One unified service: time for joined-up thinking on workplace

All companies now wrestle with the multi-faceted challenge of how to improve worker performance, so why don’t IT, HR and FM come out of their silos to provide one unified workplace management service?

While the world of work changes and companies have become increasingly adept at supplying more suitable furniture, technology and processes to support new ways of working, there is a change that has still been remarkably elusive for most businesses. That is the provision of services.

Human resources, information technology and facilities management have traditionally been different departments because they deal with very distinct and separate areas of workplace life. The workplace of today, however, is a very different prospect from that of times past. Workplace itself has become something of a misnomer; work is no longer a place but is geographically and temporally distributed (a trend extenuated by the current Covid-19 crisis) in such a way that many traditional boundaries have become blurred.

Beyond buildings

In the past, facilities managers would have been able to exclusively devote themselves to maintaining the physical aspects of the building. In today’s world of ever-rising rent, declining productivity and high labour costs however, companies are increasingly turning to buildings and FM as a way of getting more out of their workforce rather than just a building to house them.

For many companies, FM has therefore begun to take on more of a strategic and proactive role. As labour is such a huge portion of company costs and technology to support workers is more important than ever, HR and IT are taking on similar roles. At the moment, most of these are limited partnerships. For example, FM may have control of a workplace strategy project related to a lease event or upgrade of the building. They will have input from HR on acceptable working practices, IT on cabling and data management and will themselves handle furniture and team layouts. As more and more of their work becomes strategic and future-orientated, it makes sense for these services to unify rather than occasionally partnering. These three major services should be unified into one: Workplace Management.

Joined-up thinking

The benefits of joined-up thinking on how to create the best environment possible for employees will be huge. Even for seemingly simple issues like printer placement, bringing in a holistic viewpoint that takes into account multiple different factors can be of a huge benefit to the workplace experience. Rather than simply putting them where the cabling is easiest (IT), perhaps they should be nearest the team who prints the most (FM) or near the coffee machines so people can refresh themselves while they are waiting for their documents (HR). By blending these perspectives and weighing them against one another, it will be easier to achieve an optimised position.

FM, IT and HR have traditionally worked in silos, but they all tend to have a similar objective these days: improving the workplace experience for users. By breaking down the silos containing these departments, it will be possible to leverage each of their strengths and better combine their perspectives to create a better workplace experience for everyone. Organisations should consider combining these disparate services into one unified service to help focus on the overarching objective – improving worker experience and performance.

Arraz Makhzani is a workplace analyst at UnWork
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