TA Insights: Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM)

We caught up with Chris Moriarty from the recently re-branded IWFM (previously known as BIFM). Find out more about how the evolving cultural change in the workplace created this new brand.

Chris Moriarty is the Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management. Join him at @ChrisMoriarty3

For more on the workplace discussion IWFM’s first national conference focuses on ways to embrace the workplace opportunity and cement its role as core to a successful business operation. It has been curated to provide professionals with the key insights, skills and inspiration. Visit www.iwfmconference.org

Read on or click play on the video below…

Why the change from BIFM to IWFM?

So we’ve been talking about the frustrations of Facility Management for a long time. People often refer to the fact that they don’t feel valued or they’re not recognised within the organisation. So for us (IWFM), with this focus that organisations have now got on workplaces, we think this is an opportunity for us to re-frame our profession and start to demonstrate the value we can add to businesses.

What do you think is a good definition for “the workplace manager”?

Rather than creating a new definition, I think it is quite useful to look back to the very first definition of Facilities Management in the 1970s. In that, it talks about the design and management of workplaces and the business conducted within those workplaces by the organisations that occupy them. If we want to bring that into today’s language, what I’m looking at at the moment is the idea that we’re there to create incredible places for people to do their best work.

What are the fundamental differences between a WM (Workplace Manager) and a FM (Facility Manager)?

So on the face of it, it probably doesn’t look any different to the layman. But what the big difference, I believe, is this shift from focusing on the management on the building through to the enablement of the community within it.

Why do you think people are now becoming a focus and why weren’t they before?

What I do think we’ve seen recently, is this increasing landscape where organisations are desperately trying to find competitive advantage and there are many ways they are doing that. But one of the ways they realise is through talent. The workplaces that we have in terms of attracting and retaining talent is something that they’ve got to have a look at. Now there’s other things as well, like the well-being debate that’s front and center. So there’s lots of different forces at the moment but it’s all pushing people towards this idea that the places that we do our best work are critically important for business performance.

Instead of focusing on designing great workplaces, should we instead be looking at allowing people to work from home?

So it’s difficult when we start looking at the future workplace alongside the well-being debate. This idea of working from home more can actually cause as many problems as it solves. So, for instance, there was one guy we came across who talked about the loneliness that came about from working at home.
If we’re looking at it in the well-being debate, workplaces need to think laterally about what they are. So this idea that we have to commute in at certain times – do we really need to do that? This idea that we are put into environments that are incredibly stressful – do we have to do that as well?
So, it’s actually a much more human-centered workplace that we need to get towards. That’s one that brings people together. It’s one that allows people to be their best version of themselves. It’s one that doesn’t put undue pressure on themselves. It’s one that allows them to shape work around themselves.
I think the problem with this debate is that we flip flop from binary one end of the extreme to the other. And actually the reality is a much more sensible, pragmatic, middle place.

Do you think one is more important than the other between WM and FM?

An amazing workplace will have amazing facilities services within that. But world-class facilities services does not guarantee you world-class workplaces because there are so many other areas involved.
Simply having the catering services, security services and all the other services that we [facilities] have, at their very best doesn’t mean that people are able to do their work elsewhere in the offices or in the spaces that we create for them.

What is often not a priority in the workplace which needs to have more consideration?

So ironically, one of the things I find when I go to conferences and hear people talk about workplaces and facilities challenges, one of the things that seems to gets overlooked all the time is people. Now we talk about people in loose terms at these conferences but actually [we need to be] very scientific about the role that people have in these spaces that we are overseeing.
I’ll give you an example. I was at a conference recently where there was a conversation about the energy consumption that air conditioning units use and what ratio was used and all this. Everyone knew the answer. But I was confident that, had I put my hand up and asked how well their workplaces were supporting work, very few of them would have found out. [This is] because our measures simply aren’t geared up to understanding how people are consuming the space and how it makes them feel. We do have some things like utilisation and attendance. But that’s only superficial stuff on the surface. What we really need to get into is the hearts and minds of the people who walk into our spaces everyday and really understanding what it is they need and how we can support their work in the best possible way. So for me, we’ve got lots of design trends, we’ve got lots of innovation but really that’s not going to have as much impact unless we get right back to basics and say this has fundamentally got to be an employee-centered workplace and how do we work from there out.

What is the biggest challenge facing FM/WM?

Despite the change, I think the biggest challenge we will have as a profession will still be the business case – the argument to the business leaders that we are delivering value. Now, there’s been a long line of people searching desperately for this holy grail of the productivity equation. I think this has probably led us down a few paths we didn’t really need to go down. I think we have to ask ourselves, given the varying nature of what impacts on productivity across all different organisations, are we ever going to get there? But what we really do have to do is start connecting the work we’re doing right up to the business objectives. And that’s not a new idea but we still haven’t quite cracked it.

So what we’re going to be doing in 2019 is working on a series of guides and tools that can help professionals in making those cases. Because, what is really important is that we not only show that our business contribution is through cost reduction and cost management (we’ve been doing that very well for a long time), but actually now in value creation and organisational performance.

If you could solve one problem in the workplace, which would it be?

What I would love to change and solve is not necessarily in the workplace itself. It is the hype around themes that come almost in a cyclical fashion in the workplace industry. We move from well-being to activity-based working… There always seems to be something new and actually what I would love and what we have seen in recent books like “The Elemental Workplace” by Neil Usher is a very pragmatic, practical but focused effort towards creating good workplaces.

What do you think the future workplace will look like?

So it feels lazy just to point at technology but the reality is that technology is having a fundamental effect on how we work and therefore will have a fundamental impact on the workplaces that we provide for people. So, as that changing nature of the work we do continues to happen, we’re going to have to re-evaluate what the role of workplaces are. Not simply a place that we have to go to because we need access to tools, access to servers it, and access to equipment, because, let’s face it, over the last two decades, that’s become less and less of a demand. We don’t have to go into our offices now to access all the information we need to do our work. So i think the change will be the role of working environments, not necessarily the working environments themselves.

Which metrics do you think are the most interesting to analyse to tell you about your workspace?

For too long we have been focused on cost matrix, on utilisation data, on building data and we have to , not forget them, but put them in second place. What we need to bring to the forefront now is people data. We need to understand how people are behaving in environments, how they are engaging with their organisations, how they come to work, what work they do when they’re there. Use [this data] to allow us to put the other building data as context. If we’re creating amazing experiences, that is going to have an impact on cost. But actually we should be using that as a frame of reference, not our primary data. So for me, if we can see a shift away from purely building metrics to one that is more about organisational, and particularly, people metrics.


For more on the workplace discussion IWFM’s first national conference focuses on ways to embrace the workplace opportunity and cement its role as core to a successful business operation. It has been curated to provide professionals with the key insights, skills and inspiration. Visit www.iwfmconference.org

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