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6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

The cost of designing and building a facility is only part of the total picture. Ongoing expenses will meet and eventually eclipse even the priciest buildings. When you add on increased regulatory requirements and the fact that many contracts are won based on price, it's easy to see why it's important to keep those ongoing costs from creeping up. Here are 6 tips for doing just that:

1. Don't put off maintenance

At times, it might be tempting to put off costly repairs, but this ends up being a bit of a false economy in the long run. Maintenance needs don't just go away, and often turn into bigger, more expensive problems the longer you wait. Use a good facility management program to help come up with a planned preventative maintenance program, and avoid unnecessary emergency repair costs. This will help you spot cyclical trends in maintenance needs, making it much easier to stay on top of things.

If you run into a situation where it's absolutely necessary to postpone some needed maintenance, make a plan to address it as soon as possible. Ending up with a backlog will just make things more expensive and complicated.

2. Look at labor costs

Labor contains a lot of hidden expenses, many of which are completely unnecessary. The easiest way to reduce labor costs is to reduce the number of workers on the payroll, but that doesn't make it the best way. High employee turnover is expensive in the long run. If some aspects of maintenance pose a significant risk to employees, outsource it to professionals. Train employees well to avoid repeating maintenance tasks. Use mobile apps to coordinate activities in a smoother, more efficient manner. A less risky work environment, good training, and solid communication make for happier employees, reducing expensive turnover and limiting the number of tasks that need to be done over.

3. Reduce service calls

Having to call a technician out to repair something can be very pricey, especially when it's for a problem that could've been fixed during an earlier call. As with preventative maintenance, don't ignore suggestions or advice from service technicians. They can provide valuable input for maintaining and repairing crucial facility systems. A facility management program can also help reduce the risk of neglecting needed service calls, allowing managers to stick to a schedule and avoid costly emergency repairs.

4. Know where the facility's assets are

"Assets" is a broad category -- it can be anything from tablets to large machinery. All of these things have value, and it gets expensive when they disappear. Often, this is purely accidental. Devices can get misplaced or damaged, a former employee might have forgotten to return a work phone, or a cluttered storage closet could hold a veritable gold mine of misplaced tech. Asset tracking software can help keep track of everything, know when it needs to be upgraded or maintained, and even help you plan for its eventual replacement.

5. Use space efficiently

Poor space utilization is a hidden money sink. It can be hard to visualize when you're just looking at a room, but every empty area costs just as much money to heat, cool, and power as the ones in use. The trouble is, good space utilization is a very delicate balance. Leave too much space unused, and all of those square feet are essentially dead weight. Use too much, and crowded conditions can become unpleasant (and even unsafe) for employees, driving down productivity. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to help make it a little easier. Space management software can help efficiently plan layouts for maximum productivity and to minimize wasted space.

6. Use time efficiently

Like space utilization, good time management is a balance. Non-value-added time is a significant portion of any maintenance or repair order -- for every ten minutes of actual repair time, there might be half an hour of time spent on tasks that don't actually add value. Tracking down the area in need of maintenance, figuring out the issue, transporting materials to the site, and cleaning up don't really add anything to the task itself, they're just necessary evils. Fortunately, there's one simple way to cut down on non-value-added time: organization. Organizing documents like blueprints, warranties, and manuals in one place can help trim down the amount of time spent researching maintenance and repair problems.

Facilities are expensive to maintain, but that doesn't mean that there isn't space to cut ongoing costs. By performing preventative maintenance, reducing employee turnover, reducing service calls, tracking assets, utilizing space efficiently, and organizing needed repair information can make it much easier for employees to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Happy, efficient employees and an efficient, organized workplace are the keys to controlling facility management costs.

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7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

Reducing your building's environmental impact doesn't just make sense from a sustainability standpoint -- it makes good economic sense, too. While operating an ecologically-friendly facility might involve an initial investment, it generally pays for itself in terms of energy and material savings.

The Truth About Building Emissions

When people talk about carbon emissions and air pollution, they usually mention it in terms of "cars on the road." For example, if an average family skipped eating meat and dairy for one day a week, it would be roughly equivalent to taking their car off of the road for five weeks. Even though cars and transportation pollution are the standards when it comes to visualizing the environmental impact of various actions, buildings actually contribute more pollution than vehicles do. Any time a building uses a device that relies on combustion, like an oil- or gas-powered furnace, boiler, or stove, it emits carbon dioxide and monoxide. Electricity consumption may also contribute to carbon emissions if the power source is a fossil fuel. All told, buildings contribute up to 39% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Help the Environment -- and Your Bottom Line

In most cases, carbon emissions represent waste, and waste can get expensive. Taking steps to make buildings more energy-efficient means that fewer fossil fuels are consumed to keep them heated, cooled, and powered. Lower fossil fuel consumption means a lower power bill. That's even before considering the numerous subsidies and other incentives for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint -- power and fuel companies often offer rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. The Investment Tax Credit also allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal tax burden. Reducing a facility's carbon emissions may require an initial investment, but incentives exist to help ease the transition.

The Best Ways to Reduce a Building's Carbon Footprint

There are a lot of strategies for making a facility more environmentally-friendly, some of which are more practical than others. Here are the top seven:

1. Calculate your footprint. Before you can come up with an emission reduction strategy, you need to know what you're emitting. There are tons of online calculators that will help you estimate what environmental impact your facility has, and you can contact your electricity and fuel providers to see what sources your heating and power come from. This will allow you to figure out where it's feasible to cut back.

2. Don't over-commit. You don't have to go carbon-neutral right from the outset, and trying to do so might cause more problems than it solves. It's better to make tangible strides toward reduced emissions, rather than make plans to go carbon-neutral and not follow through.

3. Handle the HVAC system. Heating, ventilation, and cooling systems are responsible for up to 40% of building emissions, so it makes sense to attack the largest source first. Switch to energy-efficient heaters and air conditioners. Program them to run at certain times a day -- for example, don't run air conditioning during the coolest part of the day, and use sensors to determine when ventilation is needed.

4. Examine your water usage. Water also contributes significantly to carbon emissions. All of the water a building uses needs to first be treated, pumped, and then heated before coming out of the tap, and all of that requires energy. Switching to efficient fixtures that prevent leaks, like low-flow toilets, can reduce water wastage. Installing rainwater harvesting and greywater systems can dramatically reduce water usage for landscaping. Using native landscaping plants or xeriscaping can further reduce water wastage.

5. Generate your own energy. Solar panels are not only subsidized with a tax credit, but they can also lower energy bills by allowing a facility to reduce its dependence on external power. There are only so many ways to reduce a building's power usage; as long as it relies on power from a carbon-emitting source, it will still result in indirect carbon emissions. Setting up on-site power generation using renewable sources helps save money on the electric bill, and reduces a facility's carbon footprint.

6. Change your lighting. Lighting requires a significant amount of power. Switch to energy-efficient LEDs, and maximize your facility's use of natural light during daylight hours. Window films can help you take advantage of sunlight, without worrying about gaining too much heat in summer.

7. Don't skimp on maintenance. Clogged filters, malfunctioning fans, and leaking pipes can make the most energy-efficient appliances be wasteful. Keep on top of regular maintenance to make sure your building stays at peak efficiency. You'll save money on water and fuel, and be able to avoid costly repairs from neglected problems, too.

Reducing a facility's carbon footprint doesn't have to be difficult or arduous. Estimate where you can cut back, use energy- and water-efficient appliances, generate your own power when it's feasible, and keep on top of regular maintenance. You'll help reduce your building's bills and help the environment at the same time.

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7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are pretty much the bane of any facility manager. There are few things worse than not having any water, repairing a burst pipe, and cleaning up the water damage afterward. The good news is, this kind of disaster is usually preventable, as long as you take a few steps to avoid it.

How do pipes freeze?

Pipes freeze when stationary water inside them is subjected to very cold temperatures. Since water expands when frozen, this creates a lot of pressure inside of the pipe, which may then burst. When temperatures drop to at least 20°F and remain so for six or more hours, there's a danger of pipes freezing. If the pipes are poorly insulated, freezing may occur in as little as 3-4 hours. This can happen in areas of a building that may not be easily seen or accessed frequently, like crawl spaces, closets, storage areas, lofts, or roof spaces.

What are the dangers of frozen pipes?

The biggest danger of a frozen pipe is the lack of access to water. If a pipe freezes in an apartment building, for example, tenants won't be able to bathe, wash dishes, or use the restroom. Even if a frozen pipe just causes a hairline crack instead of bursting, this can result in a leak that encourages the growth of black mold. Leaking water can also cause water damage to floors, ceilings, and any furniture or other fixtures. If water seeps into a light fixture or electrical socket, it may even cause a fire.

How can you prevent frozen pipes?

There are a number of ways to keep pipes from freezing:

  1. Keep water running. Moving water won't stay in contact with cold temperatures long enough to freeze. Even just allowing taps to trickle is enough.
  2. Thoroughly insulate pipes that run through unheated spaces or exterior walls. These are the most in danger of freezing.
  3. If there are any pipes that won't be in use during winter, drain them. Pipes only burst when water expands as it freezes. They'll be safe, as long as they're dry.
  4. Keep interior spaces at least 40°F.
  5. If a building has anti-freeze sprinkler systems, ensure that there is a proper concentration of antifreeze in the lines.
  6. Where possible, use UL-listed electric heat tracing products to keep pipes warm. These use an electrical current to provide heat to pipes when temperatures drop too low.
  7. Open the doors to any enclosed spaces with pipes running through them. This allows warm interior air to mix with the cold air in the space, raising the temperature.

What should you do if a pipe freezes?

If you notice that a pipe has frozen, there are a couple of strategies to try.

First, turn off the water to the frozen area to keep it from leaking more than necessary. Next, use a hot towel, heating mat, or space heater to warm the pipe, or wrap it with thermostatically-controlled heat tape. After that, use a fan to direct warm air into the room to raise the ambient temperature above the freezing point. Lastly, if you don't have any leaks, open faucets to a trickle to keep water moving when you turn it back on. If you do, call a plumber to have them repaired before restoring the water flow. Following these steps should help unfreeze pipes and keep them from freezing again.

What should you do if a pipe bursts?

If a pipe bursts, you'll need to act quickly to minimize the damage to everything in its vicinity.

First, shut the water off. You'll have to deal with a flood as it is, so cutting off the water supply is the most important step. After that, contact a plumber to replace the burst section of the pipe. While you wait for the pipe to be replaced, remove as much water as possible by whatever means necessary -- siphons, pumps, buckets, mops, or a wet-dry shop vacuum.

Afterward, use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the area as much as possible. The walls and flooring will likely have absorbed a lot of water -- even hard materials, like tile, can allow it to seep in through tiny cracks and spaces. This increased moisture can encourage the growth of mold if it isn't dried quickly and completely.

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes can be a headache, but there are ways to keep them from seriously damaging a building or inconveniencing its occupants. Make sure pipes are thoroughly insulated or kept warm, act quickly to thaw frozen pipes, and have a strategy in place for quickly dealing with bursts and leaks. You'll be able to keep the building safe and your clients happy all winter long.

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Facility Managers' Guide To Assisted Living Inspections

Facility Managers' Guide To Assisted Living Facilities Inspections

Assisted living facilities can be a huge help for residents and their families, but managing them comes with a unique set of challenges. Facility managers know that these facilities have to be held to a very high standard when it comes to guaranteeing the health and safety of their residents, and so must undergo regular inspections to make sure they comply with regulations.

What does an inspection entail?

During an inspection, a team of surveyors (including a registered nurse) will go over staff/resident interactions, resident care processes, safety, and security measures, and how well the facility adheres to food safety and fire regulations. OSHA compliance is another key aspect of these inspections, and healthcare workers are at a very high risk of experiencing job-related illness and injury. The primary goal of this process isn't to point fingers and place blame if things aren't up to snuff, it's to make things safer and healthier for residents and workers alike. Facility managers who take adequate steps to follow regulations and ensure that their employees are well prepared will have no reason to be afraid of inspections. To help with this process, here are a few guidelines for passing inspection with flying colors:

Document everything.

When the inspectors arrive, they are going to ask for a lot of very detailed information and, if it isn't available, it can make you look disorganized. Having everything documented and ready will be a huge help here -- not only will it look better, but it'll also take a lot of pressure off of workers since they won't have to scramble to get everything together. Using facility management software can make the process even easier by keeping all of your maintenance and repair records in an easy-to-manage format.

Make sure employees are prepared.

The time leading up to inspection can be stressful, and it doesn't need to be. Make sure that employees get regular training to keep them up-to-date on the regulations they need to follow. Performing regular inspection drills can be a big help here since they will let facility managers know exactly what deficiencies need to be corrected before the actual inspections take place. Facilities that participate in Medicaid or Medicare must comply with Medicaid/Medicare care requirements.

Make sure residents and visitors are prepared.

Staff/resident interactions are a big part of assisted living facility inspections, so the surveyors are allowed to talk to anyone in the facility -- including residents and their visitors. So, not only should facility managers work to make sure their employees are ready for the inspection, but they should also let residents and their families know what to expect. This will make it less disruptive for the residents, and allow the surveyors to collect better data.

Keep safety features updated.

Safety is a major issue in assisted living facilities, for residents and workers alike. Slips and falls are common among the elderly, and half of all injuries to employees of assisted living facilities are musculoskeletal issues. A good facility should have the regulation number of assistive devices, lifts, and enough battery backup to ensure that employees aren't required to manually lift or move residents, as well as handrails and other resident safety features.

Know which items are a priority for inspectors.

It's important to make sure that everything's up to code, but some deficiencies are more severe than others. Have a good idea of which areas are a priority, and make sure they never fall behind. Ensure that handrails are present in every corridor, firmly attached, and free of any sharp edges, rust, nails, or splinters. Rooms that house more than one occupant must have privacy curtains that are long enough and able to be kept clean. Doors must adhere to guidelines for thickness, material, and fire rating. If you aren't sure what will be prioritized during an inspection, contact the state's licensing agency for more information. Once you know, create an inspection checklist to help keep on top of the areas most likely to result in a serious deficiency.

What happens next?

If an inspection finds a deficiency, it will be recorded. Then, the survey team must determine how severe the deficiency is, as well as whether it has the potential to result in immediate harm, and whether it is an isolated incident or part of a pattern of negligence. After that, deficiencies must be corrected. Violations may be punished with fines, revoking Medicaid/Medicare certifications, transferring residents to other facilities, or sending in temporary new management. It should be noted that allegations alone are not enough evidence of a deficiency. They must be backed up by records, observation, or corroborating interviews with residents, visitors, or staff before they can be recorded. Inspections can be intimidating, but they don't have to be scary or stressful. As long as facility managers keep on top of employee training and ensure that their facilities adhere to health and safety regulations, there's really nothing to worry about. All the survey team wants to do is ensure that residents and employees stay safe and healthy, and inspections are a great way to make sure that assisted living facilities are able to meet everyone's needs.

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Most Common Tenant Complaints and How To Resolve Them

Most Common Tenant Complaints and How To Resolve Them

For facility and property managers, tenant relationships can often be tricky to navigate, and this is never truer than when dealing with tenant complaints. Laws regulating landlord and tenant rights can be complicated, and not something either party wants to find themselves on the wrong side of. Fortunately, the most common tenant complaints are fairly simple to resolve, with a little effort.

1. HVAC

Whether it's the biting cold of winter or the dog days of summer, temperature control is a top priority for tenants. This can be tough to manage in older buildings, where aging heating and air conditioning systems may create challenges in keeping buildings within a safe temperature, let alone comfortable.

Property managers should have strategies in place to make sure HVAC systems are cleaned, serviced, and, if necessary, tested for flammable gas or carbon monoxide leaks every year. Have the contact information for an HVAC professional and relevant utility services. If a building relies on window units for air conditioning, keep a couple of spare units to allow maintenance workers to quickly switch broken units out for working ones.

2. Pest infestations

Nothing is worse than turning on the light and seeing a cockroach or rat scurrying across the floor. Unfortunately, no matter how clean a tenant keeps their space, multi-unit buildings are virtually magnets for pests. Remember: it only takes one tenant with poor housekeeping habits to attract pests to everyone.

The simplest solution is to call an exterminator immediately. Many facility managers have a standing appointment with an extermination company to keep pests away. In addition to regular spraying, encourage tenants to keep food stored in insect- and rodent-proof packaging, and have maintenance workers seal up gaps around pipes and beneath walls. These are the most common means of ingress for pests, and cutting off their way in will help avoid infestations in the future.

3. Poor communication

Many tenants complain that they don't feel listened to by their property managers or maintenance workers. This can set both landlords and tenants up for problems down the road -- unsatisfied tenants are likely to leave negative reviews of the property, warn others away from renting there, and may even resort to temporary "fixes" for problems rather than call facility management to report them. Landlords who don't communicate effectively with their tenants may find that their tenants don't follow the rules. The best fix for this is to initiate communication whenever necessary. Go over rules and expectations for the use of the property before the lease is signed, and send periodic reminders to tenants regarding property upkeep. Conduct regular inspections. Make sure that tenants are aware of how to contact facility management, and have a hotline for emergency maintenance needs.

4. Privacy

Few things are as nerve-wracking for a tenant as the idea that a landlord can enter their property at any time, and rightly so. Even good tenants generally don't like feeling barged in on for surprise inspections.

The best way to ease tenants' minds here is to follow the law -- property managers are required to provide at least 24 hours advance notice before entering a unit. A phone message or notice posted on the door may not cut it, either. Send an email with a read receipt or a certified letter, and make sure all tenants have a list of yearly inspection dates so they can feel prepared.

5. Mold

Black mold isn't just unsightly, it's toxic. For tenants with respiratory issues like asthma or COPD, it can even be deadly.

Facility managers shouldn't hesitate when it comes to dealing with black mold. When it shows up, it's often a sign of an underlying issue, like a leaking pipe or poor humidity control. Regular maintenance workers generally don't have the equipment or expertise to thoroughly and safely eradicate it, so it's best to call a mold remediation specialist to make sure that it's completely taken care of.

6. Rent and Security Deposit Disputes

Even with a good landlord-tenant relationship, problems with money can arise. Tenants may withhold rent for neglected repairs or unlivable conditions, landlords may choose to keep security deposits to cover cleaning and repair costs, and both parties may disagree about why and how much of the money was withheld.

Property management generally isn't equipped to handle this on their own. It's a good idea to have a lawyer on retainer who's well versed in landlord-tenant law, to make sure that the landlord's interests are protected and everything is dealt with fairly.

7. Eviction

Nobody likes it, but eviction is sometimes necessary. It can be a real problem with tenants who refuse to move, abandon all of their possessions, or even try to become violent.

This is another case where a little legal counsel can go a long way. There are laws governing how to go about the eviction process, as well as what a landlord is and isn't allowed to do with abandoned possessions. It might even be necessary to have the police or building security help escort a belligerent tenant from the property.

Any time money changes hands, it complicates relationships. As long as landlords are able to thoroughly communicate their expectations to tenants, tenants feel secure in reporting problems to the property manager, and complaints are dealt with quickly, they can have an easy, mutually respectful relationship.

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How to Choose a High-Quality Paint

How to Choose a High-Quality Paint

Regardless of what the application is, the paint quality you choose for your facility is important. Choosing the right paint starts with acknowledging the differences between low-quality and high-quality paints, and understanding why paint quality matters.

Disadvantages of Cheap Paint

  1. While low-quality paint may be cheaper, make no mistake that it comes with hidden costs. The pigments involved in their formulas often don’t work to enhance color and coverage, and therefore require that more than one coat be applied. This means you’ll need to purchase more cans of paint for your project.
  2. Also, low-quality paint doesn’t last very long. It simply isn’t as durable as higher-quality paint is, and will fade, crack or peel after just a few years.

Advantages of High-Quality Paint

  1. High-quality paint consists of ingredients that result in a smoother, longer-lasting application. You won’t have to worry about having to repaint every year due to regular wear, which is particularly helpful in high-traffic areas of a facility. High-quality paint formulas are specially made to hold up against fading, cracking and peeling, and in all types of environmental conditions.
  2. The pigmentation in high-quality paint is better than in low-quality paints, which means you won’t need as many coats. The better the pigments, the smaller and purer they are – which means high-quality paint offers more coverage, color, and depth to your paint job. Whether it’s an old color or imperfections you’re painting over, these pigments help the paint to more easily conceal what you want to conceal.
  3. High-quality paints include only the best binders (or resins), which help the product to adhere to every surface properly from the start, thus increasing durability. Good binders also keep paint from peeling, cracking, and blistering; fading and chalking; and from scuffing and fingerprints.
  4. Paints that are higher in quality can also protect against mildew, mold, and spoilage.

Assessing Your Project and Factors to Consider When Selecting Paint

You may be wondering, considering the many paint formulas available, how to determine which is a quality paint suitable for a given application? It’s always a good idea to start the process by looking at past performance. If you’re repainting an area, what brand and type of paint were used there before? How long did it hold up for? 

However, you’ll also want to consider that paint manufacturers often adjust their paint formulas in order to improve performance or reduce costs. So, how do you assess your project’s paint needs should that happen? There are four factors to look at to help you ensure that your paint selection is high-quality:

Factor #1: Price

While the price is not an absolute guarantee, you can trust that it is typically a good indicator of quality. Generally speaking, the higher the quality of paint, the higher its price. This is because more expensive paints tend to contain ingredients that are of better quality, and usually contain a higher volume of solids.

Factor #2: Percentage of Solids

As the paint dries and the liquid evaporates, what’s left on the surface are known as solids. The percentage of solids contained in a can of paint is in direct ratio to the thickness and quality of the protective paint film. Lower-grade latex paints will typically contain about 20-30% solids by volume and 79-80% water, while higher-grade latex paints will generally be 35-50% solids.  Keep your eye out for the latter, with the knowledge that the higher the percentage of solids is, the higher the quality of the paint is.

Factor #3: Prime Pigments

Pigments are finely ground particles that are dispensed into the paint and provide color and hiding properties. Certain pigments, known as “prime” pigments, provide better coverage. Look for paints that contain titanium dioxide; the highest quality prime pigment.

Factor #4: Concentration of Binders

You’ll want to look for paints that contain a higher percentage of binders, as the higher the percentage, the more the paint will be resistant to cracking and peeling. A pigment-volume concentrate value of 45% is considered to be the optimum level for most applications.

A Final Note

When evaluating paint options, a good rule of thumb is to remember that you can contact the paint manufacturer. They will be able to tell you anything you need to know about the paint’s formula and ingredients, be it types of pigments and binders used, percentage of solids, and what other additives it might contain.

Finally, rest assured that there are existing organizations that have developed evaluation and rating procedures for paint, and have set standard requirements for content and testing procedures that manufacturers must adhere to if their paint is to be certified as meeting that standard. These organizations include ANSI, ASTM, Green Seal, and the Master Painters Institute. For more information, you can contact these organizations with any specific questions you may have about paints you may be considering.

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Stress Management for Facility Managers

Stress Management for Facility Managers

It’s no secret that Facility Management is a stressful job full of ever-increasing demands. Every day brings new challenges, and often they are of unpredictable variety. This kind of stress is not always bad – in fact, it can be invigorating and rewarding. But to remain effective at one’s job, it’s important for facility managers to stay on top of their stress levels – and know how to cope.

To be successful in this process, there are three factors we must be sure to recognize. The first is learning to recognize stress. Then, we must learn to recognize how the ways that we perceive stress affect how we deal with it. And finally, with an understanding of the way different people respond to stress, we can learn to find the “sweet spot” where we can meet stress with confidence and produce productivity.

Factor #1: Recognizing the Ways Our Bodies Alert Us to Stress

Our bodies let us know when we are under acute stress – our palms may begin to sweat and our heart may begin to race. Respectively, these presentations benefit us if, say, we need to prepare for a firm grip or to run away from something. In other words, these bodily mechanics work in our favor for the kinds of stress that require immediate action.

However, when we are encountering chronic, repeated stress, such as the day-to-day grind of facility management, our bodies often tend to bypass this “fight or flight” response, and instead, leave us engaging a third stress-response: freezing up. Unfortunately, in business, freezing up does not make for good productivity, and certainly does not aid in the handling of tenant complaints or emergencies.

Factor #2: Recognizing How We Perceive Stress

“Eustress” is defined as moderate or normal psychological stress that gives us the adrenaline jolt we need to help us focus. In essence, it’s a type of stress that is beneficial to us. In fact, having a positive perception of stress offers our bodies a layer of protection against the negative health effects of stress.

How so? Perceiving stress as an energizing force will prevent blood vessels from too much constriction, and overall will take less of a toll on the body. Although chronic stress will still eventually have an overall negative impact on one’s brain and body, a positive perception can buy us time to face stressful challenges with less negative effects on health than if we were to perceive stress as something to be overwhelmed by.

Factor #3: Recognizing Our Differences

People react to stress differently because of personal brain chemistry, and with particular regard to dopamine. Some people need excitement to do their best work and are motivated by the stress of deadlines. This type of stress floods their brain with dopamine, and they clear it quickly, which leaves them in a focused, productive zone. On the other hand, deadlines or too many demands leave some people feeling overwhelmed and unable to focus, rendering them unable to clear their dopamine quickly, and so they become stuck in panic mode.

The good news is that along this continuum is a third scenario -- and an optimal one, at that! Research has shown that we are happiest when we are presented with intense challenges and discover that we have the capabilities to meet them. In facility management, this may be likened to being faced with a complex situation that rides just along the edge of our wheelhouse of abilities. This can force us to become completely absorbed in our work, resulting in high engagement as everything ‘clicks,’ and bringing about a feeling of being in control. Being both engrossed and confident, simultaneously, has a way of making time feel like it disappears. This phenomenon is often referred to as being “in the zone” or “in flow.” 

Takeaways

Being able to be an effective facility manager means having to face a barrage of stressors – everything from repairing unreliable building systems, dealing with occupants, a lack of budget resources, job demands changing too quickly to keep up, unreasonable expectations from higher-ups, not enough time in a day to get everything done, and a lack of work/life balance. Knowing how to recognize stress, and alter your perception so that you can meet it better, can go a long way in keeping you healthy and getting you in “the zone.” Remember, it is only when you know how to best manage your own health that you can then best manage your team and your projects.

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Hurricane Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

Hurrican Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

We all know that hurricanes are violent storms with the potential to cause severe damage and destruction to anything within their range. The good thing is, with today’s technology meteorologists are able to forecast hurricanes well in advance of their approach. Thankfully facility management can make it a point to take advantage of these insights. Advance preparation can leave facility leadership with a solid framework by which to weather the storm and protect their facilities, and the businesses and employees therein. We encourage facility management teams to refer to the following guidelines.

Assess What’s Most Important

There are three key elements that keep a business up and running: its employees, assets, and location. Taking swift action early enough to protect these elements from the threat of a hurricane will help you to maintain order and rebound quickly after the storm has passed.

Protecting Your Employees. When facing a potential crisis, an organization’s workforce looks to management for leadership and guidance to help keep them safe and informed. There are challenges to this that exist in today’s highly mobile workforce that didn’t exist even just ten years ago. Several factors to take into consideration are:

  • Where is each staff member located (in real-time)?
  • Which employees travel and what is their current schedule?
  • If you have remote workers, do you know where they are in any given moment?
  • Do you have a mass notification system in place to quickly and easily notify your people?
  • Is each employee being tracked by HR, travel, and/or building badge systems so they can be reached immediately?


Inventory Your Assets. 
The potential for flooding, high winds, gas shortages, and power shortages pose a threat to all kinds of business assets, including network, data, equipment, technology, supplies, products, and overall facilities. Identifying the following assets now can help to prevent stress later on:

  • Where are your assets located?
  • What kind of physical protection is available for each asset?
  • Which assets are critical to running the business?
  • Are these assets owned or insured?
  • What assets are leased, and what is your responsibility if they’re damaged?


Note: To help businesses “prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and recover rapidly from operational disruptions,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends referring to their Continuity Tool Kit.

Fortify Your Locations. Geographic location can certainly influence a property’s vulnerability to disaster by a hurricane. That said, while severe flooding is more likely to occur in coastal regions, facilities located inland are still susceptible to great danger. Hurricanes may weaken, but even slow-moving systems can hover over populated areas and cause catastrophic flooding and water damage. Whether your facility is comprised of a single unit or multiple buildings, you’ll need to consider how to reinforce each individual location. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the address of every location under your company umbrella including storage facilities and transportation lots?
  • What is the evacuation plan for each facility? For example entrances/exits; stairs, elevators and escalators; parking lots; and access to the closest hurricane evacuation route.
  • Which people/teams work at each location?
  • What are the biggest risks for each facility and how fortified are they to withstand potential damage?
  • What types of materials are in place necessary to getting the facility up and running again?


Draw Up an Emergency Plan

Having an emergency plan in place is vital to minimizing the panic and confusion that hurricanes can cause. Your plan should maintain some flexibility in case of unforeseen circumstances, but it should certainly incorporate core infrastructure elements that are unlikely to change as the company grows. Here’s how you can plan ahead to protect these elements:

Back-Up Your Data. To safeguard against on-premise damage, like flooding or fires which can destroy on-site servers, you’ll want to ensure that all company data is backed up offsite. Backing up data regularly should ideally become a habit so that, in the case of a hurricane or other weather event, your business won’t suffer loss should your server go down.

Set Up Cloud Systems. Cloud-based systems can expedite the disaster-recovery process. Converting key business systems and mobile device data to the cloud, including payroll, CRM, and HR systems, will allow these systems to be accessed remotely in the event your company needs to work from a different location.

Create Checklists. A checklist of tasks that need to be performed before, during, and after a hurricane can help to ensure that nothing is missed. The list should be both stored on a cloud application for easy access, and also physically posted for easy reference in the case of a power outage. Also, be sure to communicate this list to key stakeholders if you’ll be out of the office or unavailable at the time a hurricane is expected to touch down.

Review Contracts. Don’t wait for the aftermath of a major storm to review your contractual obligations with vendors, insurance providers, and landlords. Take the time to review contracts for specific mentions of weather-related events, damages, and complete loss. If a contract doesn’t reference these potential situations, contact contract owners directly to find out what their weather-related clauses and policies are.

Map Evacuation Routes. Safety is the number one priority in the event of any threat, and hurricanes certainly qualify here. An explicit plan to help employees promptly locate the safest way out of their facility will minimize chaos. You’ll need to determine which stairwells and doors should be used, identify parking lot exits, and what surrounding streets should be taken. Posting physical maps on each floor will help to familiarize your staff with approved evacuation routes. Holding drills on regular days when no weather-threats are posed will also help to acquaint employees with proper evacuation procedures.

Implement a Two-Way Communication System. It can’t be emphasized enough how important communication is. In the event of a hurricane, good communication can potentially save lives. You’ll want to ensure that every staff member is safe and able to communicate with leadership and with each other. You should not rely on the internet alone, as it can be rendered inaccessible during a power outage. Implementing emergency communication software can enable a company’s leadership to deliver real-time information to employees across multiple channels and devices simultaneously. Such a system can also be used to check in with employees for status updates, and to provide evacuation details. You’ll want to optimize this system by regularly updating your company directory with accurate contact information for each employee. Many systems include pre-set templates to help administrators pre-emptively prepare so that during a weather event they will be able to relay information swiftly with only a few clicks. Messages created in advance and stored on these templates eliminate the need to create a message from scratch, which can save precious minutes in the face of a dangerous storm. Ideal templates to use should include email, voicemail scripts, SMS texts, and push notifications.

Create Emergency Response Teams

It takes a proverbial village to protect your people, assets, and locations. Once your plan is in place, it’s time to delegate responsibilities and practice its execution. Here are three steps necessary to provide everyone with a thorough understanding of what to do in the event of a hurricane:

Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities. Your plan will have moving parts involving multiple people, so be sure to designate roles to employees you trust can handle the challenge. Communicate specific responsibilities with each individual stakeholder and ensure that they have the resources and technology they’ll need. Be clear with everyone about who is on each team, and who they can turn to for specific information.

Train Teams. Gather the team to review protocols and answer any questions they may have. Be sure to modify the plan as the company evolves should new locations be acquired, expansions be built, or facilities be changed.

Role Play. Hold mock drills to practice your plan. Though role play may feel silly, rest assured that when actually faced with the dangers of a hurricane, team members will be more likely to remember a drill than an office memo. You can opt to give the team notice, or to conduct impromptu drills to mimic a real-life emergency.

As you can see, careful planning in conjunction with these guidelines can make all the difference. Taking proactive steps now, before a hurricane hits, can help to ensure everyone’s safety in the midst of one. It will also give weather-damaged facilities accessibility to a quicker recovery process and can help protect businesses by minimizing their total losses.

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How to Prevent Slips and Falls in Your Facility

How To Prevent Slips and Falls in Your Facility

Facilities with high-traffic areas, such as schools, healthcare, and commercial facilities, are the most at risk for people taking a sudden slip, trip, or fall. According to the National Safety Council, these types of mishaps lead to the most costly types of injuries as they’re not only the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, they also represent the primary cause of lost days from work due to an accident.

While the risk for these accidents may be increased by human factors, such as age, failing eyesight, and other mobility impairments (such as using a cane or a walker), it’s important for facility managers to note the non-human factors that reflect accident-prone statistics: floor surfaces.

Floors and flooring materials contribute to more than 2 million fall injuries per year, usually due to them becoming wet from leaks, spills, snow, rain, mud, wet leaves, and other floor contaminations. Thankfully, these issues are easily preventable with the implementation of a tight floor maintenance problem. So, while you may not be able to control the weather or how people walk, you can start by identifying problem areas in order to minimize the chance for slips, trips, and falls.

The Five “Danger Zones”

Lobbies. As a welcome space, lobby areas tend to be shiny and attractive -- but this doesn’t come without a cost. Lobbies are often buffed and waxed, in an effort to offer optimal appeal for visitors and workers. Also, as the point of entry, lobbies are often subject to shoes, umbrellas, and the debris that both track in.

Breakrooms/cafeterias. As a space where food and beverages are prepared and consumed, spills are more likely to occur. Coffee machine areas are especially susceptible to drips and spills, where occupants tend to pass through with uncovered mugs full of the hot beverage.

Restrooms. It goes without saying that wherever there is water, there is an increased risk for slips, trips, and falls. Restroom floors are subject to becoming wet in numerous ways – everything from the slightest hand-dripping, to overflowing sinks and toilets, and plumbing problems.

Piping. Corrosion and wear can cause piping to leak. Preventative maintenance is key when it comes to piping, especially if it’s in close proximity to where occupants are.

Roof. Both cold or inclement weather can make any roof vulnerable to leaks. On top of that, buckets that are left on floors to collect liquid from roof leaks are also susceptible to being tripped over by a distracted occupant.

Five Tips to Prevent Accidents

Fortunately, there are several ways that facility managers can plan ahead in order to prevent these various flooring/area hazards:

Watch the Weather. Preparation for storms, snow, rain, or any other weather event that could leave debris on your facilities’ floors is of utmost Have signs handy to make building occupants aware of potential hazards, and have floor blowers on hand to dry up rain water.

Use Matting for Liquid Absorption. Floor matting can help absorb water and other liquid debris. However, matting comes with its own set of hazards. Avoid matting that gaps, wrinkles, or easily moves around. Ideally, your matting should have an adhesive backing to keep the mat flat and in place.

Analyze Past Problem Areas. Examine any previous slip or fall claims and use them as a map to help you identify high-risk zones in your facility, or to help you determine primary areas for potential hazards. By looking at “root cause” errors of the past, you can help to ensure a safer present and future.

Use Proper Cleaning Aides. Be sure to purchase the right cleaner for the right contaminant and floor surface. For example, what you use on tile may be quite different than what you’d use on wood or concrete. Work with your janitorial supply company to determine which chemicals are best to use on the various surfaces of your facility. In addition, be sure to carefully read the directions on all chemical products in order to use these cleaners correctly. Take special note of any dilution ratios and water temperatures required.

Have a Floor Maintenance Management Program in Place. An established program is an important preparation tool for proper floor maintenance. Your program should include ways to properly store cleaning products and equipment, training staff, regular floor inspections that are shared with supervisors, and specific procedures and protocols for various areas.

Slippery flooring is unsafe for building occupants and can turn into expensive claims for your facility. Getting ahead of these potential problems can go a long way to eliminate risk, and make for an all-around safer, happier workplace for everyone.

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Facility Manager Tips For Designing and Maintaining Restrooms

Restroom Maintenance

Restrooms are an integral part of a well-run facility. Whether you're dealing with a building's employees or its clientele, everyone will need to take a bathroom break at some point in the day. Poorly designed or maintained restrooms aren't just unpleasant for people to use, they can negatively impact their perceptions of the facility itself. Don't let that happen to you -- keep these three things in mind when you're dealing with bathrooms.

1. Standardize, standardize, standardize.

Nothing is worse than having to use a restroom that doesn't have adequate supplies. When fixtures aren't standardized across an entire facility, it can make it more difficult for staff to keep things adequately stocked. Toilet paper, paper towel, and soap dispensers should all be of the same type, so you won't have to worry about staying on top of ordering refills for multiple different makes and models. This will also help save money over the long run, by allowing you to order large quantities at a bulk rate.

2. Plan for traffic.

When it comes to designing restrooms, the biggest mistake you can make is to fail to take traffic into account. Some finishes may be attractive, but not durable enough to hold up to heavy use without beginning to look worn and shabby. Corian, for example, is becoming a popular choice for partitions due to its durability over metal or composite. Placing groups of restrooms in high traffic areas allows them to be serviced by a centrally-located supply closet. If space allows, restroom plans an even allow for a maintenance corridor that will let facility employees perform regular maintenance without cluttering up high-traffic hallways.

3. Keep them bright (but not too bright).

No matter how well-maintained a restroom may be, poor lighting will make it look dirty and dated. Lighting that is too bright will make it unpleasant for users, as well as wasting power. Choose energy-efficient bulbs and ballasts -- standard fluorescent ballasts typically use 14-16 watts, while energy efficient electronic ballasts use as little as 8 -- and set up an automated lighting system. This will ensure that lights are only on when they're needed, and don't waste power when they aren't. Place fixtures in areas where they'll be easy to access, and avoid choosing spots where they will be partially blocked by door or partitions.

Keeping restrooms clean.

Do you know what maintenance employees have to say about cleaning public bathrooms? 80% consider it a difficult job and cite a lack of time and too much foot traffic as the biggest contributing factors -- two things that can be mitigated by proper planning. The scary part here is that restroom maintenance consists of both cleaning for looks, and cleaning for safety. An overwhelming majority of cleaning professionals (94%) claim to rely on product use information to train their employees, but 15% of those same employees say that a lack of training makes their jobs more difficult, and nearly 70% of professionals say that their staff doesn't understand disinfection or sanitization. A simple wipe-down might be enough to keep a countertop or faucet looking clean, but is it really enough to make it hygienic?

To keep public bathrooms really clean, it's vital that facility managers develop their own training and standard procedures, and train their employees in basic disinfection and sanitization best practices. Coupled with bathrooms designed with cleanliness and ease of maintenance in mind, this alone should be enough to make sure restrooms say looking fresh and hygienic while cutting down on the public health risks posed by restroom germs.

People generally don't spend more than a few minutes at a time in the bathroom, but those few minutes can create a big impression. By choosing durable finishes, locating bathrooms where they can be easily reached for maintenance, and making sure employees have the tools, supplies, and knowledge they need to keep them sanitized and well-stocked, facility managers can make sure that their restrooms always look and feel their best.

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