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Year in Review: 5 Things We Learned about Facility Management in 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a whirlwind of a year. We binge-watched Tiger King on Netflix. We quarantined. We witnessed “murder hornets” make their way into the U.S, and discovered that Elon Musk named his child “X Æ A-12.” Yeah, we’re not quite sure how to pronounce that name either…

Essentially, this year was the equivalent of ordering a big, juicy hamburger and getting served a sad, limp salad instead. Yikes. Yet in the face of adversity, we’ve found ways to cope and adapt, and we think that’s pretty cool. 

As we look forward to a new year and (hopefully) a return to some form of normalcy, here are some of the most valuable lessons we learned that we’d like to pass on to you. 


Lesson #1: Facility management teams are heroes in disguise.

We’ve always known that facility management workers are rockstars, but this year truly highlighted that in a whole new way. These hard working men and women took center stage in response to COVID-19:

  • They rearranged spaces to accommodate health-related mandates.
  • They designed cutting-edge cleaning protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • They delivered new services to keep people safe and healthy.
  • They worked alongside frontline workers to keep critical facilities operational.

Our healthcare facilities workers shined by taking quick action to support first responders and healthcare workers tending to COVID-19 patients and others. 

A recent AkitaBox survey even indicated that 68% of respondents agree that their facilities team was highly valued and appreciated by their executive leadership team this year. And after this year, the general public is even more aware of the great work they do.

We’re beyond thankful to facilities teams for continuing to keep us safe and ensure that operations run smoothly, no matter the challenges they face. 


Lesson #2: Personal space has taken on a whole new meaning. 

This year has certainly made us more hyper-aware of the spaces we inhabit. We’ve essentially redefined what it means to maintain personal space, and we’ve become even more mindful of health and safety protocols in public spaces.

Facilities workers continued to focus on keeping their occupants safe, especially in 2020. If you stepped foot in any clean, well-sanitized building this year, you can thank a facilities worker for that! Custodial and maintenance workers went above and beyond to make sure we felt safe, confident and at-ease while at work and in critical shared spaces. They also established PPE stations, invested maintenance dollars into cleaning protocols, and adjusted to ever-changing space arrangements and work schedules. 

As remote learning and work-from-home routines become the “new normal,” our facilities workers are challenging the way that facilities are used, taking steps to maximize usage and profitability for their organizations.


Lesson #3: Communication and collaboration is more vital than ever before. 

Facilities workers have always been master communicators. This year, however, has only confirmed that communication and collaboration are imperative, not just within facilities teams, but also with occupants, customers and leadership teams.

One of the most notable things we saw this year was an increased demand for transparency into cleaning plans, disinfection protocols, and COVID-19 response plans. Facilities teams stepped up to the plate by developing robust facility cleaning and disinfection routines that slowed the spread of COVID-19 while also putting occupants at ease. How cool is that?

Facilities workers also worked hard to redistribute budgets and ensure that buildings remained operational, even while empty. Much like a car’s engine, equipment within a building must continually run to maintain functionality, even if no one is using them. Without our facilities workers, plumbing and equipment could have easily fallen into disrepair during quarantine and beyond.


Lesson #4: Implementing new technology is still difficult.

Even the best technology can fall flat. Just take a look at Google Glass, a revolutionary wearable technology that never succeeded because users could not figure out why they needed it in their lives. 

Facility management software (FMS), building management software (BMS), building automation systems (BAS) and many other facility management acronyms are providing facilities teams with access to more data than ever before. 

Even with all the value that these technologies can bring, implementations still fail nearly 70% of the time. Bringing in new technology requires more than just fancy features; it requires a change in culture and a team’s willingness to leverage it.

Want to ensure a smooth transition to new technology in your organization? Here are the three things we’ve discovered you’ll need: Leadership buy-in, proper implementation support and technology training and on-going support.


Lesson #5: Facilities teams are still very reactive to maintenance. 

Did you know that despite most organizations running preventative maintenance schedules, 82% of facilities teams said they were more “reactive” than proactive when it comes to maintenance? (Source: AkitaBox State of Facility Management Report 2021). 

Sure, not all reactive maintenance is bad. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to avoid all forms of reactive maintenance since things are bound to go haywire here and there. But if your team is feeling like they are running on fumes trying to keep up with unexpected maintenance, it might be time to reevaluate your maintenance strategy. (Check out our free tools and resources to get you off on the right foot!)We’ve learned that it’s best to focus on your most commonly occurring issues and work from there. One by one, create a more proactive maintenance plan for each process and roll with it. You’ve got this! Make 2021 the year that you get ahead and stay ahead on proactive vs. reactive maintenance.


What are you looking forward to in the new year? 

Another year means another fresh start, and we’re excited to see how you’ll take your facilities to new heights in the upcoming year. 

  • What lessons did you learn this year?  
  • What’s your greatest advice for other readers? 
  • What are your facilities-related New Year’s resolutions?

Let us know by leaving a comment below. We’d love to hear from you! Don’t forget to subscribe for more kick-butt content coming up this year. 


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