No End To Office Building Complaints

April 2, 2004
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If anybody here thinks he or she has a rough job, a recent release from IFMA — the International Facility Management Association — indicates nothing can be as bad as working as an office-building manager.

The proof lies in a compilation of workplace complaints that IFMA recently released to the media.

As a matter of fact, the compilation is based on the third in a series of surveys IFMA has conducted among its members — not apparently with the idea of solving anything, but for the sake of the comradeship that comes with shared misery.

And while one of the facilities management industry’s top concerns today is maintaining building security, the managers’ attention necessarily is yanked back to one chronic and constant complaint.

Namely, it’s that the office is too hot.

Or too cold.

Or both.

Actually, during the first survey 13 years ago, of the top 10 complaints, “too hot” ranked first and “too cold” ranked second.

The 2,400 manager-members of the international association swung into action in response to that complaint, so that by the time of the second survey seven years ago, “too cold” placed first and “too hot” was runner-up.

Last year’s survey indicates that the managers still are erring on the side of refrigerants — or perhaps overreacting to global warming — because the “too cold” camp still has the hotties in second place.

What’s not clear from the survey is whether the same people are complaining of being too cold or too hot all year long, or whether their perception of interior climate veers from one extreme to the other depending upon seasonal attire and the building’s weather-worthiness.

Next in the hierarchy of building complaints are: (3) poor janitorial service, (4) insufficient conference space, (5) insufficient storage and filing space at workstations, (6) poor quality indoor air, (7) insufficient workstation privacy, (8) inadequate parking, (9) computer glitches, and finally — edging into the top 10 for the first time this year — too much noise (possibly from the overworked air conditioning).

None of this, by the way, applies to managers of hotels. For six decades now, their chief worry has been patrons who leave the shower curtains outside the tub.

Making life doubly frustrating for facilities managers trying to juggle worker complaints is the overarching management complaint: facility management costs too much.

Management tends to have a few other complaints. But some managers reported that those complaints tend to be magnified because a few managers have the habit of demanding that facility managers drop everything and address management complaints instantly, no matter how trivial.

And here is a smattering of the trivial complaints that IFMA compiled — the sort of things that send facilities managers to the medicine cabinet for Bayer or Excedrin while also leading them to the conclusion that some workers have too little to do:

  • An executive couldn’t find the beer in his refrigerator.

  • Exudations from the potpourri on the receptionist desk were reported to be killing the tropical fish in the wellness center one floor below.

  • The bathrooms are boring.

  • “The electromagnetic field from elevator motors makes my computer screen wavy and I get seasick.”

  • “I don’t like the color of my extension cord.”

  • There’s too much natural light.

  • There’s too little natural light.

  • The carpet is too thick.

  • The carpet is unsightly.

  • The carpet is the wrong color, making an employee ill.

  • We should carpet this place.”

  • An employee alleged “my workstation isn’t located in a place that’s going to get me a promotion.”

  • A worker complained that the overhead fluorescent lights were bombarding his brain with electrons.

  • A manager noted that the vending machine was out of Cheetos and suggested that it not happen again

  • An employee angrily declined to move his Star Wars action figure set so that Housekeeping could clean his office. 

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