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5 Key Facility Management Trends to Expect in 2021 & Beyond

January 12, 2021

Most of us can agree that 2020 was a year unlike any other, especially for facility management professionals. With new COVID-19 safety protocols and expectations in place, the landscape for coming years has drastically changed.

Luckily, 2020 has primed facilities professionals to stay positive, think on the fly, and develop creative solutions to new challenges, so we’re excited to see how the industry will continue to evolve going forward.

To ring in the new year, here are five key trends and developments that the facility management industry will see in 2021 and beyond.

Trend #1: Facilities teams and the work they do will become more visible within their organizations.

Facility team members have historically worked in the shadows , taking extra care to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly for employees, guests, tenants and other occupants of a building without interrupting what is going on. While excellent customer service is nothing new to facilities workers, COVID-19 has made it even higher a priority for many organizations.

For example, 2021 will see an improvement in the employee experience and how spaces will be reallocated and utilized in safer, more efficient ways. Facilities workers will need to determine how to deliver workplaces that people truly want to be in, especially as work-from-home employees begin to return to the office. Excellent custodial services, new working arrangements, and safe facilities will no longer be nice to have; it’ll be a requirement for workers.

Many facilities workers have become accustomed to completing their work without interruption, but going forward, they’ll need to become more visible within their organizations. Whether cleaning, disinfecting or simply building relationships with occupants, they’ll need to be readily available and better understand what their stakeholders ask for.

Top 5 Facility Management Trends for 2021 Infographic - by AkitaBox

Top 5 Facility Management Trends in 2021 Infographic CTA

Trend #2: COVID-19 safety protocols will become an expectation among occupants.

As the COVID-19 vaccine gets rolled out, it may be tempting to get ahead of ourselves and join a giant mask burning party (all jokes aside, please dispose of masks responsibly!) However, there is still a lot of uncertainty about when most of the population will be vaccinated. For some industries like higher education, the majority of occupants may be last on the list to receive a vaccine.

When planning, it’s best to be overly cautious with budgets and protocols in 2021 and beyond. It’s safest to assume that COVID-19 protocols and procedures will need to be in place for all of 2021. Even after the vaccine is widely distributed, many of the processes that were implemented due to COVID-19 may become permanent due to occupant and customer demands. For example, temperature checks, PPE stations, self-assessment health forms, and deep-cleaning routines may become the new norm.

Take the time to understand what your occupants and customers want and need going forward. The easiest way to do this is to send a survey, host interviews, or hold town hall meetings to create discussion.

Trend #3: A rising need for IoT, artificial intelligence and connected devices may lead to increased security risks.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a hot topic lately. As futuristic as it sounds, facilities teams have been using this technology for years. In fact, if your building has any equipment sensors that connect to a software notification system, you’re already using IoT. Still, many have questions about how this technology will truly work in their buildings in 2021 and beyond.

Connected device usage is growing, especially among cutting-edge organizations and industries. For example, healthcare patients have, on average,  up to 20 connected devices monitoring them at once. While your HVAC system certainly doesn’t need that many, consider the number of buildings and vital assets you have that provide hundreds, if not thousands of useful data points every year. This is the beauty of internet-connected devices: they’re able to automatically record this information for you in an easy-to-digest format.

Connected devices, as well as remote monitoring and control, enable facilities teams to manage buildings with minimal physical contact (which has been a great option during the COVID-19 era). However, more connected devices may mean more digital “entry points” to your organization’s data. Even getting access to a room sensor could open the door to personal, health, or financial records.

In the new year, buildings that have been slow to adopt IoT may be pushed to move forward with implementation. Facilities teams will need to collaborate with IT departments more closely to ensure security of all internet-connected devices.

Trend #4: Managing an accurate capital budget will start with identifying deferred maintenance needs.

While 2020 was certainly a year of ingenuity and innovation, it was also a year where many industries and organizations took a major hit from COVID-19 and shifts in business. Maintenance and operations budgets can’t be drastically cut, but capital budgets can. 

No matter the organization, capital budgeting time is a stressful and difficult time for facility teams who too often are relying on outdated facility condition assessments and forced to make educated guesses at upcoming capital needs. Though tracking and prioritizing these upcoming costs can be overwhelming for some facility teams, it is more important than ever to project these costs accurately.

Facilities teams need better data to more accurately predict what capital improvements need to happen and what can be deferred, not just to know what is upcoming, but also to make a convincing case to a CFO or budget holders. Understanding what deferred maintenance you have will be the first step to managing capital budgets and making them work for your organization in 2021 onward.

Trend #5: Companies will outgrow their CMMS solutions.

CMMS solutions have long offered affordable solutions for managing maintenance activities within facilities. However, they are often limited outside of that maintenance strategy, often requiring additional software to solve the many challenges facilities teams face as their responsibilities grow. Many CMMS providers also have archaic software infrastructure, making it difficult to integrate them into other systems.

Data-driven decision making is becoming a requirement for facilities teams across industries. If facilities teams want to deal with the pressures of 2021, they’ll need to arm themselves with the right data to be successful. More specifically, facilities teams will need software that can not only manage their maintenance, but help solve other challenges they face — all under one roof and in a system that can work openly with BMS, BAS, and other building systems.

There will also be a demand for easy-to-use systems as Baby Boomers retire and a digital-first generation enters the facilities work force. Finding the right facility management software solution will be vital to having a successful year with decisions that are backed by accurate, reliable data.

What’s next for the facility management industry?

Change can be scary, but we’re excited to see the new developments and trends that are already appearing in the facility management industry. How has your organization adapted to COVID-19 concerns and others? What are you most looking forward to in 2021? Leave a comment below to let us know.

To 5 Facility Management Trends for 2021

Mitch Comstock

Former Product Marketing Manager and Innovator for AkitaBox.

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