05 February 2018 | Steve Brewer
Steve Brewer, partner at workplace design consultancy Burtt Jones & Brewer, argues that FMs need to ask more difficult questions.
Adam Leach makes some excellent points in his piece about ergonomics and agile working (FM World December), but he may be overthinking the problem. What is the point of FM? To manage, maintain, shape and form effective workplaces (of all kinds, not just commercial office spaces). So surely what FMs need to do when faced with any challenge that may or may not involve adapting to DSE regulations or the requirements to allow agile working to flourish is this: just do it.
As workplace designers, we often partner with FMs (we recently completed a scheme with Incentive FM). They are an underrated bunch (that's you, dear reader), but their consistent strengths are adaptability, flexibility and creativity. While they might be criticised by pundits for not being innovative, what they do is respond fantastically to changing situations.
If FMs have a problem to face as workplace matures and evolves faster as a discipline, it is to keep pace with changes. For example, commercial real estate teams will increasingly experiment with co-working principles as they seek to maximise capital revenue from their property portfolios. This will lead to an impact on the shape of those spaces.
FMs must be prepared to ask difficult questions of the client and the client's team of designers and strategists. Often it is the FM's guidance keeping the overall approach practical. There's always room for creativity, but form cannot overrule function. Set-up and specification about things like furniture should be a given, whether it is the responsibility of the design team or the FMs or determined in collaboration. The questions asked by FMs and answered by designers and the client should focus on the organisation's culture, the requirements of the users, and the nature of the brands being represented in the space being created to be managed by the FM team.
So FMs need to get on with being FM, and workplace professionals need to get on with the design, analysis and research. Let's just do it.
Steve Brewer is partner at workplace design consultancy Burtt Jones & Brewer