What’s the first thing you think of when you envision a facilities manager? If it’s someone that has a tool belt as part of their attire, you’re not alone. While the modern office environment has evolved dramatically over the past few decades, our concept of a facilities manager, unfortunately, has not.
We still consider these professionals to be the go-to fix-it person—someone who flies under the radar and goes unnoticed and unheard until they’re needed. Someone who carts away broken office furniture, replaces outdated equipment and ensures the office remains at a comfortable temperature year-round. And while some of these responsibilities may fall within an FM’s wheelhouse, in today’s modern office environment, the facilities manager plays a much larger and much more diverse role.
Regardless of your rank or department, your company’s facilities manager is a great ally to have. By working together, you can ensure your workplace is running as efficiently and effectively as possible. And the better you understand their duties, experience and objectives, the better your relationship and more likely you are to exceed your mutual goals.
To help you better understand this critical role, let’s take a look at the top five most common myths about facilities managers.
Their Main Job is Building Maintenance
Many employees mistakenly equate facilities managers with maintenance professionals. And while FMs are responsible for ensuring building maintenance is handled quickly and effectively, this is only a fraction of their responsibilities.
Modern facilities leaders also manage the layout and design of the office area, ensure all spaces are ergonomic, strategize to reduce workplace energy consumption, enforce building and data security, manage workplace automation, oversee the office mailroom, handle lease administration, communicate with vendors and much, much more.
They’re Set in Their Ways
If your only interaction with an FM is when you’re making a request that’s turned down (for example, new standing desks for your entire department) you may assume it's because facilities management professionals refuse to budge from the norm. You might even assume they won’t fulfill your request because they’re lazy.
And you’d be wrong.
The facilities manager is one of the greatest gatekeepers to your organization’s budget. In addition to employees, a company’s facility represents one of its most expensive assets. The FM is responsible for keeping costs down while also working to ensure your workspace offers employees a healthy and productive environment. Often this can mean turning down some investments in favor of others that will add greater value to the workplace.
They’re Mostly Loners
Decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a facilities manager to spend most of his or her time in a building’s basement and backrooms, monitoring various systems and making repairs where needed. Save for clarification regarding a maintenance ticket, the FM may have rarely communicated with other employees. But those days are long gone.
From the CEO to the most junior entry-level employee, modern facilities managers are responsible for communicating with nearly every member of your organization. In addition to overseeing their own staff, they’re also expected to make sure all teams are properly trained in using various workplace software, and assisting the technology team in educating employees on proper data usage and protection practices. In addition, the FM must vet, onboard and regularly communicate with a variety of vendors.
Today’s most successful FMs are the opposite of a hermit - they’re sociable, friendly and communicate with ease.
It’s a Male-Dominated Role
While facilities management has historically been a position held by more men than women, times have changed.
Walk into the facilities management department of any organization, and you’re likely to find this is no longer a boy’s club. While FM positions (and leadership positions in general) are still disproportionately held by men, the number of women in facilities management is on the rise.
Stereotypes about the types of positions men and women should hold in the workplace has contributed to a historically low number of female FMs, but this gender imbalance is no longer acceptable. And if you attended our recent iOFFICE user conference, you may have noted: There were almost as many women in the room as men.
For decades, the facilities manager has been left out of leadership discussions. Decisions about the facilities management were made on the FM’s behalf, with little to no input from FMs themselves. But this, too, has changed.
Today, the FM is responsible for managing unprecedented amounts of sensitive information and building data. They’re the boots on the ground—a valuable link between the C-suite and the inner workings of the workplace. Failing to include facilities leaders in executive decisions is a missed opportunity for the leadership team to gain valuable intel and a knowledgeable ally. With technology, security and employee engagement at the top of nearly every company’s priority list, buddying up to the FM seems a no-brainer.
The role of facilities manager is evolving into one of the most important positions in any organization, and one that requires both expertise in traditional facility processes as well as technological savvy. If you believe any of these misconceptions, it’s time to educate yourself on the role of FM and work to support them in their mission to create the best workplace possible.