Optimizing Planning for Facility Management Workloads

Defining FM workload is as simple as defining FM itself—not simple at all. No two facility management departments are alike, and the mix of work varies from time to time, person to person, and place to place.

Any method of estimating facility staff workloads, used alone, may paint an accurate picture of one aspect of your operation, but a distorted view of another. This is because most methods are based on different organizational characteristics. For this reason, they are best used in combination. This article presents several methods, each based on a four-year comparison to present an adequate perspective of typical organizational change and trends. The approaches include workload based on:

  • Square footage of inventory
  • Churn
  • Population
  • Service standards
  • Corporate revenues or other cash flow
  • Business, weather, or other cycles

In the examples that follow, workload is meant to be the total amount of work for strategic operations, maintenance, planning, and management activities performed by each member of the FM staff on a day-to-day basis.

Workload Based on Square Footage of Inventory

If your department has kept or developed an accurate set of historical records, you can easily track the relationship between number of staff and square footage by year. Divide the square footage by the number of facility staff to get a rough idea of how much staff is required to provide service for your inventory as it currently operates. Note that if there are any anomalies, such as unusually high concentrations of special space in one department, this method will have limited use. This method accurately reflects workload for a largely undifferentiated inventory of ordinary office space where the level of service is fairly consistent and predictable.

Item2007200820092010
Gross ft2200,000220,000190,000190,000
FM staff size5555
Staff/ft21/40,0001/44,0001/38,0001/38,000

If this table represented your department, you would next try to associate these numbers with corporate events. If you cannot find precise data, but have been in the department for several years, make at least a general assessment. By analyzing these changes, you can understand how certain changes affected workload in the past.

Workload Based on Churn

The churn rate is a means of measuring the number of employee moves within a given year. This rate is expressed as a percentage and can include the movement of employees and such other factors as workstations, telecommunications and computer equipment, and workspace partitions.

In this approach, the square footage of space altered in a one-year period is divided by the total square footage of the space inventory. The result is expressed as a percentage per year. Square footage of altered space includes renovations, moves, alterations, and furniture rearrangements. Some space may even count more than once if it was affected more than once during a year.

Item2007200820092010
Gross ft2200,000220,000190,000190,000
Renovated ft240,00040,00040,00050,000
Churn rate20%18.18%21%26.3%
FM staff size5555

Examine your staff size in relation to the churn rate and the number of square feet renovated. Based on discussions with your staff, in which year was the facility staff considered the most responsive, especially by your customers? Does the highest degree of responsiveness or customer satisfaction correlate more to space inventory size or the churn rate? Were certain skills in short supply in some years? Was efficiency affected by budgeting? The observations made in this process may be useful in planning the future staff size in those parts of your FM department’s operation that are affected by churn.

Workload Based on Population

Another method is to compare the total number of company employees to your staff size. Divide the number of employees by the number of FM staff. Be sure to include outsourced staff both for the company and the FM department.

Staff2007200820092010
Totalnumber of employees672775650655
Number of FM staff5555
Employees/FM staff134155130131

This method works well for facility management departments serving companies in a strong growth mode. Senior executives engaged in major downsizing may choose to employ this method with the narrow view that if corporate staff is reduced, the facility staff should be reduced proportionately. In a situation such as this, the burden of proof rests with the facility manager to demonstrate that this is not the best measure of facility staff efficiency. It may be appropriate in companies with low churn rates and heavy concentration on routine work orders. However, churn may increase when company population is declining, placing greater demands on the FM department.

Can you ascertain from old project records which departments experienced the greatest variations in staff size during a given year? When the number of employees per facility management staff temporarily rose in 2008, did the workload also rise, or did efficiency fall? Did the time to fulfill work orders increase? Were employees working more overtime? A senior executive looking at these numbers would want to know how the staff responded.

Workload Based on Service Standards

If you have measurable service standards, such as labor hours to perform certain common tasks or times to respond to a request and complete the work, you can build a table that shows the relationship between the items you measure and the space being cared for. Some examples of these relationships are:

  • space inventory size and number of service requests
  • number of facility management staff and number of service requests
  • elapsed time between receipt of service request and completion of the task, and facility management staff size
Item2007200820092010
Space inventory (ft2)200,000220,000190,000190,000
Number of service requests440475553604
Number of FM staff5544
Average time between receipt of request and completion of work2.4 days2.6 days3.5 days4.2 days

This table suggests several clear correlations. As the facility management staff decreased and the number of service requests increased, the average time to complete a job lengthened, even though the space inventory shrank. A clear lack of correlation between the inventory size and the number of service calls suggests that some other force (perhaps deferred maintenance or budget cuts) is at work.

An analysis of the time to complete a service is particularly useful in connection with customer satisfaction and callbacks for the same task. The number of callbacks shows whether your staff is doing the job right in the first place.

Workload Based on Corporate Revenues or Other Cash Flow

Another approach is to correlate facility staff activity to core corporate activity, such as corporate sales, corporate asset value, or earnings per share of stock. The advantage of this approach is that it uses the language of finance to demonstrate the relationship between facility staff and the company as a whole. However, obtaining the most relevant financial data may be difficult.

In this example, a clear downturn in corporate revenues in 2009 apparently halted the capital projects program completely. Outsourcing was also cut back. However, the 33 percent reduction in facility management staff from 2008 to 2009 resulted in a doubling of the average workload for those who handle contracts, even though the capital program was halted.

Item2007200820092010
Corporate Sales$70M$72M$65M$63M
FM subcontracts$700K$750K$400K$430K
Service contracts$225K$250K$210K$200K
Capital projects$50K$50K$0$0
In-house FM staff5555
FM staff managing subcontracts3410
Total FM staff8965
Corporate sales/FM staff$8.75M$8.0M$10.8M$12.6M
FM subcontract $ per FM staff$233.3K$187.5K$400K$N/A

Workload Based on Cycles

You can prepare similar tables to show workload fluctuations during the year. You might consider factors such as seasons and the weather, or the company’s normal business cycle (when new products are introduced or when the budget is done, for example). You might compare these factors to normal retooling time for new products, normal pushes for product delivery, capital project activity, and the number of work orders for air-conditioning, heating, electrical, machinery, and roofing repairs. In turn, these might be plotted against contracting periods for bidding and evaluation or inventory supply lead times for commonly used items.

For example, many public school systems must be renovated and repaired during the summer months, when they will not interfere with classes. For many systems, this crunch occurs in the last quarter of the fiscal year (ending in August or September), just before the start of a new academic year. A substantial portion of the facility staff budget must be held for this work, and a considerable amount of contracting activity is often required. The combination of these factors may involve an unusual budget pattern, high demand on the contracting department, and needs for temporary facility staff or outsourced project managers.

Charting monthly spending on a graph makes it very easy for corporate and financial executives to appreciate the FM workload.

Using These Methods

Each of the comparisons described above helps you and corporate executives understand a different aspect of your operation. However, no single item in isolation can convey an accurate impression of the FM department needs.

These comparisons can and should be used in combination. If you are asked to correlate corporate population and facility staff size, include some data about mitigating factors such as churn rate and outsourcing activity. It is important to answer such questions in an appropriate context and to provide that context. In this way, you can communicate more effectively. You can also demonstrate trends if you have data from enough years to show meaningful comparisons over time. This reinforces the context.

It is the total of these measurements that shows the relationship between facility staff, work, the delivery process, and the corporation as a whole. Used together, these tools are very effective in strategic FM planning, budgeting, and staffing.

More information on this topic is available from the BOMI International course Fundamentals of Facilities Management, part of the FMA® designation program. For more information regarding this course and BOMI International’s education programs, call 800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.