Technology has revolutionized space management in recent years. The manual techniques used in the past to understand occupancy rates and O&M costs, manage day-to-day operations, and design floor plans are vastly outperformed by today’s software, especially when managing large offices or portfolios. However, this doesn’t mean that technology is making facilities managers and workplace teams obsolete. Far from it.
The role of technology in facilities management
Facilities management has become increasingly important for the post-pandemic workplace. Companies face rising costs, increased competition for talent, and new employee demands, so it’s vital to have FMs armed with the tools they need to optimize the office effectively.
Computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) encompasses the different types of software that support space management. These systems automate and improve the accuracy of data collection, allowing space managers to spend more time problem solving, monitoring important metrics, A/B testing, and creating future projections to help companies advance operational infrastructure while reducing costs.
Key technologies for space management in the workplace
The hardware and software listed below all play important roles in supporting FMs. Though they are all different, they can be grouped into at least one of three categories: visual data, real-time information, and task automation.
- Visual data allows space planning teams to understand data at a glance, so no time is wasted trying to mentally consolidate information into a meaningful conclusion.
- Real-time information means space managers can spot and fix problems as soon as they occur. Real-time data also feeds software such as desk reservation systems by showing what’s available right now.
- Task automation reduces human errors and saves time. The less time FMs spend on tedious tasks, the more time they have for higher-level management.
1. Occupancy sensors
Occupancy sensors tell you when people are using different spaces such as a conference room or phone booth, what time they were there, and how long they stayed. This information is in real-time and can work with other technology such as digital wayfinding signs or reservation software.
With the information you collect from occupancy sensors, you can identify underutilized areas and reclaim that space for a better purpose. Rather than automatically expanding square footage to accommodate new hires, you can review sensor data to see if the current space is ever at capacity. If it isn’t, the company doesn’t have to spend money on more office space.
Sensors also allow you to A/B test how changes to the workplace perform. This is the true test of whether new policies or layouts are effective. Did the tech upgrade in the conference room make people use it more? If so, you can deploy this change across your portfolio to increase the utilization of conference rooms in every location.
As more organizations move to hybrid models and hot desking, it’s becoming essential to have a system to manage when and where people go when they come into the office. Reservation technology helps move your office into the modern era of work by creating a system for this. And when employees can book a desk or a conference room without assistance, that’s one less thing workplace teams have to worry about.
Reservation software can inform policy changes by collecting data about missed bookings, inappropriately sized rooms, and unused desks. For example, if employees are booking desks for solo work and then never showing up, you can implement a time limit for check-ins. If the employee doesn’t check in within 10 minutes of the reservation, it’s immediately made available to others.
3. Virtual floor plans
Using software to create digital floor plans allows you to visualize changes before implementing them. You can spot potential problems such as bottlenecks or wasted space before you’ve moved a single chair, and you can test numerous designs to see which one will work best. It’s more cost-efficient (and less frustrating for both FMs and employees) to work out floor plan kinks in the planning stage rather than the implementation stage.
4. Asset management
Managing assets is a significant part of facilities management. It’s essential to have up-to-date information about your resources, from total square footage to the number of chairs in a specific office location. In addition to a general inventory, FMs also have to monitor the maintenance cycles of assets such as HVAC systems and the building itself. Staying on top of preventative maintenance and repairs ensures you don’t have a cascading series of breakdowns that affect building operations.
A key goal of space management is to reduce expenses, and asset management software can help ensure you never make unnecessary purchases. When asset details are paired with utilization data from sensors, you get even more valuable insights. If one location needs 50 new desks and you see another site has extremely low desk utilization, you can simply reallocate those resources to the location in need. This is one small example of the type of problem-solving that the right software can help you achieve.
Choose the right CAFM tools
- Look for software that’s easy to use. The less training it requires, the faster you can start benefiting from its features.
- Select technology that comes with support from the provider. When it comes time to update software or troubleshoot hardware issues, you want the reassurance that someone will be available to answer your questions.
- Choose software that’s compatible with your existing technologies. The more technology you can integrate, the more comprehensive and easier to manage your data becomes.
- Keep your budget in mind, but don’t forget the value technology brings to space management. Budgetary constraints are unfortunate, and it can be expensive to invest in new technologies. However, be sure to factor in the ROI that comes with making data-backed decisions rather than educated guesses and the additional time that automation provides.