Working On The Workplace

IAM spoke to Facilities Management expert Craig Shepheard (managing director of FM Expert Ltd), to find out more about how managing the workplace and its facilities can increase productivity and a sense of wellbeing for employees. 

Bringing people together in one space is generally the most effective way of getting work done. Synergy (working together) is where the sum of the whole is getting greater than the sum of the parts. The workplace should therefore be designed to maximise the effectiveness of the people within the workplace. 

Look at Workflow

Historically company departments were laid out based on department teams rather than the work that the individuals performed. These layouts were normally adequate as a lot of people do work in departments. A more effective layout looks at the workflow of individuals and whom they interact look at the workflow of individuals and whom they interact with inside the company so work groups can be created in project clusters. These clusters are a mix of people from difference departments but whom are all working on joint tasks. A chat with your project team across a desk is always faster than writing an email and generally prevents any misunderstanding when people don’t read emails properly. 

Not everyone requires the same sized desk. Layouts of office space are frequently designed using identical desks for maximum density. Some people can use smaller desks but others require larger desks especially if they have large drawings to review. The work space should be designed for the jobs that need to be done, not just for the convenience of the work space designer.  I was once assigned the desk next to a network printer. The job at the time required a lot of detailed concentration but people picking up their prints constantly interrupted me. I was eventually allowed to move to a quieter location, which helped improve my own productivity. 

Facility Managers 

The modern Facility Manager can be incredibly influential in a company’s productivity. If they perform their job well, then they almost become invisible to the individuals within the company, as everyone just gets on with their own work tasks. Comfortable, well laid out environments mean that people are not distracted by environmental factors. 

Simple Fault Analysis 

Using simple fault analysis techniques can help a Facility Manager to identify and eliminate repeat problems. The number one complaint in buildings is the “Too Hot / Too Cold” issue. By using red dot stickers for too hot and blue for too cold, a layout plan can quickly identify problem areas on the floor. The maintenance team can therefore study what keeps causing these issues and eliminate those problems. 

People Not Robots

Companies must remember that they are employing people and not robots. We all spend a huge amount of time at our workplace and we should make them nice places to be in. I have been to far too many bland offices with plain walls. How can someone be creative when they are staring at white walls. Let’s get some artwork or photography on the walls to make the place more interesting to work in. Maybe get local art colleges to help out. The artwork should change on a regular basis so that the people in the office realise that you are taking an interest in the workplace, rather than is being a one off exercise. Schools change their displays in the classrooms every term to encourage creativity and learning. 

Try standing in the middle of your office space and look at what the space actually looks like. Would you be proud to show your office space to your personal friends or does your office look a little depressing?

Repair and Refresh 

It is very depressing when you have to spend all day sitting on a chair where the fabric is ripped and the armrest is wobbly and no one ever does anything about it. Get the maintenance team to tighten up loose screws on armrest is wobbly and no one ever does anything about it. Get the maintenance team to tighten up loose screws on armrests or replace the worn fabric or even replace the entire chair. Your workplace should get better rather than being on slow decline. 

A manufacturing company had their quality control laboratory painted with a bright yellow colour on the walls. All of the other departments suddenly wanted colour on their walls rather than the traditional grey wallpaper chosen previously. 

Getting Help 

People can’t be experts at everything so sometimes it is good to get some external professional help. Using consultants or contractors to help you design efficient workplaces can be very effective. They have a wealth of experience amongst different sectors and have frequently seen what works well and what doesn’t work well. The key thing in selecting help is seeing whether they listen to what you want to achieve as a business. Too many just suggest what have been done before rather than sitting down with you and understanding what you need to change or improve in your business. Before deciding on a specific project, invite a few along and discuss what you wish to achieve with them. The ones that actually listen to you and help make suggestions are probably the best one to select. 

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