E-Handbook:

Facilities planning process balances safety and productivity

Facility managers blend psychology with technology

Today's facilities management professionals were trained on topics like planning and executing operational missions as well as integrating people, processes and technologies to deliver high-quality services. Technologies geared to the facilities planning process have helped these managers handle assets, inventory, purchase orders, predictive maintenance and work assignments.

But no amount of course training and management software could have fully prepared them for a worldwide catastrophe on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and the total upheaval of workplace environments. Against a backdrop of suddenly empty office spaces, facility managers that were focused on lowering costs and delivering comfort to occupants turned their attention to planning and ensuring safe and productive work environments for limited numbers 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 office workplaces. At the core of workplace changes that promote safety, productivity, flexibility and employee experience are AI, machine learning, augmented reality, smart building tools, building information modeling, wearables and advanced HVAC technology.

With the FDA's approval of COVID-19 vaccines, facility managers will need to further upgrade their workplace plans to accommodate a larger-than-anticipated number of returning office workers. Along with physical workspace planning comes a word of advice from a FacilitiesNet Building Operating Management magazine article: "While the new vaccines look extremely promising, they do not promise 100% effectiveness, and for this reason, people will likely remain hypervigilant about their workspace and interaction with colleagues. Thus, current best practices will become the norm to make people safe as well as give them psychological reassurance."

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

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