Company Culture And The Role Of A Facility Manager

Have you ever thought on how is the company culture being impacted by the facilities you sit in? And when you go about to build a new office what are the things you consider when designing the space? Would you do it yourself, hire external designer, ask the team, or you just don’t care and let the landlord build something that is good as long as it has a company logo all over the place? I have built offices in couple of countries and had teams working in temporary spaces that were very different from the ultimate space where they moved in.

After going through this several times there is one thing very obvious to me: the physical layout of the space has an incredibly huge impact on the culture and atmosphere within the organization. This also means that your “Facility Manager” (being it a real person with full-time job or just a virtual role) has enormous impact on what company and organizational culture you build.

Understanding of business and the desired culture

It may not be obvious but a great facility manager needs to have a good understanding of the business, who the customers are, and how the business model works. What are the critical interaction within the company? Which departments needs to work closely together and how they need to communicate to achieve their goals? How the interaction with customers looks like and what is the desired customer experience? Understanding how the products are build, financed, marketed, sold, and supported is important to understand how the layout of the office should look like, who should sit where, and what infrastructure and technologies needs to be built in to support it.

Knowledge of design and ergonomics

Once it comes to design of individual offices, meeting rooms and work stations another skills set comes to play. Good understanding of design, ergonomics and human behavior will help the facility manager to design a space that is conductive to effective work while having no negative impact on health of the employees. Even if you decide to outsource the design you still need to have your say. And keep in mind it is not that much about corporate design guidelines, for that you can just sent to your designer color codes and vector graphics of company logo. It is much more about designing space that will foster the necessary level of communication and collaboration, and that will send the right message to employees, as well as visitors and promotes the company values.

Partner, vendor, and project management

Good facility manager also knows how to represent the company towards partners, vendors, suppliers and can have a big impact on public relations and how is the company seen by external stakeholders. This means being a good sales person who can enthusiastically talk about the company and its values, who can find the right vendors and suppliers who will fit well with the company culture and are willing to adjust their services to comply with company’s needs.

Good facility manager also needs to have excellent project management skills, understand how to get things done in a collaborative manner, needs to be able to negotiate good deals, and be able to anticipate risks and mitigate them.

Creative thinking and collaboration

Good facility manager doesn’t do all by herself. It of course depends on actual culture you are trying to build but having the ability to involve other employees, make them enthusiastic about helping to build or maintain the facility can greatly improve the impact she can have on the organization. This often means some creative thinking and willingness to try new things and adopt ideas coming from other people. And it is especially important when the facility manager has a global role and needs to build offices across locations and cultures. What works in one country may not have the same impact in another one.

So next time you are hiring your facility manager take it seriously. It is not some obscure, invisible, bureaucratic role, but it is a role that can have an enormous impact on the culture in your organization and business success of your company.


How does your company decide on what the office space should look like? Do you have the same space across all locations or is every team doing something different? What is the impact this have on communication, collaboration, and culture of the company?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

Leaders shouldn’t hide

Over the years in various management roles I was regularly part of a discussion about something as trivial as “office layout”. Very often the argument was around closed offices versus open space. Often I heard that open space is too noisy and people don’t perform well because they cannot concentrate on their task. At the other hand closed offices don’t create feeling of one team and lead to low performance as people shirk the work. As usually in similar situations arguments of both sides have some merit and what it comes down is a company culture. Since I’m a strong believer in open space/floor plans let me debunk some of the arguments for the managerial offices.

Even in companies that value transparency, teamwork and common sense of ownership there seems to be one constant: manager gets his office. The higher the manager the bigger and more secluded office he gets. This is a very interesting notion and I have to ask “Why are leaders hiding?” and more importantly “How can you expect to lead anyone if you are hidden and your troops don’t see you all day long?” Let me go through some of the arguments proponents of “managerial offices” use and provide an alternative thought.

1. I need the office so everyone sees I’m the boss (it means status)

Shouldn’t people find who the boss is by other means then looking into the office? Yes, I understand that the ancient kings got their palaces, crown jewels, and other means to show who the boss is, but in modern society and especially in modern company these trinkets lose value. Daniel H. Pink describes in his work “Drive” a notion he calls “motivation 3.0”. Based on his research and research of others, he concludes that keeping the team motivated by letting them do interesting and meaningful work is much more powerful than using the old carrot and stick approach. If you as a leader don’t use the same means to motivate your subordinate as kings used to, then you shouldn’t need the throne either. People appreciate you more if they see you as someone more equal, who can help when needed, who is approachable, can be used to bounce ideas off and who gets his respect by being part of the team.

2. I need office because I have lots of one-on-one conversations with my team members

Why should a leader have so many confidential one-on-one meetings? Shouldn’t the whole team have the same information if they are asked to work together towards the common goal? If these are regular project status reports wouldn’t it make bigger sense to walk to the team and talk to everyone at their workstation? They can all jump-in and think collectively about your question and all have the same understanding of your expectations. It gives the team a feeling of inclusion and leads to bigger transparency.

3. I need office to have confidential meetings

It is a variation on the same topic. Yes, there may be a need for some “management level” meetings, for giving really personal feedback on performance and others. But really, how often you need this? And for these relatively rare occasions (let’s say one hour a day) use of a common meeting room is enough. This concept of course leads to office layout that has sufficient number of small suitable meeting rooms.

4. I need a space to think

Agreed. As a leader you need to do your share of strategic thinking. The question is how much of that is needed at each managerial level and how much of that should be one-man-effort instead of team one. As a leader, you want to have your ideas challenged by the team to stay realistic. Moreover, when I think about when and where I got some of my best ideas it was usually a side-effect of working on another problem or having a discussion with someone. And if you really need some time for myself why not to put headset on your ears (or use similar trick) and “hide” temporarily in your spot in open space or a find a small meeting room.

5. I must be able to work without interruption

Too bad, you are probably in a wrong job. You may need some time to prepare, write up a presentation, prepare budget, and other administrative things but most of your job is communication. And communication leads to interruptions. What worked like a charm for me is to put headset on my ears. Anyone can see I’m not available for chat, while I’m still part of the team and don’t hide in the office. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t abuse this too much otherwise it would be worse than being in the office as people my see you as being rude. And remember. As a leader your sole purpose is to lead and be there for your team and “working without interruption” doesn’t really fit that description.

6. I have visits by partners/vendors/customers and I need to host them

Yes, you need to host them, but why in your own office? Aren’t there others who may have visits from vendors, for example your assistant dealing with office equipment? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a meeting room that can be shared by everyone? It would improve image of the company, anyone from your team who needs to host someone would feel better and you still get the space for your fancy meetings.

7. Things work differently in my country/culture

I understand that there might be also some cultural aspects in play. There are cultures where being able to show the status plays a role in management. There are cultures where it might be easier for people to talk to you when you are not surrounded by the rest of the team. If that is the case you may want to meet on some middle grounds. A good idea might be to sit in the open space with the team but in the corner, have a bit higher partition or a bit more space around you. It gives you some of the tools your culture may require for you to be efficient and you still don’t need to hide in office… and again, everything boils down to the company culture you are trying to create.

What are your thoughts? Do you have your own office? What advantages it brings and is there something that you believe it takes away?