Workspaces are changing. Shared offices, flexi-time hours and remote working are all disrupting the traditional nine to five that we all know (but might not love). Facilities management are responsible for much of the innovation you may (or may not!) see around you in the workplace and play an essential part in the preservation of spaces. It creates workspaces that combine practicality, efficiency and comfort to workers, which can in turn improve the wellbeing of the company. But with two thirds of the UK now working outside of conventional office environments, does FM have the ability to move with the times? 

smart environments.

How the FM industry can embrace the future is something that was discussed at length at the 2017 Workplace Futures conference earlier this year. As technology develops and smart housing becomes more popular, there is no doubt that many conventional methods of facilities maintenance will become obsolete. Industry leaders have suggested that rather than shy away from the challenges technology brings, FM should step up to the challenge and embrace (as was dubbed at the conference) ‘FM 5.0’. 

Iain Shorthose, Customer Experience Director at Interserve argues that: “FM 5.0 releases the potential of smart buildings, analytics and data to enable UK industry to realise the potential of its people. “From the food we serve to the air they breathe, it will be the role of our teams of cleaners, caterers, engineers or the myriad other teams to unlock these benefits. The key to reaching our brighter future is embracing technology.”


The concept of global ‘Uberisation’ was also a recurring theme at the conference, used to describe the increasing efficiency of consumption through apps like Amazon, Airbnb and of course, Uber. These companies collect swathes of data that they collate to build an understanding of consumer habits and preferences, allowing them to deliver a service tailored to the individual user. 

When applied to FM, we see a future where facilities are also maintained in this same: individualistic and tailored. One FM provider, Bouygues, have developed an app that is trialling these new functions to be used in a university setting. Chad Reilly, business development director at Bouygues describes how: “The app can send alerts, such as reminders of fire alarm testing, library book expiry dates etc. “It can also act as a navigation tool and provide personalised notifications such as lecture room changes. In addition, discount coupons for catering outlets can be delivered along with the collection of live feedback.” 

As we experience an ‘Uberised’ world, we may find that typical FM roles may be outsourced to smaller, specialised businesses that use the internet as the basis of the roles. For example, apps and sites like Handy and Takl provide on-demand home services at the touch of a button. FM services will have to adapt and compete with this level of simplicity and convenience if they want to remain relevant, especially when considering branching outside of the typical office environment. 

the integrator.

The FM conference also coined the term ‘the integrator’. The integrator manages all client services under one contract, preventing the need for the client to hold several contracts for all FM based requirements. Mark Sutcliffe, operations director at KBR discusses this approach: “With this approach, a client may still opt to use any one of the more traditional delivery models, but instead of the client being required to manage what could add up to hundreds of contracts, one company is appointed to oversee and manage the performance of all the service providers.” 

This model incorporates various elements of FM, as well as elements that often fall outside this such as mechanical and electrical, and the technology and data used for performance management and reporting. Simplifying the process like this not only makes life easier for the client, it also keeps costs efficient. 

facilitating the future.

FM is a versatile sector that covers much of the day-to-day maintenance tasks that keep the workforce running. When considering new ways of working, such as shared office spaces etc. the high-speed and technological way the next generation consume has to be taken into account, or contracts risk being lost to tech. 

Though FM is not exempt from the Uberisation that is sweeping the workforce and the economy, the industry is ready enough to adapt and overcome the challenges that come with an increasingly convenient world. Already, leading industry voices have expressed the need for an updated and technological FM model that will remain a significant part of work environments in the future. It is these advances that will benefit the industry and ensure facilities aren’t a thing of the past.