What would a new year be without a look at upcoming facilities management trends? Here at HES, we’re looking at new ideas, solutions to ongoing challenges, and the trends our educational partners are likely to see in 2022.

Read on for a glimpse into our crystal ball – and let us know what you think! Are these the facilities trends school administrators are most likely to encounter over the next 12 months, or do you see others ahead?

1. Changes in the way we use school spaces

Fluctuating space utilization was one of the more challenging trends coming out of the initial pandemic and with the ongoing development of new variants, like Delta and Omicron, it continues to be an important consideration for facilities management planning. To comply with (often fast-changing) rules regarding the number of students in classrooms, hybrid teaching, which splits learning between in-person and remote classes, became a common occurrence during 2021.

While we believe we’re close to the end of COVID-related restrictions on students, the rise of the Omicron variant suggests we’re not there yet. For at least part of the coming year, facilities teams should be prepared to shift priorities for educational clients on short notice. This might mean more intensified cleaning in classrooms as on-campus numbers increase, or a quick button-up of school spaces like theaters, where utilization of the space is suspended for an undetermined amount of time.

As this approach becomes the norm, and client expectations for flexibility increase, the ability to manage these quick turnarounds will require more experienced facilities management teams, new ideas, and creative standard operating procedures.

2. Greater emphasis on environmental responsibility

Environmental issues caused by a changing climate brought severe weather – floods, droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes were very impactful in 2021. We don’t see this changing in 2022 – in fact, if anything, these challenges will be even more front-and-center in the future.

This goes beyond the obvious impact on facilities management teams, who will be tasked with maintaining safer, more secure physical spaces for students with no increase in staffing and in many cases less staffing due to a reduced pool of candidates. The competition for each hire will require higher wages, better benefits, and most importantly, an employee-focused work environment.

It also creates a greater need for ongoing facilities funding, to reduce or eliminate the number of deferred maintenance projects in schools. A maintenance project that could be put off in years gone by could become too great a liability for school administrators facing increased weather events.

Then there are public expectations, too. Steadily increasing numbers of students from kindergarten through college are expressing concern about environmental issues. They want to know what their schools are doing to help. In response, we expect to see a growing emphasis on renovations of school facilities that will improve safety, better manage energy consumption, increase energy efficiency, and reduce a school’s carbon footprint.

3. Focus on planned preventative maintenance

We mentioned above that reducing deferred maintenance projects will be a key aspect of facilities management in 2022. As a result, we see planned preventative maintenance (PPM) in the spotlight this year.

Educational facilities still face budget constraints, but administrators today truly understand the value of PPM. Gone are the days of saving money in the short term by “kicking it down the road,” hoping buildings and equipment hold together. To take advantage of the benefits of PPM, work with a facilities management team that will:

  • Use data to manage and monitor your school’s physical assets
  • Predict optimal maintenance times to prevent breakdowns
  • Extend the lifespan of expensive equipment through carefully timed maintenance
  • Contribute to a stable budget by avoiding emergency repairs

That first bullet point is particularly important. Specialized software allows your facilities management team to track the performance of your school’s assets. Over time, this data, unique to your facilities, helps refine your PPM schedule and improve your program each year.

4. Continued hiring and retention challenges

Wage rates and staffing challenges aren’t necessarily new facilities management trends, but our intuition says they’ll see more emphasis in 2022. With inflation at a 40-year high, wages have increased significantly in the short term. At the same time, the US labor participation rate is at a 45-year low. Together, these forces have created a difficult staffing environment. 

The difference between facilities providers that can overcome hiring and retention challenges and those that struggle will come down to connection, opportunity, and values. 

When we talk about connection, we’re referring to two different kinds. One is the link between schools and their facilities teams. Ideally, your facilities team operates as a seamless extension of your school, fully integrated into your campus culture and aligned with your goals. The other connection is the bond among facilities team members themselves.

If people know they’re respected and see that their efforts matter, they’re more likely to give 100 percent at work. Facilities teams with strong values, clear expectations, and long-term career paths will weather 2022 with better retention and fewer staffing shortages. When choosing a facilities management partner, make sure you’re working with an organization that shares your values and inspires the workers on your campus.

5. Stronger partnership between administrators and facilities management teams

There’s a funny truth to facilities management: Do it right, and most people will never know you’re there. By that, we mean that when classrooms are clean, bathrooms are sparkling, landscaping is beautiful, and the physical environment is comfortable, most students and teachers never give facilities management a second thought. That’s just how it should be.

But when we’re confronted with a crisis like COVID-19, suddenly everyone wants to know how, and how often, your school is cleaned. Since March 2020, administrators have fielded countless questions from their school communities about cleaning, disinfecting, reconfiguring spaces, and managing emergency protocols. It brought attention to the frontline workers who maintain educational facilities – and we see this trend continuing.

For administrators with tried and trusted facilities teams, this is great news. They’ve learned to rely on these custodial, grounds, and operations professionals for experienced problem-solving, and are ready to continue in 2022.

For some schools, however, the past year may have revealed hidden “stress cracks” in their facilities programs. If you’re looking for a collaborative relationship with a team that focuses solely on educational facilities, 2022 could be a great time to consider contracted services. Contracting with outside professionals not only frees up time and energy to focus on your educational mission, but it can also refocus your current team on evolving facilities needs and goals, rather than “This is how we’ve always done it.”

Work with the right facilities management team

Want to know more about building a better facilities program for your educational institution in 2022? Contact us at [email protected]


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