New research published today by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) points to encouraging developments in the workplace and facilities management (WFM) sector, despite historic concerns about the future of offices and workspace.

The latest edition of IWFM’s annual market report draws on a record number of survey responses and builds on recent progress to provide even more insights, including that:

  • More organisations have increased the area of space managed in the last 12 months than have decreased it.
  • Workspace investment is more likely to have increased than decreased.
  • The sector is investing in key areas to drive productivity and sustainability, notably carbon reduction, technology and skills. 60% of organisations indicated that they had increased investment in carbon reduction solutions in the last 12 months.

Taken together these results make two important findings: the sector is investing in the right areas for the future, and the future is looking increasingly bright, with real confidence in the positive momentum of the sector and the value that it can add. The central message to organisations in WFM is ‘keep investing – the tide is turning.’

While many uncertainties and challenges remain for the sector, the research highlights the great opportunities that lie ahead for those seeking to optimise workplace strategy and invest in both their people and spaces.

A concerning finding from the 2024 research is of real inertia in WFM budgets, despite significant inflationary pressures. The percentage of organisations that increased budgets ticked up by just one percentage point in the last year from 39% to 40%, while 33% of respondents reported a drop.

IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis said: ‘Budget inertia is clearly a concern, but I am more concerned about the opportunity that organisations are missing in failing to realise the value that workplace and facilities managers bring and the significant benefits they can unlock. We need to push even harder with that message.

On the impact of mandated office returns, also highlighted in the report, Hausmanis added: ‘What is clear is that FM organisations can’t rely solely on increased numbers returning to offices for future growth but have to adapt strategies to include innovative support for those working on a hybrid and homeworking basis, especially if they are to retain top talent.’

This year, IWFM offers even deeper and wider insights into the current state of the market, drawing on new survey questions and a brand new section on the historic performance of the FM market, based on ONS data. This enhanced data allows IWFM to detail a broader picture of the value of workplace and facilities management, demonstrating its value as employer, purchaser and change driver across the workplace agenda.

Enhancements to IWFM’s 2024 survey include new questions on future drivers of growth. An expanded EDI question set provides richer and more actionable insights, alongside sustainability questions which directly link to IWFM’s Sustainability Survey 2023 findings. With the UK general election now scheduled for 4 July, IWFM examines how WFMs are feeling and what the next government should do to better support the market.

Throughout the report, IWFM and experts provide commentary on the findings and notes on how they link to other IWFM resources and policy work. IWFM prioritises five findings that are most important to the future of the sector and offers insight on how best to leverage them.