by @paulcarder (References at footer)

You are probably quite familiar with the term “evidence-based design” (or EBD) as a corporate real estate, FM or workplace professional. In fact, there is a new EBD Journal. You may not have heard of “evidence-based management”, but it is a logical extension of practice started in healthcare, where ‘evidence’ to support decisions is clearly vital, and must be based on science (not just opinion). I’m sure we have all witnessed management decisions seemingly made on the basis of personal choice, politics, or fad. So, bringing sound evidence in to support management decision-making must be a good thing.

Denise M. Rousseau, Ph.D., is the H.J. Heinz II University Professor of Organizational Behavior Management Collaborative at Carnegie Mellon University, and editor of one of a number of books on the subject, including “The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management”.

Denise Rousseau and Eric Barends (2011) applied the principles to human resource management (HR), and open their paper on ‘becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner’ with a useful definition:

Evidence-based HR (EBHR) is a decision-making process combining critical thinking with use of the best
available scientific evidence and business information.

It seems to me that this practice could (and should) be applied to Facilities Management (FM).

Evidence-based FM

There has been much discussion in recent years about the similarities between HR and FM, and the need for the two disciplines to work more closely together in organisations. This lengthy extract from Rousseau & Barends (2011), I believe, could equally have been written about FM:

Managers have diverse disciplinary backgrounds. HR practitioners have no single credential that authorises their expertise, and the occupation is open to those with no degree and those with several. There are no regulatory requirements regarding the education or knowledge an individual must have to become a manager or an HR professional. The HR industry associations SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) administer examinations to certify member expertise. At present, the SHRM exam is not highly evidence-based, instead supporting industry standard practice. In contrast, CIPD (active in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere in Europe) focuses more on science-based knowledge and aligns with masters’ level university programmes throughout Europe.

If you swapped ‘HR’ for ‘FM’,…’SHRM’ for ‘IFMA’,…and ‘CIPD’ for ‘RICS’ this statement could almost be written about FM. So, what is good for HR could be good for FM.

Example: knowledge-worker productivity

One leading consultancy in the UK, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) has been digging into this subject, with their research partners, the Center for Evidence-Based Management (CEBMa). Together, using an evidence-based management approach, they have identified what they call “the 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” (AWA, 2015). This has been a thorny subject for many years, with a lot of opinions being traded, but often without a scientific approach. AWA and CEBMa have put aside opinion, and reviewed 161 papers, after screening for relevance excluding 102, leaving 59 relevant studies.

(nb., you can read the full process in Barends, Plum & Mawson (2015) listed below. This is part of Eric Barends’ published PhD thesis, and therefore detailed and robust).

Having worked with a few consultancies and service providers in the FM sector, this level of robust analysis of scientific evidence is rare, in my opinion. And could mark the start of a movement towards ‘evidence-based FM’, if the approach was copied by others in the sector.

The team set out to answer the following key questions:

1.What is “knowledge work”?

2.Which of the factors that have an impact on the performance of knowledge workers are most widely studied and what is known of their effect?

3.How do these factors enhance the performance of knowledge workers and how can they be measured? In addition, what are the implications of the findings for management practice?

Reviewers from CEBMa conducted a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) of the available scientific literature and AWA used its knowledge and experience to translate the academic findings into practical guidelines.

Results: practical guidelines

Eric Barends (2015) PhD thesis, Chapter 5, Annex 1 lists the practical measures (in the form of a useful questionnaire) derived from the scientific literature: Measuring the 6 factors

(The level of each factor can be scored as follows: Strongly agree = 5; Somewhat agree = 4; Neither agree or disagree = 3; Somewhat disagree = 2; Strongly disagree = 1. When the aggregate team score is low (e.g. below 3.5), this is a strong indication for low team performance)

When reviewing the 6 factors below, an FM/Workplace manager could useful consider how the physical working environment provided, and the facilities and services in the FM provision, may help to raise the score to 4 or 5. 

Factor 1: Social Cohesion

1.Members of our team like to spend time together outside of work hours

2.Members of our team get along with each other

3.Members of our team would rather get together as a team than go out on their own

4.Members of our team defend each other from criticism by outsiders

5.Members of our team help each other on the job

Factor 2: Perceived supervisory support

1.My supervisor is willing to extend him-or herself in order to help me perform my job the best of my ability

2.My supervisor takes pride in my accomplishments at work

3.My supervisor tries to make my job as interesting as possible

4.The organization values my contribution to its well-being

5.The organization strongly considers my goals and values

6.The organization really cares about my well-being

Factor 3: Information sharing and TMS (transactive memory system)

1.Our team members share their work reports and official documents with other team members.

2.Our team members share their experience or know-how with other team members.

3.Information to make key decisions is freely shared among the members of the team

4.Our team members trust that other members’ knowledge is credible.

5.Our team members are confident of relying on the information that other team members bring to the discussion.

Factor 4: Vision and goal clarity

1.This team has clearly defined goals

2.Our team goals are clear to everyone who works here

3.It is easy to explain the goals of this team to outsiders

4.I have specific, clear goals to aim for in my job

5.If I have more than one goal to accomplish, I know which ones are most important and which are least important.

Factor 5: External communication

1.Our team members use information obtained from external teams everyday

2.Our team is contacted by outside teams for knowledge and information

3.Our team scans the external environment for ideas and solutions

Factor 6: Trust

Horizontal trust

1.Our team members withhold information from each other

2.Our team members withhold information from the management

3.Our team members in general trust each other

Vertical trust

1.The management trusts the team to do their work well

2.The team members can trust the information that comes from the management

3.The management withholds important information from the team members

4.The team members are able to express their views and feelings towards management

Application to FM and Workplace/management

It can be readily seen how the evidence from the almost 60 papers reviewed in detail has delivered these ‘6 factors’ as set out above, and how a consultant or in-house change manager could drop these factors into a spreadsheet tool and create a useful survey tool.

It is less easy to see how an FM/Workplace manager could use these ‘6 factors’ directly. But it does provide a sound list of the factors which affect knowledge worker productivity, working in organisations and teams. However directly applicable, the advantage of this evidence-based approach, above the many lists created by knowledgeable consultants and FM practitioners, is that the ‘6 factors’ above can be traced back to scientific evidence from peer-reviewed academic journals.

Academic partnerships to create new knowledge in FM

What is set out above is a great example of a consultancy partnering with academics, to bring robust academic findings into FM and Workplace practice. It would be good for the developing FM profession to see far more of these academic-practitioner partnerships, which would deliver knowledge into FM practice. There is a large amount of peer-reviewed academic knowledge ‘locked away’ in academic journals which, as AWA and CEBMa have shown, can be collated and transferred into practice.



Advanced Workplace Associates, AWA (2015) “The 6 factors of knowledge worker productivity” available at: http://www.advanced-workplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/6_Factors_Paper.pdf

Barends, E.G.R., Plum, K., & Mawson, A. (2015). “The Added Value of Rapid Evidence Assessments for Managers and Organizations“; in Barends, E (2015) In Search of Evidence Empirical findings and professional perspectives on evidence-based management, PhD Thesis, VU University of Amsterdam, pp. 93-120. available at http://hdl.handle.net/1871/53248.

Rousseau, D. M. and Barends, E. G. R. (2011), Becoming an evidence-based HR practitioner. Human Resource Management Journal, 21: 221–235 available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227792752_Becoming_an_evidence-based_HR_practitioner

Rousseau, D. M. (2012), The Oxford Handbook of Evidence-based Management, Oxford University Press.


by @paulcarder

A thought for the Easter weekend. You may be going away for a few days – have a great time! I’m staying on a small-holding on Dartmoor Devon, UK, with my youngest daughter, looking after piglets and chickens, and looking out for the cuckoo and barn owl.

Some would call the location remote. Miles from the nearest town. When it gets dark, it is dark. No light! Fantastic stars. And you can see the fox’s eyes a long way off.

But, of course, the house has internet and WiFi… which means, to me, it is not remote. I can call up countless applications, Skype being the most likely in my case, to see the face of almost anyone I am connected to. Most people use some form of video-conferencing tech…even my septuagenarian parents. I have seen a five year old using it quite happily to talk to his father in the USA.

So, as a PhD student looking at work, workplaces, and ‘other’ places where work happens, I am somewhat skeptical every time I see the term remote-work in the papers which I am wading through.

Here is a phrase in front of me now – “working remotely from the organisation”. In a peer-reviewed academic paper. What does that mean? I believe that it is implied that working in a different place from the organisation’s offices is “working remotely”. Try it yourself: enter the words “working remotely” into Google Scholar (select: exact phrase; anywhere in the article) you’ll get 4,320 results. Pick a few, and I’ll bet you find there is mostly an implication, but not an explanation, for why it is “remote”.

Charles Handy (1995) gave his view of the rules of trust. One of which being that “trust is not blind” and requires face-to-face interaction, which cannot happen to the same extent when working ‘remotely’. But that was 20 years ago, when teleconferencing was rare (I did my first at BP in 1997, when for the first five minutes we could see the ear, one shoulder and a gesticulating hand of one European manager, until he adjusted and we got the grainy picture of his face). Now, as mooted above, a 5-year old can do it, and the image is fast and clear.

If we can see someone’s face clearly, read their facial expressions (consciously and unconsciously, as we all do every day), converse freely, how “remote” are we really? I would argue, far less remote than we may be to someone on the other side of the same office, who sends an email instead of either picking up the phone or walking across the office to have a face-to-face chat (yes, we have all done that… even you!).

Trust is not diminished necessarily over distance, but by lack of familiarity. You can be “remote” standing in the same room, if you don’t know the other person.

Handy (1995) went on to say, “It is unwise to trust people whom you do not know well, whom you have not observed in action over time, and who are not committed to the same goals”. That applies regardless of contemporary technology.

Remote-work could therefore be said to be working with people you don’t know, you have not worked with (or known by reputation), and whom you are not sure are committed to the work you are doing.

Remote-work is little to do with distance (or place), and far more to do with ‘time served’ and reputation. It is all down to trust. If you trust someone, it doesn’t matter where they are.

If you don’t believe that, talk to my partners, Dr Jim Ware and Marcus Bowen. We have run our little business, globally, for 5 years…never once have we all been in the same place at the same time! “Remote-work” means nothing to us. Trust means everything.


Handy, C. (1995). Trust and the Virtual Organization. Harvard Business Review.


“What do you do, Paul” asked my doctor, many years ago. In those days, I could never be bothered to explain what Facilities Management was – it is more well known now – so I said “I’m a surveyor”….and jokingly asked, “do you have any advice, specific to a career in property?” (that’s real estate, btw). Rather to my surprise, he said, “Yes – watch out for Square Foot….or Feet, if you are unlucky!”

Now, to be fair, I had heard a lot about Square Feet. But, I thought it was something that particularly affected the Brokers/Agents. I was therefore surprised, as I said to my doctor:

But, I’m in corporate real estate. Its not so much about land and buildings; it is more about people – if I don’t spend too much time with Brokers/Agents, will I be OK?

He looked over his spectacles, as only a doctor can do (they do an elective at medical college, on how to look serious, using commonly available ‘props’ – like spectacles). He replied:

It is not catching. There is a nerve that runs from your heel, up the back of your legs, across your back, and up your neck into the brain. It’s the same nerve you feel if you step off something and land heel-first. So, walking around buildings, every day, for many years, on hard surfaces, tends to deaden the nerve endings……called Square Foot (or Feet).

I said to the doctor, I cannot see how that is going to affect me. I tried to explain that corporate real estate is different – we are more likely to be in plush corporate offices with thick carpets to protect the heel…! And we don’t spend much time with Brokers/Agents, or in West End wine bars.

That was all a long time ago, and I had forgotten about it. Until, last night, I entered into a Twitter debate (I’m @occupiers ) with some late night revelers on their way home from a wine bar. To my shock, there was a psychologist talking about square feet…..I was taken aback. I joined in, but they were all worse for wear, and I was sober, like the nominated driver at the office party – it wasn’t as funny.

I have spent my 20 year career saying that Square Feet was an affliction that only gets surveyors – property/ real estate people. It seems to have spread, even to experts in the human psyche. Square Feet seems to be a pernicious condition.


Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of facilities professionals at the June luncheon meeting of the Houston Chapter of IFMA (International Facilities Management Association).

My topic was “Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of Facilities Management.” That’s the title of a research project that Paul Carder and I led in 2o12 for RICS (The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). We did the research in our respective roles at Occupiers Journal as Managing Director (Paul) and Global Research Director (me).

The presentation was well-received; it addressed four broad questions:

  1. Why isn’t FM a more strategic resource?
  2. What does it mean to be “strategic”?
  3. How are FM groups organized and managed today?
  4. What do FM leaders need to do to become a more valued resource?

And here is the presentation, just posted on Slideshare and downloadable at this link:


We are fortunate to be working with the RICS, sponsors of our “Raising The Bar” strategic FM study, as mentioned in an earlier blog. So we know how serious they are about raising their ‘own bar’ in relation to corporate real estate and facilities management in particular.

We were please to hear, yesterday at CoreNet Global #CNGLondon Summit, that RICS and CoreNet have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together on a number of areas.

So this is just a note to say, “Good Luck” to both parties, and we give you our full support – as I’m sure will many others. The two most important membership organisations in the corporate real estate field, working together, with different strengths, has been a long time coming…..it is a great start for a single global ‘voice’ for #CRE.

Paul Carder, @occupiers


… and receive a complimentary Executive Summary of our findings.

As part of OJL’s first GRID study, “Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of Facilities Management” we are conducting a brief online survey to help us understand how organizations (both private and public sector) are organizing, governing, and measuring the performance of the facilities function.

If you complete the survey in the next two weeks (before May 18) we will send you a free copy of the summary of our findings once the report is completed in June:


Please help advance the profession of facilities management by participating in the survey. We are addressing questions such as:

  • How is the facilities function organized? Where does it report in the organization?
  • How is the performance of the facilities team measured and evaluated?
  • Which facilities functions are performed in-house, which are outsourced?
  • How does your organization achieve strategic alignment between facilities and the business? Between facilities and peer functions such as finance, HR, and IT? What mechanisms are in place to accomplish such alignment?
  • How does the head of facilities balance demands between day-to-day operations and longer-term strategic activities?

Please invest 15 minutes today to complete this simple survey:


Thank you!

Please direct any questions or comments to Jim Ware, Global Research Director for OJL.


Great beginning to the Corenet Summit this evening. Opening reception was on the flight deck of the USS Midway, docked in the San Diego Harbor. It was an important aircraft carrier during World War II. Sobering reminder of what war is all about. And a fun time remembering that wonderful Tom Cruise/Kelly McGinnis movie “Top Gun.”

So tomorrow we move on to more serious things, like how workplaces contribute to business innovation and creativity. Opening session is thought leadership by John Kao, of jamming.com.

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