Trends in the Facilities Management sector

Home - World Workplace Europe

Written by Alastair Jeffery

On 17-18th March 2021, MASS attended the World Workplace Europe online conference.


The event was hosted by membership organisations IFMA, RICS, and FM Netherlands. The speakers were people in FM roles, suppliers, and the keynotes were from business philosophers and thought leaders.

The delegates were predominantly internal facility professionals, and there were opportunities to bring together everyone’s experience. Included in the presentations were results from FM sector surveys.

This gave us a broad view of the FM sector, the key topics from which I’ve pulled together here.


Key themes



One of the main findings is that we’ve been on a personal and collective journey since Covid 19 entered our lives, and we’re not finished on the journey yet.


Lockdown 1 was ‘let’s make home-working successful’, and the result was ‘phew, it works’. But this was a short-term view. The employer's reaction to this has been varied and fascinating – some announced very quickly to move to 100% homeworking for the long term. However, it takes about 200 days for new habits to really bed in, and everyone is well beyond that phase. Looking at it now, the restrictions and impacts of homeworking are more prevalent. Hunched over a laptop on the sofa with intermittent wifi is manageable temporarily, but it is very different to long-term working with proper equipment at a comfortable desk and connected at office speeds. Assuming everyone has access to the same things and having no home distractions is unrealistic.


The differences in how people behave, the way they work best, and their personal circumstances play a big part in resisting a one-size-fits-all approach. 


Employers are generally aiming to resolve this by working out how to return to the office in some form. 


A survey during the event showed most people expect to be working from their office 1 day per week very soon if not already, growing to 3 overtime. Nobody expected to be 100% at home, and few expected to be in the office 100%.


Given the focussed time teams are getting together, people are treating attendance days as ‘Events’ or structured Team Days.


A recent survey of staff and wellbeing providers showed 30% of people are mainly working at home now and consequently, 15% of businesses have already shrunk their office space. 


Measuring how people feel showed a negative mental wellbeing impact: 41% of people experience a worse psychosocial work environment. There has been a 15% increase in therapeutic calls to wellbeing providers. 49% of employers say it’s harder to gauge and support staff wellbeing – difficulties can be out of sight. The social aspect of working physically together is considered critical.


In summary, mental and physical health problems are expected to grow. Most people want to return to the workplace, but safely. 

At MASS, we have a hybrid approach. Our weekly team days in the office are very collaborative; our home days are productive; our twice-daily team calls enable discussion and support as well as progress tracking.



Smart buildings will grow in prevalence – managing energy, driving decarbonisation, providing monitoring, delivering automatic maintenance (e.g. better prediction means more accurate preventive maintenance, with just-in-time assessments/replacements). 


More elements will be user-driven and automated such as localised temperature, blinds, lights, space booking.

Platforms will deliver more automation through SLA-driven workflows, and connected assets via the Internet of Things leading to more real-time monitoring and decision making.

There will be more emerging disruptive vendors, acquisitions, and mergers. 

Property Technology aka Proptech is growing fast. The sector is roughly where the Fintech (Financial Technology) sector was 7 years ago.


In summary, there will be a more complex market and solutions, with higher automation factors. However, at MASS we are currently seeing a drive towards more off-the-shelf capability and less customisation.



Future organisations are likely to have a combined division to manage People, Buildings, and Technology – combining traditional HR, FM, and IT departments. The demand is for ‘resilient FM’ i.e. to manage through a crisis, provide business continuity, supported IT infrastructure. More often than before, suppliers are seeing IT-led selection of solutions rather than FM or the users.


A couple of example coverage models were shared, showing factors of 10 e.g. 50 FM users, with 500 FM professionals, for 5000 end users/staff.

The future will involve the continued distribution of work in terms of people and systems, the focus will shift from in-person in-office towards diversification of workplaces including home, office, mobile, and accommodating variable working hours. 


Across workforces, the expectation is for more phased/hybrid attendance rather than full time. Less fixed desk, more hot desk, and meeting space. This is likely to lead to more rented space by the day.


Historical occupancy rates are as low as 50-60%. The mainland Europe expectation was to return in September after the holiday season, only to 40% occupancy.


One example project was given of a new building launch which opened in January 2020, the worst timing possible. The original plan was for 100% office space with fixed desks. By March 2020, 100% of people were working from home.


Post-Covid they are expecting 70% shared desks, 50% hybrid attendance (WFH/office mix).


One floor will be set aside for hospitality, meetings, training rooms. The remainder is assigned for team spaces including breakout areas and scrum/brainstorm rooms.


The new solution requires increased cleaning of increased shared spaces, with automation and monitoring to track usage and cleaning status.


In summary, there will be a closer alignment of FM with people outcomes. Also, the less traditional the attendance, the more management it takes.



The economy has declined more than ever before, bigger than the 2008 crash, but not as bad as initial predictions.


The FM market declined by 3%, it was previously flat.


FM outsourcing has remained flat for the last few years, between 62-66%. 

The worst-hit industry within FM is catering, unsurprisingly.


Suppliers are shifting their value proposition from workplace-based to work-anywhere. Leadership in the sector is focused on sharing best practices and developing products to address changing needs.


2019 focus areas were Sustainability, Technology, Customer-Centric-thinking.


2021 focus areas are Sustainability, Technology, Working Environment.


The challenges for broader society and governments will be public health (not just Covid), infrastructure, work-life, economy, and decarbonisation.


In summary, the FM sector has held up quite well in a volatile economy but needs to be ready to support the challenges of the future in a changing environment.


We’d love to hear your views, please let us know how these findings compare. Call us on 0118 977 8560 or alternatively email us at


If there are any other topics you would like us to cover in our blogs or if you have a story to share, please let us know.





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