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IFMA weighs in on the working from home vs. office debate

Feb. 26, 2013

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA), the world’s foremost authority on effective facility management strategies, is helping to reshape the way organizations think about their workplaces. The traditional notion of an office as a place you go to do work is giving way to a new perspective that an office is a tool.

“If you start with the basic premise that an office is a tool instead of simply a place you go to work, you can draw some pretty profound conclusions,” said IFMA President and CEO Tony Keane, CAE. “For one thing, a tool can be shaped to do different jobs. You wouldn’t use a hammer to tighten a screw any more than you’d want a law office operated out of an industrial warehouse. IFMA’s 23,000 facility managers are helping organizations shape their offices to meet their unique needs. We’re also realizing that even the best office won’t always be the best place to work. You don’t use the same tool for every job. Some jobs will be better done in the office, while others may be better done remotely. Some employees will always need to be at a desk, while others won’t. Thinking of the office as a tool frees you from the idea that there’s only one way to do every job.”

Keane, and IFMA aren’t just talking theory. They are leading by example. Just last week, IFMA cut the ribbon on its brand new Houston-based headquarters, The Service Center of Excellence. By utilizing leading-edge technology to empower worker mobility, IFMA was able to cut useable square footage by nearly half compared with the old office. This cost-saving, environmentally conscience feat was accomplished even as the organization itself continues to grow its membership, staff and services offered.

By making the office into a tool that supports productivity and then giving employees the flexibility to choose where they work, IFMA empowers them to make informed decisions. Some jobs are best accomplished at a workstation with a dual-monitor, while others benefit from frequent collaboration with coworkers. For them, working regularly from the office makes the most sense. Other employees benefit more from working remotely. And for many employees, the specific tasks of each day govern where they work.

Using a carefully mapped workplace strategy that sought input from 23,000 facility managers around the world, IFMA has realized cost savings and a more sustainable environmental footprint.

The bottom line is this: There is no clear winner or loser in the debate about worker mobility. For some organizations, like IFMA, worker mobility works. For others, like a factory where employees need a physical presence, it doesn’t. Even at the level of individual employees, there is still no clear winner or loser. Some staff at IFMA work from the office every day, while someone at the factory might be able to do their job more effectively from home.

The current trend among the leading-edge facility managers is to think of the workplace as a resource, and then let the employee decide which aspect of the workplace resource is the best fit for their current task. It is about empowering the staff to decide how can they be most effective.

Read more about the mobility features of the Service Center of Excellence here.