Podcast Ep. 241 recap: Connections, community, and secrets to happiness at work

In episode 241 of Workplace Innovator, host Mike Petrusky speaks with Dr. Tracy Brower, Vice President of Workplace Insight for Steel Case, who shares insights on the changing nature of work and the workplace, the importance of community, and the role of leaders in the current context.

They explore the value of connections and community and journey through the research and personal experiences related to humans thriving at work. Plus, Tracy offers practical advice for facility management and corporate real estate leaders interested in creating great employee experiences for their organizations. 


  • Fundamental changes in the workplace
  • Importance of updating the workplace
  • Role of leaders in setting expectations and providing flexibility
  • Significance of community and connection in work
  • Impact work experience has on work happiness

What you need to know: Workplace takeaways

Takeaway 1

The nature of work has fundamentally changed, requiring updates in the workspace to reflect this shift and maintain employee satisfaction and productivity.

Tracy Brower, Vice President of Workplace Insights at Steelcase, stressed the importance of updating the workplace to reflect the fundamental changes in the nature of work. She mentioned that this not only enhances the workspace but also sends a message of adaptability and responsiveness. She suggested that organizations should adopt practices that offer as much flexibility and choice as possible, creating work environments that people would want to come to.

“One thing that we can do is really make sure that we’re implementing work experiences where collaboration is absolutely prioritized. People want to come in and collaborate and connect,” said Brower. She also emphasized the need for workplaces to provide enough spaces for employees to focus and have privacy, as well as the importance of integrating policies and practices with the physical work environment.

Takeaway 2

Workplace leaders are tasked with providing clear expectations while simultaneously offering their employees the freedom to adapt and express their opinions. 

Brower underlined the importance of transparent leadership in the new work environment. She explained that leaders must provide clear expectations and set certain “guardrails” while also allowing for adaptability and giving employees the opportunity to voice their opinions. This balance, according to Brower, is essential in maintaining employee engagement and encouraging better performance.

“Leaders have this sort of new requirement,” she said. “There’s greater emotional labor required of leaders right now. We’re really looking for leaders that provide great direction and vision, but also that give us the opportunity for involvement and feeling like we have a voice.”

Takeaway 3

The value of in-person interaction at work extends beyond task-related communication, contributing to the social well-being of employees.

Brower also emphasized the importance of in-person interaction for employee well-being and happiness. She pointed out that while digital communication has its place, it doesn’t provide the same level of depth and nuance that face-to-face interaction does. Brower mentioned that even incidental connections made at the workplace contribute to an employee’s sense of value and appreciation.

“Inappropriate ways, right? Like, we bump somebody on the elbow, or we touch them on the sleeve, or we lean forward in a meeting. Right. All those physical manifestations of relationships actually build our feelings about how important we are to somebody else or how known or recognized or appreciated we are by somebody else,” she explained.

Takeaway 4

The workplace has a crucial role in fostering community and helping employees form diverse connections.

Brower highlighted the role of the workplace in fostering community and helping employees form connections. She noted that work is a place where people express their talents, feel necessary to others, and create connections. In particular, workplaces tend to facilitate the formation of more diverse friendships than in personal lives, serving to enhance empathy and the ability to think with others.

“81% of people say they make their more diverse friends at work. So evidence would suggest that in our personal lives, we might be more likely to hang around with people who look like us or think like us or sound like us. But at work, we get more of an opportunity to learn from people and be exposed to people who are different,” said Brower.

Workplace insights

  • Work has fundamentally changed and it’s crucial for workplaces to adapt and show they’re not stagnating.
  • Leaders now have a greater emotional labor requirement, expected to provide clear direction, vision, and expectations while also allowing for employee involvement and adaptability.
  • Work has a new and expanded role in our social well-being, especially as we become more disconnected in our personal lives due to technology.
  • The workplace is an important place for developing deeper relationships, which are critical for our sense of contribution and value.
  • It’s important to update the workplace to better suit people’s needs, use pilots and prototypes to test what works best, measure the impact through continuous feedback, prioritize collaboration, and offer flexibility and choice.

Want more? Listen to the full podcast.

Podcast Ep. 105 Stephen Ballesty

In episode 105 of Asset Champion, host Mike Petrusky talks with Stephen Ballesty about his experience in asset management and facility management, including his many contributions to the IFMA community. They cover the challenges of the built environment, the importance of the ISO 41000 series of standards, and the future of the industry, while offering specific insights and advice on how to take action on ESG priorities. 


  • Stephen’s professional journey in the industry 
  •  ISO Technical Committee for the 41000 series of FM standards 
  • Role of FM in sustainability, resilience, and adaptability 
  • Future challenges for FMs in managing the built environment 

What you need to know: Facility and maintenance takeaways 

Takeaway 1: The importance of global collaboration for facility management 

International collaboration plays an important role in the field of facility management. Stephen Ballesty emphasized the role of the ISO 41000 series as a tool for organizations to enhance the productivity, sustainability, and livability of their built environment. He highlighted the efforts of the ISO Technical Committee 267, which has been working since 2012 and currently includes 51 participating countries. 

“In addressing the global challenges that we all face. The ISO 41000 series provides us with a framework. A framework within which facilities management can demonstrate themselves as the foremost contributor to a more productive, sustainable, and livable built environment for all. And that is the big picture,” he explained. The standards provide context and a toolbox for facility managers to navigate issues ranging from climate change to the circular economy, he added. 

Takeaway 2: Facility management needs approaches that are integrated and sustainable 

Ballesty explained the need to transition from siloed to integrated approaches in facility management, pointing out the importance of holistic thinking and collective responsibility when dealing with the built environment. He also emphasized that sustainability has become a standard practice in the field, with resilience as the current response to global challenges. 

“My advice to your listeners, without borrowing too heavily from Nike because they’ve already used ‘Just do it,’ I would say two things. One is just do something. So don’t wait for what others are doing. There is a lot of good work that can be done, and not only in sustainability, resilience, and adaptability,” Ballesty said.  

“And then the second part of the messaging is, look at integrated approaches. Don’t think in terms of the silos, don’t think in terms of your part of the process. We need to think more holistically as being collectively responsible for managing the built environment. That’s the challenge.” 

Takeaway 3: The role of facility management is evolving in the face of global challenges 

Ballesty highlighted the evolving role of facility management in addressing various global challenges, and stressed the need to prepare for the future, suggesting that adaptability would become the third wave in facility management following sustainability and resilience. He also underscored the value of adopting standards to document and improve organizational practices. 

“If we return to this issue of what are the trends, I think a lot of them are embodied and elevated through ISO standards,” said Ballesty. “And perhaps most importantly in this suite of international FM standards is 4001, our own management system standard, which allows FM organizations to be ISO certified.” 

He concluded: “In addressing the global challenges that we all face, the ISO 41000 series provides us with a framework within which facilities management can demonstrate themselves as the foremost contributor to a more productive, sustainable, and livable built environment for all. And that is the big picture.” 

Asset management insights 

  • Cost reduction remains a key driver in the FM industry, but there is a growing focus on sustainability, resilience, and adaptability. 
  • The ISO 41000 series of FM standards provides a framework for facilities management to contribute to a more productive, sustainable, and livable built environment. 
  • The adoption of these standards has been slow, but they are elevating the role of FM and recognizing the broader agenda of the built environment. 
  • The FM industry needs to prepare for adaptability as the next challenge, following sustainability and resilience. 

Listen to the full podcast here. 

Go deeper. Dive into more episodes of Eptura’s Asset Champion podcasts.