Facility planning process balances safety and productivity

Today’s facility management professionals have been trained in topics such as planning and executing operational missions as well as integrating people, processes and technology to deliver high quality services. Technologies suited to the facility planning process have helped these managers manage assets, inventory, purchase orders, predictive maintenance, and work assignments.

But no amount of training and course management software could have fully prepared them for a global catastrophe the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and the total disruption of work environments. Against a backdrop of suddenly empty office spaces, facility managers who were focused on cost reduction and occupant comfort turned their attention to planning and ensuring safe and productive work environments for a number limited number of employees returning to the office under COVID-19 restrictions.

As a result, employees returning from remote workspaces have found additions of cameras and sensors, subtractions of desks and chairs, and multiples of hand sanitizers in their reconfigured offices. At the heart of workplace changes that drive safety, productivity, flexibility and employee experience are AI, machine learning, augmented reality, smart building tools, information modeling construction, portable appliances and advanced HVAC technology.

With the FDA’s approval of COVID-19 vaccines, facility managers will need to further improve their work plans to accommodate a larger-than-expected number of returning office workers. Physical workspace planning comes with advice from a FacilitiesNet Building operation management magazine article: “While new vaccines seem extremely promising, they do not promise 100% efficacy, and for this reason, people are likely to remain hypervigilant about their workspace and their interactions with colleagues. Thus, the best current practices will become the norm to make people safe and psychologically reassured.

This handbook examines facilities planning process technologies and techniques that help companies reconfigure, restructure and manage safer and more agile workplaces and office routines.

Louisa R. Loomis