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Active Workspace Management’s Smart Technology Survey 2018 reveals growing interest in workplace user apps. FMJ reports on the findings and what they might mean for the future of FM service delivery

In May, Active Workspace Management partnered with FMJ to canvass readers’ views on the topic of workplace user apps. Respondents were asked 21 quick multiple-choice questions to find out if these apps can enhance levels of FM service, how they are currently used, and attitudes towards their use in the future. The findings, which are reported in detail in this article, reveal that workplace user apps are a growing component of FM service delivery, but they also highlight challenges around the alignment of workplace technology development with user needs.

The rise and rise of smart technology is giving people the ability to use devices like smartphones at work. With home and remote working on the rise, organisations are increasingly demanding that their employees use these smart devices to carry out a range of work-based tasks, including basic communication, reporting and scheduling.

In theory, workplace user apps can help facilities managers to deliver a better service by ensuring that employees have a broader understanding of how a workplace functions and operates. One good example of this can be found among desk-booking apps that can be downloaded on to a smartphone. If an organisation has a new agile working policy in place, employees will not be able to use the space without the app to show them which desks are occupied and which are free, potentially throwing the floor into chaos.

In total, almost 100 people took FMJ’s anonymous survey. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest group to participate were FM professionals who work in traditional office spaces. A huge 65 per cent claimed to work in an office, while the remaining respondents were split fairly evenly between manufacturing, retail, public buildings and educational facilities.

When respondents were asked to describe their style of communication with workplace users, 35 per cent claimed that it is “proactive”, 33 per cent said it is “reactive”, and 29 per cent said it is “informative”. These answers could be seen as encouraging for an FM industry that is constantly trying to lose its image as a reactive function, focused on responding to building maintenance problems and service issues. They also highlight the possibility of a real appetite among FMs to use workplace apps for more strategic purposes.

The survey, however, reveals that FM industry professionals are lukewarm about workplace users’ understanding and use of FM services in their environment. The majority (61 per cent) answered with “OK” and only 18 per cent responded with “easy”. Similar results appear when the focus turns to visitors to the workplace. Just under half the respondents claimed that visitors’ use and understanding of workplace apps is simply “OK”.

Clearly, there is much room for improvement if FM professionals are to view their communication efforts as proactive. This has led to Active Workspace Management launching Active Apptivates, providing apps designed to deliver consumer-style functionality and user-friendliness in the workplace.

It is, of course, important to determine the mobility of workers, as this has an undeniable impact on the way workplace apps are used. Work is becoming more flexible. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 4.8 million self-employed people in the UK last year (16 per cent of the labour force). This means fewer people are tied to their desks on a permanent basis, as they work from home, remotely or on the move. According to the survey, 58 per cent of respondents said they work in environments with agile workers (although 93 per cent said their workplace retains permanent employees).

It’s clear there needs to be an alignment between the FM service and the demographic of the people working within a space. FM, for example, must adjust its service in an environment where workers may be more transient. When respondents were asked if this is the case, 60 per cent either said “to a reasonable degree” or “yes, totally”. But that leaves close to 40 per cent believing there is a disconnect.

When respondents were asked how important they feel workplace user apps are to enhancing levels of FM service, 40 per cent said “moderately important” and 35 per cent said “very important”, which provides a strong indication that technology is now crucial to the FM role. There is a huge amount of noise around new technologies and their potential to irrevocably change the way individuals and organisations work, and it can be difficult to determine what is genuine and what is hype. This survey at least seems to suggest that facilities managers now depend on technology to do their job effectively.

About Sarah OBeirne


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