facility. These details are housed in a three-dimensional model that serves as a database through which users can visually traverse to gain key facts of the structure.

In many ways, BIM is similar to the architectural concept of modern parametic modeling. Despite its long history in these three industries, it is just now gaining traction in CAD.

Primary Uses for BIM

BIM is used for a variety of purposes in architecture, engineering, and construction today. In particular, it has proven essential in the actual architectural and design processes of new structures and facilities. Design teams can create, change, and adapt these three-dimensional databases until they reach the ideal solution for the building processes for which they were hired.

Additionally, BIM is frequently used for civil and municipal purposes especially for the creation and building of infrastructures like subway tunnels, highways, public roads, energy and utility services placement, and railways. It increasingly is being utilized for urban master-planning and smart city designs.

However, in terms of facilities management BIM proves essential in analyzing and designing systems for a structure that are practical, cost effective, and relatively fast to use without compromising the integrity of the project. When implemented fully from the very first day of the design process, BIM can bring together all of the other steps, sparing the client from unnecessary expense and inconvenience. It also reveals all of the possibilities about which the client may not have been previously aware.

The Benefits of BIM

With this information in mind, you may wonder what exactly BIM can bring to any project for which your services are hired. Why would you implement this technology rather than rely on tried and true if not entirely outdated processes?

To start, BIM allows the design team to coordinate all of their efforts into a single endeavor. The three-dimensional database provides a visual and realistic representation of the facility that you are or will manage. This coordination hastens the team's work and keeps the project on time if not ahead of schedule.

Next, BIM helps your team avoid trade conflicts and also reserves all of the available space for the actual design and construction of the building. Without this visual database, you may have to second guess yourself or your designers and architects. You could risk using more space than what you actually have to work with or failing to use the minimal space required for the project.

Finally, BIM ultimately saves the client money and time, assets that are essential to any company's bottom line. When you are given a tight budget and a tighter deadline, you could easily spare both when you utilize building information modeling during the step-by-step processes involved in bringing the project to a successful conclusion.

BIM has proven its worth in today's AEC industries. This technology has made it easy for facilities managers, designers, and others to gain critical information about a building without actually having to walk through the physical location. It brings together key processes in the design, building, and management efforts while sparing clients unnecessary costs.

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Solar Energy and Your Facility

More than ever, it's important for facilities to consider a switch to sustainable energy sources. Solar power is one of the bog standards when it comes to renewable energy, but may not always be easy to pitch. Even though it has been around for awhile, solar energy has only really become a viable resource for commercial enterprises relatively recently. Still, it may be worth making the change to solar for a variety of reasons.

Cost

One of the main downsides to solar used to be its relatively high cost compared to other energy sources. As photovoltaic technology has improved, that cost has fallen dramatically. The cost of solar power per kilowatt hour is now equal to -- or sometimes even less -- than other sources of energy.

Solar power does require an initial investment for solar panels and batteries, which may be significant. However, once set up, solar systems require very little maintenance. In some areas, it may even be possible to sell excess power produced by the solar panels to local power companies. Depending on a facility's power consumption, solar power can pay for itself relatively quickly.

Tax Incentives

Though solar power requires a relatively high initial investment, there may be tax incentives available to help subsidize their setup. Financing options can help further ease the financial burden. As of 2016, commercial solar energy projects were eligible for a renewable energy tax credit of 30% of the total project costs. State and local governments may also offer their own tax incentives to encourage companies to switch to renewable energy.

Sustainability

Traditional sources of energy, like coal power, produce significant carbon emissions. Solar panels can help a facility dramatically reduce their carbon footprint and limit the amount of hazardous environmental waste produced by its operations. Since more and more consumers are choosing environmentally sustainable products and services, relying on solar power can even become a selling point for a facility. Creating photovoltaic panels still involves some carbon emissions and waste, but, once installed, their low maintenance needs and lack of emissions help offset this.

Self-sufficiency

High energy demands can cause brownouts in traditional power systems, particularly during the summer months. High winds, storms, or accidents can also result in damage to the power grid, triggering blackouts that may last for days. Having a robust solar system allows a facility to continue operating despite interruptions to regular electrical service, which helps cut costs and reduce lost operating time in the long run. When coupled with their low maintenance needs, this makes solar panels a great option for facilities that don't want to have to worry about the integrity of their local power grid.

Flexibility

The price and availability of traditional power depends on a number of things, including local energy sources and infrastructure. Power plants that depend on coal, for example, require a means of transporting and storing it. Other energy sources, like hydroelectric or nuclear power, may not be available at all. Solar power is readily available in most areas of the world, and can be set up anywhere where there is flat, open, unused space, including roofs or empty lots.

Advances in transparent photovoltaic cells mean that it may even be possible for facilities to set up vertically-oriented solar panels set in windows. In cases where on-site solar setups aren't feasible, it's also possible to establish a remote solar farm to transfer power to a facility.

In spite of their sustainability and self-sufficiency, solar panels used to have a bad rap for their high cost, inefficiency, and high space requirements. Advances in solar technology have ensured that this is no longer the case -- solar power is affordable, low-maintenance, highly subsidized, and can be placed virtually anywhere that receives regular sunlight. This makes it an excellent choice for businesses that want to lower their impact on the environment, limit their energy demands, and reduce their overhead.

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Sustainable Facility Management

In the modern age of information, society has come to terms with humanity’s destructive impact on the environment. A large majority of scientific experts and lawmakers argue that policies need to be implemented to reduce this man-made ecological impact. A growing number of consumers agree, and they have made the conscious decision to make more responsible choices about the companies they give money to.

Facility managers have always needed to remain compliant with the laws and societal standards, and it appears that sustainability policies are quickly becoming a new societal demand from companies. Adopting these business practices gives your business a competitive advantage over other businesses, but it does come at a cost.

What is Sustainability?

Broadly defined, sustainability means utilizing our resources in a way that both meets present needs and focuses on long-term stability. The Brundtland Commission explains that refraining from “compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” is paramount to sustainability.

In a world where humanity’s life-support resources are declining and the demand for these resources is increasing, sustainability seeks to more responsibly utilize these valuable resources to maintain an ecological balance. Forum for the Future lays out five of the key aspects of sustainability including care for the environment, respect for ecological constraints, equity, partnership and quality of life. In summary, sustainability is an attempt to protect the environment while simultaneously driving innovation, improving human health and maintaining our way of life.

What is Sustainable Facility Management?

Sustainable facility management describes the method of managing your company’s business, resources, people and infrastructure in such a way that it optimizes the long-term environmental, economic and social stability. Facility managers influence sustainability when making decisions about environmental management, during building construction and when conducting maintenance.

Some sustainable business practices include tracking your energy use, assessing water consumption, prioritizing energy improvement, managing your carbon footprint and reducing your facility’s baseline energy use. As a facility manager, you’ll need to understand any relevant policy regulations or governmental energy efficiency goals. As governments on the state and federal level make policy changes in favor of sustainable business practices, your business will need to remain compliant.

Advantages

The most important benefit of maintaining sustainable business practices is improving the overall quality of life for all citizens. Many organizations choose to focus on sustainability as both a goal and mission, and the practice is often embraced as part of the company’s brand. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and Eco-friendly.

Consumers are making more responsible decisions about the products they purchase, so including sustainability as an integral part of your business will have a positive impact on the public perception of your company and boost profits.

Another advantage of sustainability is that companies are at a competitive advantage and may even receive government benefits due to their environmental policies and practices. Ideally, enhancing your company’s productivity, profits, safety standards, health and efficiency are always top-priority goals. Enforcing sustainable goals as a part of facility management will be beneficial in various areas of your business.

Disadvantages

While all the advantages of sustainable facility management practices sound unbeatable, they do come at a cost, and that cost is relatively high. The most commonly reported challenge faced by facility managers when it comes to sustainability is the high expectation of energy and water costs and a lack of available funding.

Eco-friendly building materials, supplies and products are typically more expensive, and the cost reduction in energy savings usually isn’t enough to quickly offset the upfront expenses. 

In the study of ecology, sustainability is defined at the ability of biological systems to say diverse and survive indefinitely. Facility managers that adopt sustainable business practices gain a competitive advantage, boost their public perception and help protect the environment for future generations. While these practices do come at a cost, they are typically seen as the responsible choice for today’s businesses.

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What is Legionnaires' Disease and How Can FM's Combat It?

Legionnaires’ disease has been making headlines recently as outbreaks have been increasing worldwide. In the most recent case, Disneyland guests became infected. What is this disease, and why is it an important subject for all facility managers?

This type of disease is the result of a specific type of bacteria that is extremely common. In one CDC study, the bacteria was present in 84 percent of 200 tested cooling towers. Facility managers need to be aware of this potentially devastating disease and how to prevent an outbreak.

Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe, pneumonia-like respiratory disease that is caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. This type of bacterium is naturally present in freshwater, but it can become a problem when it spreads in man-made freshwater areas. Common areas where legionella buildup occurs include showers, faucets, decorative fountains, hot tubs, large plumbing systems and cooling towers. People become infected when they inhale minuscule water droplets containing legionella. Once infected, a person cannot typically spread the disease to others.

Symptoms of infection usually become apparent within the first two weeks of being exposed to the bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease closely resembles pneumonia. Victims of this disease commonly experience fever-like symptoms, cough, muscle aches, shortness of breath and headaches. Less commonly, those infected will suffer from nausea, confusion and diarrhea. Doctors will need to perform a urine test or phlegm sample test to determine if legionella is causing the lung infection, and antibiotics are necessary for successful recovery. While this condition is rare, experts estimate that a large number of legionnaires cases are misdiagnosed by medical professionals. 

Recent Concerns

The Legionella bacteria strain was discovered after a devastating outbreak in 1976. The incident killed 34 people who had all attended an American Legion convention. When researchers discovered the bacteria that was causing the infection, they positively linked the bacteria to the previously mysterious Pontiac fever. Legionella outbreaks are still fairly rare, but there has been an uptick in recent cases. Just last month, an outbreak of the disease in a Lisbon hospital killed four and infected at least 40. Six individuals required intensive care, and most of the victims were either elderly or had chronic conditions. Experts are still working to determine the source of the bacteria.

Around the same time, Disneyland in Anaheim was forced to shut down after several cases of Legionnaires’ disease became apparent after visiting the theme park. After nine different guests reported the condition, Disneyland conducted an investigation. Around a month before the outbreak, an elevated level of legionella bacteria was found in two cooling towers located in a backstage area. Both towers had been treated, disinfected and re-opened, but Disneyland took the towers out of service again when the health agency ordered them to shut down.

The health agency also alerted healthcare providers to be aware of the outbreak in any patients that visited Anaheim or Disneyland. Orange County has recorded over 55 cases of Legionnaires’ disease this year alone.

How Facility Managers Can Prevent an Outbreak

The key to preventing a legionnaires’ disease outbreak is being proactive in testing water systems for the bacteria. Legionella flourishes best in warmer water. Disinfectants that are necessary to kill Legionella are harder to maintain in warmer temperatures, so hot tubs are one of the biggest breeding grounds.

Facility managers need to be aware that their facility’s cooling towers are extremely vulnerable to a buildup of legionella. Cooling towers hold warm water that eventually evaporates into the air, and these conditions are exactly how many outbreaks begin. The buildup of bacteria in cooling towers were most likely responsible for the severe legionnaires’ outbreaks in Portugal (2014), New York (2015), and Disneyland (2017). In addition to heat, stagnation, sediment and micro-organisms in a water supply all support the growth of this bacteria.

OSHA suggests choosing a high-efficiency eliminator design for cooling towers to control growth. OSHA additionally suggests that periodic maintenance and inspection, the use of biocide, frequent cleanings and record keeping are all crucial steps in preventing a legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

While outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease have been rare, incidents have been increasing world-wide in recent years. Much of this increase can be attributed to an increased awareness of the condition and better testing methods. An individual’s likelihood of becoming infected with the legionella bacteria has a lot to do with both the level of exposure and the individual’s susceptibility to disease. The bacteria is very common in hot-water sources, and it needs to be controlled. According to OSHA surveys, around 60 percent of the 1,000 cooling towers tested contained non-detectable levels of the bacteria.

As a facility manager, it’s crucial to understand that the best way to prevent an outbreak is to closely maintain and inspect water sources that are susceptible to the bacteria.

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Moisture Management

Facility managers are responsible for managing moisture in their facilities. Proper moisture management involves recognizing your facility’s moisture vulnerabilities, establishing a plan and employing routine maintenance and inspections. The best mold and moisture prevention plans are a combination of both proactive and reactive measures because no single action can completely eradicate the risk of mold spores.

Recognizing Moisture Vulnerabilities

Moisture leads to the growth of molds like Stachybotrys, Penicillium and Aspergillus. These seemingly minor issues can turn disastrous and impact the health of your employees, damage property and cost your business. Surprisingly, molds can cause people to get very sick. Short-term immediate health consequences include symptoms like headaches, allergy attacks and other flu-like symptoms. Left unchecked, continuous exposure to molds may cause neurological diseases, severe respiratory infections and even cancer.

The financial ramifications of failing to properly manage moisture may include lost productivity, damaged property, liability expenses and disruptive clean-up activities. Mold clean-up procedures are expensive because mold spores can spread and colonize unless it is completely contained and removed. You’ll need to hire an expert drying company. For all of these reasons, facility managers need to prioritize moisture management.

Establish a Plan

Facility managers need to develop and establish a working plan for moisture management. Moisture usually enters a facility through air movement, liquid leaks, absorption or diffusion through building materials. Moisture management starts with the building of your facility. Different resources like water vapor diffusion barriers and capillary breaks can be integrated into the building. Next, facility managers will need to establish clear expectations on who will inspect and maintain the resources dedicated to managing moisture. This may include housekeeping staff or third-party contractors.

Facility managers or their assigned staff will need to manage the interior relative humidity to ensure moisture doesn’t harm the facility conditions, perform up-keep on various resources and routinely inspect areas vulnerable to moisture build up. Your moisture management plan should include plans on how to respond if mold is discovered in your facility. The best moisture management plans should include both proactive measures and solutions for reacting if moisture buildup is found.

Maintenance and Inspection

While there is no single maintenance or inspection step that can completely prevent moisture problems, a consistent and steady application of a variety of maintenance and inspection steps can prevent your facility from suffering a disastrous mold or mildew problem. Routine inspections are necessary because mold can grow when moisture is present. Leaky pipes may go unnoticed and develop into an enormous dangerous problem. Water can also be introduced to areas when individuals accidentally leak or spill liquid and fail to properly clean it up.

Facility managers must rely on efficiently managing housekeeping duties to ensure that liquid spills are cleaned up correctly. The biggest reason that routine inspections are needed is because moisture gets into areas simply during normal occupancy. Water vapor can seep into buildings through building materials, condensation or on tracked in on the shoes of employees. Facility managers can’t completely moisture-proof buildings, so it’s crucial to implement a routine maintenance and inspection routine. 

Without a proper maintenance schedule, the resources you’ve dedicated to preventing moisture are likely to degrade and become inefficient. Air-conditioning units need their filters replaced on a regular basis, temperature control systems need to be tested each month and the condensate drainpipes need to be flushed routinely.

In the winter, thermostats must be set above 55 degrees even in unused facilities to prevent water pipes freezing and bursting. In the summer, thermostats should not be set higher than 80 degrees to prevent humidity buildup. Many facility managers find it more efficient to contract these moisture management maintenance schedules out to third-party specialists. 

Moisture management planning involves recognizing your facility’s moisture vulnerabilities, establishing a plan and employing routine maintenance and inspections. Proactively protecting your facility from moisture build up will not always be enough to prevent mold, so you need to have dedicated plans for reacting to mold or moisture problems.

While some facility managers may not prioritize moisture management, failing to do so can cause your entire facility and workforce to be out of commission. Don’t let your facility remain vulnerable to the natural occurrence of moisture buildup and mold. Instead, start working on your moisture management plans now to prevent your facility from getting taken over by mold.

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How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that an overwhelming 40 percent of small businesses will never recover and reopen after experiencing a major disaster. Facility managers are responsible for preparing for the worst and safeguarding the business from potential natural disasters. Facility managers play a pivotal role in formulating, communicating and updating preparedness plans.

Recently, a wave of natural disasters has adversely impacted businesses through the nation, and facility managers have been working together to formulate better strategies for emergency preparation. 


Emergency Preparations

One of the most immediate concerns for facility managers in natural disaster preparations should be equipping the office and staff with the resources and knowledge necessary for immediate survival. This means that evacuation routes, basic safety measures and company procedures need to be outlined explicitly and posted or distributed to all employees.

Managers should also compile a list of contact information for all staff members that is stored online and accessible in the event of a crisis. Facility managers should strongly consider installing emergency lights throughout the building. These lights need to illuminate exits and should be operational for at least 90 minutes during an emergency situation.

Facility managers are responsible for installing and maintaining smoke and fire alarms within the facility. Emergency kits should be assembled that include first aid items, emergency flashlights, chemical masks and any other essential items. Legal codes can provide a foundation for facility managers to begin creating a preparedness plan, but real-world practice runs are essential to help you identify weaknesses in your plans. 



Utilize Smartphone Apps

According to researchers, most modern-day individuals will pull out their phones when they don’t know what to do. Panic can cause people to completely forget procedures and plans even when they’ve been through practice runs. Facility managers should consider utilizing smart-phone technology to their advantage by creating an emergency app with instructions, evacuation routes and simple tips.

Apps can also be used for communication and real-time updates during crisis situations. Social media has been a major factor during recent disasters because people can communicate through their smartphones, request assistance and keep everyone updated on the situation in various locations. 



Data Protection

Although your company’s staff and property should be main priorities during disasters, it’s important for facility managers to protect company data as well. Protecting your data should involve making your physical facilities resistant to power outages, decentralizing data operations and having a solution in the event that the data center fails.

Physical preparations should include things like surge protectors and reinforced buildings. In the event that your centralized data center is inaccessible, it’s important to have a backup of important information stored online. While physical hard-drives can be damaged, data in the cloud is secure. Cloud services are a great solution that facility managers should consider. MIT experts argue that without a cloud service, “your original data could be lost forever”. 



Build a Telecommunication Strategy

Having a telecommunications strategy before an accident happens can be extremely helpful in the aftermath of a disaster because your business can continue operating remotely. Even if your office isn’t directly impacted by the natural disaster, it’s likely that some of your employees will be unable to make it to the office right away.

Throughout Hurricane Harvey, the International Facility Management Association had all of its employees work from home. Ideally, facility managers should consider how their employees could work remotely, formulate a plan and test the telecommunication strategy before it needs to be implemented. 

Strengthening your company’s emergency preparations, data protection policies, emergency apps and telecommunication strategies are all crucial in protecting your company’s employees, property and data. In the past few decades, emergency situations have been increasing.

Facility managers need to be aware of the increase in extreme weather, international terrorism and domestic violence to properly prepare for these unpredictable events. Facility managers act as coordinators during emergencies, and they are responsible for leading their team to safety. Is your business prepared to handle an extreme event?

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The Pros and Cons of an Open Workspace

Silicon Valley is well-known for its incredibly successful global tech companies. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have all revolutionized facility management styles with new solutions like the recent open-office trend. Facility managers around the globe take note of the management styles and trends coming out of Silicon Valley because of the apparent success of these businesses, and the open work space trend has quickly become the new normal.

The International Facility Management Association reported that by 2014 around 70 percent of American offices had low or no partitions to facilitate a more open work space. An open office creates both advantages and disadvantages in the work space. Facility managers should weigh their company’s goals and look at the evidence presented to decide if an open work space environment is a potential solution for their business. 


Benefits of an Open Work Space

The number one reason facility managers consider moving to an open work space is because it is much more cost-effective than private offices or cubicles. Shared workstations mean less overall financial investment into private desks, individual rooms, materials and other building costs. Additionally, facility managers consider strategic motives like improving social support, cooperation and communication between team members when considering an open work space.

Silicon Valley titans like Yahoo!, Facebook and eBay argue that an open office design facilitates fairness, transparency, productivity, communication and innovation. Communication between employees improves, and different team members will be more engaged with one another with an open work space design.

Research indicates a phenomenon called “culture collision” occurs when a chance encounter between workers boosts each employee’s creativity and sense of community. These culture collisions are proven to boost overall office productivity rates.

Without assigned offices and cubicles, an open work area is more flexible than traditional designs. More employees can operate in an open space, and the layout can be rearranged as needed. This allows for maximum space utilization. Another positive aspect of an open work space design is the eco-friendly energy implications.

Open offices are the green choice because the design reduces the strain on heating and cooling systems, gives more opportunities for broad daylight windows and involves less construction waste. Another important reason facility managers are opting for an open work space design because it is both aesthetically pleasing and trendy with the newer millennial generation. Business owners report that an open work space design leaves a positive impression on clients, whereas the traditional cubicle-style design is often seen as old-fashioned. 

Consequences of an Open Office

One of the most glaring disadvantages to having an open office design is the increase in noise level and distraction for employees. It has been repeatedly cited in many studies that simple noise impairs concentration and cognitive performance.

Matthew Davis, an organizational psychologist, reviewed over one hundred studies relating to office design to research the psychological effects on employees from an open office design. His published findings show that an open work space means an increase in uncontrolled disruptions, higher levels of stress, lowered concentration levels, lowered productivity and a decrease in worker satisfaction. 

Facility managers recognize that a sense of privacy boosts productivity, but an open office removes this aspect. An often-cited study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that around half of all open office workers were unhappy with the lack of sound privacy, and 40 percent complained about a lack of visual privacy.

Additionally, more open space leaves employees more vulnerable to contagious germs. One study comparing different office designs found that employees who worked in open offices took more time off due to illness . Another study published in the 2014 Journal of Ergonomics confirmed these results. 

Silicon Valley seems to have reinvigorated the open office movement, yet it may come as a surprise that open office designs were the norm back in the 1950s and 1960s. An open floor plan may be a good fit for some businesses, but it’s not a good option for every company.

Facility managers need to consider that every employee works differently, and the potential advantages and disadvantages to an open work space are highly dependent on various job functions and the company’s overall goals. While large tech companies like Google that rely on innovative ideas and collaboration greatly benefit from this open office design, facility managers should carefully consider their options before jumping on-board with the trend.

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Outsourcing Janitorial Services

outsourced janitorial services

It’s not unusual for companies to outsource certain facility management processes like janitorial services. According to U.S. Industry Reports, the janitorial services industry “derives the majority of its revenue from the commercial market” because corporate offices and retail shops are the most frequent consumers of outsourced cleaning services.

A greater number of companies are utilizing this outsourcing tactic to save money and improve operational efficiency, while others choose not to outsource because of the loss of control and other disadvantages the solution presents. There are many options for outsourcing a portion or all of your company’s janitorial services. 

Advantages of Outsourcing

One of the key reasons facility managers decide to outsource janitorial services is because utilizing independent cleaning contractors is cost-effective. Contractors have already invested their own resources, training and tools into building a janitorial strategy, so you won’t need to take on these costs. In an extensive paper published by the ISS Group, analysts discovered one company that had saved 18.1 percent, or $5.8 million, by outsourcing tasks.

Another reason to outsource such tasks is that janitorial contractors offer specialized expertise. Outsourced janitorial services are often more efficient, and they improve on the overall quality of building maintenance. With a specialized focus on cleaning and maintenance, contractors will be stocked with high-quality cleaning supplies, experienced in janitorial work, fully-trained and prepared with the knowledge necessary to keep your facility clean.

Additionally, offloading some of the managerial duties and labor-intensive tasks to a janitorial contractor will free up your time. As a facility manager, it’s not uncommon to have a towering work load, a tight budget and several projects to oversee simultaneously. If janitorial duties are taking away valuable time and focus from other areas that need your attention, then outsourcing is a good solution.

Disadvantages of Outsourcing

Facility managers frequently mention that the biggest disadvantage of outsourcing janitorial services is the loss of managerial control. Facility managers that decide not to outsource such duties will maintain direct supervision and control over the staff, rendered services, quality of services, chemicals used and potential compliance issues. When managers choose to outsource, they willingly enter into a contractual agreement that turns over management and control to the contractor. The contractor will ultimately determine how their services are delivered and control their own personnel, equipment and quality of service.

While the contractors main goal is to make a profit by delivering the services you need, it can be frustrating to rely on an outside company to address unsatisfactory issues. This commonly noted downside of outsourcing can be negated when the contractor and facility manager establish clear expectations, goals, rules and a solid foundation of communication.

One significant issue of outsourcing is the potential to create greater inefficiencies within your business. If you lack clear communication with your independent contractor, then issues can arise such as duplicated work efforts, poor management, lost data and an overall more complicated process. Luckily, the risks of this disadvantage can be reduced by ensuring you contract a reliable and top-quality janitorial service provider. Facility managers can also reduce risk by creating contracts that clearly establish ground for termination for outsourced groups.

Outsourcing will also increase the amount of time it takes to implement policy changes that include action from your contractor. Another potential issue that arises from outsourcing is the threat to the confidentiality and security of your business. If your business manages confidential company data or proprietary knowledge, then you will need to take preventative measures to ensure your information is protected when janitorial staff are present.

Options for Outsourcing

There are many independent janitorial contractors that exclusively manage services for facilities. You can decide what level of janitorial services you want to outsource and the type of contract you want to enter. Most companies will enlist in legal counsel to ensure their contracts protect the interests of your business. Research the various types of cleaning services available in your area and devote time to finding a quality contractor. In the beginning of your relationship with your contractor, it’s necessary to build communication, utilize key performance indicators and verify the service’s efficiency.

There are many benefits and disadvantages to outsourcing janitorial services. Generally, when safety and security are top priorities, outsourcing presents too many threats to be beneficial. If cost and efficiency are your company’s main concerns, then outsourcing is the best option. Facility managers should weigh their company’s specific needs and goals to determine whether outsourcing all or a portion of your janitorial services would benefit your company.

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