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Greater understanding of the human psyche is helping FMs to derive more value from the running of their facilities.

Facilities managers (FMs) are frequently seen to be “jacks of all trades” due to the wide range of topics included in their day-to-day activities, which can be seen to be extending in yet more directions for some.

With the need to achieve the expectations of clients and colleagues balanced with the management of their in-house teams and/or external service providers, many FMs can frequently be seen to have added psychology to their already extensive skill sets.

Meeting financial targets and remaining within budgets continue to be two of the most important aspects of the FM role, although the more enlightened client will be looking to extend this view towards value and adopting a more long-term outlook. In these instances, FMs and their service provider partners have the opportunity to be far more creative in the running of facilities, with the aim of delivering added value in as many areas as possible.

Bearing this in mind, we thought our readers and subscribers would enjoy reading about the results of some activities delivered by FMs in recent years that are unlikely to have been the first consideration for others in the same situation. While initial investment is often needed, this can be seen to have reduced or completely eliminated the need for further expense in the future.

In order to understand the origins of these actions, greater understanding of the thought processes of the workforce has proved essential in many areas, hence the title of this article Psychology of FM service delivery. Applying this knowledge to create practical solutions can be seen to have proved highly effective in a growing number of instances.

Hot and cold

Our first example of the application of creative thinking to provide solutions to long-term issues begins with the perennial problem of colleagues in the workplace complaining that the temperature is too hot or too cold for them.

This is perceived to be one of the most common difficulties within any office, with colleagues at adjacent desks frequently heard to be stating they would like the temperature to be higher and lower at the same time.

Solutions have included separating those wishing for higher temperatures from those preferring cooler working environments and then creating zones that meet their requirements. Depending on the heating and cooling systems in place, this is likely to require more investment in older facilities and can prove difficult to deliver without considerable expense in some cases.

However, the FM of a large law firm in central London found a highly cost-effective solution to the issue by purchasing a number of room thermostats. These were duly installed and all colleagues were then able to adjust the controls to their preferred temperature setting and the FM found that all complaints ceased to be heard from that point.

Sick woman distracted from work feeling unwell sitting in front of computer, stressed female employee have anxiety attack at workplace, upset woman suffer from headache or dizziness in office

An innovative solution

This highly effective result was achieved without the thermostats being connected to anything other than the walls of the facility, which obviously meant that adjusting them had no effect on the heating and cooling systems. Without an understanding of how people’s minds work in these instances, however, it is unlikely that such a cost-effective solution to the issue would have been found.

Another creative solution was applied that resulted in the saving of considerable expense for a sports facility. The entrance to its gym consisted of a wide staircase and an escalator, with the majority of those entering the facility preferring to use the latter.

When the issue resulted in queues forming to use the escalator at peak times and numbers of complaints rising, the owner of the facility began considering the installation of a second elevator.

Before this was put into action, the FM began considering options for making use of the staircase more appealing.

The solution decided upon included the adding of decals and low voltage lighting to improve the appearance of the steps of the staircase, the cost for which was considerably less than that required for a second elevator and was quickly found to have provided a highly effective solution. By understanding what would appear attractive to the minds of others, the FM was delighted to see that the stairs became the preferred means of entry to the facility and both queues and complaints were reduced as a result.

Another staircase issue was experienced by an FM managing a high-profile government facility in central London. The building had been designed with two staircases, both of which were used by facilities users in equal numbers, which would seem to have achieved the aims of the original design.

Other options

This was not the case, however, as changes had been made within the facility that required those using it to move in the same direction to reach their destinations in the most efficient manner and use one staircase to do this.

It was not feasible to block access to anyone wishing to use either staircase, so the FM began to consider the options available.

The final solution found to be most effective was the installation of carpeting on the staircase that was required to be used, while the other was left without any covering.

“FMs and their service provider partners have the opportunity to be far more creative in the running of facilities”

Although the new carpet involved financial outlay, the FM stated that no further expense was required and this was seen to be the best by both colleagues and the owner of the facility.

This also avoided the use of more restrictive actions and resulted in the facility becoming more attractive to users, who appreciated the improvement to the interior décor provided by the carpet.
Another example of ‘thinking outside the box’ provided a highly effective outcome that resulted in considerable savings.

The issue in this case was experienced within a central corridor that was used by high numbers of people, resulting in the walls becoming scuffed and scratched on a regular basis.

Regardless of how many times the walls were redecorated, the issue was seen to quickly re-emerge every time, resulting in a constant requirement that the FM compared to the painting of the Forth Bridge: “As soon as it was finished, we had to begin painting the other end!”

A new mindset

Yet another example of creative thinking provided a highly effective outcome, when the FM purchased a number of large pictures that were installed along the length of the corridor. This was completed for less than the cost of a single repainting project and provided an immediate solution to the problem.

Having removed the considerable expense of constant redecoration, the FM was able to concentrate on other areas of responsibility. Given the example of the artwork installation, it is highly likely that this has led to further advantages for both the building owner and facility users.

Without appreciating the respect and consideration that the artwork would engender in those using the facility, the FM would not have considered the initial purchase. This example provides one of the clearest examples of the advantages that can be enjoyed when FMs make use of processes more frequently attributed to aspiring psychologists.

Female doctor talking to patient

Having achieved these successes, it is highly likely to be the case that the FMs in question have used these to consider alternative solutions to other issues emerging in their daily tasks, with the potential of further increasing the range and scope of these in the future. In addition to an understanding of the human psychology, it can also be seen as essential to have the ability to think creatively to ensure the success of these projects, although many FMs will have these attributes already.

The above provides further support for the view that the most successful FMs can be individuals who combine a wide range of talents. It is often the case that their wide-ranging roles provide numerous options to both use and further develop these attributes and provides the reason that many find their choice of career to be highly satisfying.

In addition to being amateur – or even professional – psychologists, FMs frequently need to be diplomats and find compromises that meet the expectations of both owners of facilities and those that use them.

Without an interest in people and the ability to communicate with everyone on a number of levels, it could be said that the FM role would become less enjoyable and even difficult for those who do not possess these skills and interests.

It can also be said that the aspects of the FM role discussed above lead to additional consideration of another frequently-heard statement from FMs that their choice of career was both unplanned and a matter of chance, with many stating that they felt they had fallen into the FM industry, rather than seeing it as a clear opportunity and planning accordingly. This shows there is considerable scope for more official routes to join the FM sector, which may well include the development of appropriate tests to identify those most able to find the various demands, challenges and wide-ranging requirements enjoyable.