As companies debate return-to-office policies amid the Omicron outbreak, a new breed of personnel is running facilities in many workplaces, while C-suite and non-essential workers operate remotely. The responsibility of office management—which includes employee experience, office layouts and systems access management—increasingly is falling to either IT and human resources departments—or is a shared responsibility between the two.
In a recent survey, conducted by workplace solution provider Robin, of more than 400 managers, directors, VPs and executives working in HR, IT and facilities, 39% of respondents said HR oversees office management today. Prior to the pandemic, the survey found that workplaces were managed by a combination of HR, IT and facilities groups (30%) or were evenly split between facilities (23%) and IT (23%) teams.
What it means for HR leaders
According to Zach Dunn, Robin’s co-founder and vice president of customer experience, these numbers indicate a natural shift toward employee experience, which has historically been owned by HR, in regard to physical workplaces. With many employees working fully or partly remote amidst rising resignation rates, HR leaders are now tasked with ensuring that the workplace meets the workplace needs of the employee beyond payroll and benefits.
“This includes collaboration with other groups–like IT and facilities–on the logistics of how and where employees can work but also includes ensuring staff are able to be productive with the tools and settings in which they work,” he says.
“Are they struggling to manage work-life balance? Are they getting their professional development needs met? The pandemic has taken the role of HR and amplified it to be more business-critical than ever.”
The new workplace management landscape presents an opportunity for HR to evolve into a more hands-on participant in an organization’s operation and to take on a greater role at the executive table, says Dunn.
“While some of these roles may be formalized titles of pre-existing activities, we see HR naturally grabbing titles such as Chief Employee Experience Officer and Workplace Director, while IT may angle for positions around workplace strategy,” he says.
However, this new set of responsibilities could lead to HR burnout, Dunn warns.
“Accepting that things will no longer be exactly how they were and emphasizing the new, outsized role employee experience has on workplace management, these teams can best meet the needs of employees by working together, not in siloes,” says Dunn. “The best path forward, as the data shows us, is collaboration.”