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Connecting our Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the global coronavirus crisis, Mike Petrusky and Madison Dujka are hosting a weekly, interactive livestream version of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. Each Wednesday, at Noon ET, Mike and Madi chat with workplace leaders about their experiences and lessons they are learning, while also taking questions from the live audience about how we can continue … Continue reading "Connecting our Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic"

Connecting our Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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During the global coronavirus crisis, Mike Petrusky and Madison Dujka are hosting a weekly, interactive livestream version of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. Each Wednesday, at Noon ET, Mike and Madi chat with workplace leaders about their experiences and lessons they are learning, while also taking questions from the live audience about how we can continue to encourage and inspire each other during these challenging times. This week’s podcast episode features highlights from the first few livestream broadcasts with guests Elizabeth Redmond, Steve Todd, Lorri Rowlandson, David Wagner, Vik Bangia, Rex Miller & Kerry Wekelo. Join us each week to share your personal stories and ask the experts your questions about the current state of our world and the future of the workplace!

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Watch the 3/18/20 livestream with Elizabeth Redmond of CoWorkr & Steve Todd of NASDAQ:

Watch the 3/25/20 livestream with Lorri Rowlandson of BGIS, David Wagner of Nelson & Vik Bangia of Verum Consulting:

Watch the 4/1/20 livestream on wellbeing and culture with Authors Rex Miller & Kerry Wekelo:

Register for future “Workplace Innovator Interactive” livestreams:

Watch Mike on OSW Daily, a YouTube livestream:

Discover free resources and explore past interviews at:

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn:

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: [email protected]

Read the full transcript:

Mike Petrusky (00:00):

What do you think things look like after we do get back into work? Have you thought this through? I know it’s way, again, early on and we’re not setting a date or a time on this, but as FM leaders watching, workplace leaders of all stripes, what do they need to be thinking about preparing for, when it comes to that new normal post-pandemic or post-lockdown?

            This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience-focused IWMS software that delivers real-time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

            Hey everyone, and welcome to the show. My name is Mike, and this is episode 103 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. And it was almost one month ago exactly, although wow, it does seem like much, much longer that our world began to be turned upside down by this global Coronavirus crisis. I remember like it was yesterday being on a plane back from Charlotte, North Carolina, after just speaking with my friends at the IFMA Carolinas chapters, when I realized how serious the concerns about COVID-19 had become. And it happened so fast, as we all know now, as public gatherings were canceled and those first areas of the country began ordering that we stay at home. And I knew at that time that we had to do something to help us stay connected with others in our community of workplace leaders.

            So during that second week of March, we plan to launch a live interactive version of this podcast. And on March 18th, the first weekly gathering took place, and we’ve been getting together every Wednesday at noon Eastern Time ever since then. My new colleague from iOFFICE, Madison Dujka and I, have been inviting industry experts to chat with us each week about their experiences and the lessons they’re learning, while also taking questions from our live audience in real-time.

            These live broadcasts are not webinars. They are interactive conversations with amazing guests who are industry experts yes, but they are also human beings, and just like you and me, they’re just trying to navigate through these unprecedented times. So we gathered together with them and with you each week to encourage and inspire each other. And that’s what I wanted to share with you today, as I begin putting together this highlight reel from the first few broadcasts, I was really taken back about how rapidly things have changed over just three weeks. Our very first livestream featured Elizabeth Redmond of CoWorkr, and Steve Todd of NASDAQ. And during that chat, we mostly focused on the overseas impact of the virus while kind of anticipating what things might look like for us here in the U.S. But then the following week, we were joined by Lori Rowlandson of BGIS, David Wagner of Nelson, and Vik Bangia of Verum Consulting, who all shared stories about our new work from home realities, real life experiences there.

            And then just last week, authors, Rex Miller and Kerry Wekelo, took your questions about workplace wellbeing. And we really started to recognize the long term impact that this pandemic will have on our mental health and the people in our workplaces. It’s just amazing to me how everything is changing so fast. So while I’ve compiled here, a few brief highlights from these first live streams, just to give you a taste of what these discussions have been like, I wanted to make you aware that I have included in the show notes of this episode, links to the full conversation recordings, as well as a link to our future livestream broadcasts. So I invite you to check those out, and let’s be candid about this folks. These are tough times, but I really do believe that we will get through them together and I hope to talk to you about it on Wednesday. Thanks.

            Elizabeth Redmond, you are the co-founder and CEO of CoWorkr, a sensor company that allows organizations to find out who’s using space, monitor it with great technology, and feed that information into platforms like iOFFICE and others to be able to create the data that allows us to better use our spaces. And you have a great unique perspective because you have customers across the globe, right?

Elizabeth Redmond (04:47):

We do. Yeah. We’ve got work all across APAC and Europe as well. Yeah.

Mike Petrusky (04:53):

But what’s going on in APAC? So you’ve been in communication with people all across the globe. They’re a couple of months ahead of us on this and the effect it’s having on their workplaces. Were you able to get any sense of how people reacted there, versus what’s beginning to happen here? And any insight there you can share with us?

Elizabeth Redmond (05:10):

Yeah, we have really strong relationships in Sydney and Singapore. So Singapore was definitely hit first. I attended an event here that was a global event for a company. They brought in their entire workplace team to actually Squaw Valley, so the area where I am. And they had allowed a couple people, well, there was one gal from Singapore and everyone else from the Asia team was held back. So China and Japan was held back, which they were really disappointed about. But that was pretty early in our awareness of this outbreak. So yeah, we’ve kind of seen the wave go through Asia. Some of those offices are starting to become occupied again. So.

Mike Petrusky (05:59):

That’s what I was asked. Is it getting better? Have you seen a change? Is it coming back?

Elizabeth Redmond (06:02):

Yeah, it seems as though Sydney, Australia is kind of reacting around the same time as us. So the wave hit them a little bit later, similarly to the U.S. So we had projects delayed just this week. I don’t think they’re on a similar timeline to us, but Singapore, China, Japan seems to be livening up again.

Mike Petrusky (06:26):

Excellent. Well, I wanted to bring some inspiration to our audience, which we do on the show, on the podcast each week. But Maddie, I asked you for an inspirational quote, can you share one of your favorites with us here?

Madison Dujka (06:39):

Yes. So this is actually my favorite quote, probably of all time, “Do something today that your future self would thank you for.” So to me, this is, for a lack of better words, the most inspirational quote because I am relatively young, so anything that I’m doing today is impacting future me and my future kids lives. So, that’s kind of what keeps me going.

Mike Petrusky (07:05):

Yeah. I think that’s relevant no matter where we are in this journey, especially in today’s world, right? I mean this is unprecedented times, and we have to rise to the occasion, and help each other.

Madison Dujka (07:19):


Elizabeth Redmond (07:19):

Yeah, for sure.

Mike Petrusky (07:20):

Excellent. And then you gave me a secondary quote. I have to share it because-

Madison Dujka (07:25):

I said.

Mike Petrusky (07:26):

We hardly know each other, yet you hit me in my heart right where it lives. Here it is folks, no other what the situation. We must do, or do not. There is no try. Actually Yoda was very serious-

Elizabeth Redmond (07:42):

Well played.

Mike Petrusky (07:43):

At that moment. But no, any Star Wars quote is welcome here. So thank you for that, Maddie.

            Because you have offices NASDAQ, put your NASDAQ hat back on, and you’re communicating with folks over in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, like Elizabeth said, Australia. Okay any insight you can provide? Or maybe put on your futurist hat and see what they’re going through business-wise and how it may be coming here and lessons learned so far? Or is it just too soon to tell?

Steve Todd (08:11):

I think it is a little too soon because who knows what we’ve been told in the media, who knows what’s right, what’s wrong, right? I think what you got to do, is you got to do the right thing by the employee. You got to provide them with as many tools and information as you can as an organization. So we’re doing all we can to support their employees all around the world. Ensuring they have access to, obviously the NASDAQ environment and ensure all that. And the technology team has done a phenomenal job, ensuring that we can have all of our employee working from home. We continue to monitor, as I said, that steering committee, they meet twice a day now with the executive leadership team, providing them updates, providing them with information that allows the executive team to make individual location decisions, but also then portfolio wide company-wise decisions.

            But I don’t think we can tell really what, from the experiences in APAC, on how that’s going to roll in through Europe or through the U.S. It’s just so hard to tell, because even within the U.S., cities are treating it differently, cities are behaving differently. And it’s just, how do you do that? So you think about where you’ve got the governor’s come online and saying, it’s really hard to control this and needs to be a statewide decision. So then you put that as an executive and a CEO, how do they make the decision whenever they’re trying to manage offices through every location around the world? That must be such a challenge. So how do you do that, right? And that’s why no matter what an organization or, well the communication you get, you can poke holes through everything. So it’s like, how do they get it right? And you just have to trust that the information that they’re having is allowing them to make informed decisions.

Vik Bangia (09:49):

Yeah. For me, the travel was what sort of forced the productivity from working from home for me because about half of my time was spent in clients’ offices. So now that I’m home all the time, it makes it a little bit more challenging to be productive at home because I don’t have that time pressure of, I only have two days of working at home. Now I have five days of working at home. So it’s a little bit more challenging to get things done. You have to be really on top of the situation. But yeah, the one picture that I posted on LinkedIn, I was at attending a remote video conference from here in Minneapolis and my clients out in Phoenix. And boy, when they start having food on the table, it makes it really challenging. Because I missed the social interaction there.

Mike Petrusky (10:36):

I do too. So let me ask you this, because this is again, early days of the pandemic and staying at home policies, and I don’t expect any of you to be fortune-tellers but, this was a question that we asked last week about the impact on our organizations overall in maybe the near and longterm. But Lorri, let me come back to you and what do you think?

Lorri Rowlandson (10:57):

Yeah. I mean, just from the nature of our business, we are impacted by what we do, but performing like an office function, I would say we are very well equipped to do business remotely from anywhere. So, in fact, with less commute time, perhaps even more productive and appreciative of those relationships with colleagues. I think both David and Vik mentioned something really important, where I’m walking in the shoes of our people that are distributed all over the place and not near our head office and don’t come into the head office regularly. And kind of seeing what they’re living through and doing more video engagement.

            So, I actually think it’s causing us to amp up other sensory engagement forums with employees that we haven’t quite perfected yet, even though the tools were always there. Whereas we’re missing that human contact and interaction, even though we’re not getting the cookies, maybe Vik, at least we’re getting the interaction with individuals in a way that is got a lot more depth and richness than just a traditional conference call. And I think I’m going to have a hard time going back to just a voice call after this because I’m really enjoying and if I had a chance to really perfect video calls. So in a way, it’s helping me be productive. And when we get back to mainstream, I think I’ll be able to engage some of our other distributed workforce in a much more mindful way.

Mike Petrusky (12:21):


David Wagner (12:22):

Yeah, I think as Lori indicated, it is very function or role specific. Again, personally, it’s not having an impact on my productivity. But as a firm, a very design-centric firm, you can easily envision the time when it’s going to become an issue. We are a hyper-collaborative group that likes to be together to bring the best solution to a client, but that also often requires site surveys and oversight of construction. And so as access to those valuable sites and such diminishes, our productivity would diminish with that.

            But for me specifically, and in terms of bundling solutions, what I’ve been telling the team that I’ve been working with most closely, is that, we’re all living with cancellations, right? Graduations, proms, sporting events, everything else. Relationships don’t get canceled. So we have an opportunity to continue the outreach, the partnership, and come out of even stronger.

            So again, kind of playing of what Lorri said, business continuity planning and incident management, but going forward, just the logistics, the e-commerce segment, and everybody’s getting into that. How are we going to provide that service? How are they going to pick it up? How are we going to carve out of our existing space? Room to do that? Put the infrastructure in place? So we’re running the full spectrum from watching work die on the vine, to how many of these can you put out overnight? It’s that full spectrum and where it’s really booming, is the e-commerce segment. That’s not all going to go away again when this passes, it’s accelerating now and I think a lot of it’s going to be here to stay.

Mike Petrusky (14:08):

Wow. I knew I could count on you David broadening the conversation to a level like none other. Lorri, do you have to check out at this point?

Lorri Rowlandson (14:16):

No. Just one more bonus comment-

Mike Petrusky (14:16):

Oh, I’ll do.

Lorri Rowlandson (14:18):

Just to dovetail.

Mike Petrusky (14:19):


Lorri Rowlandson (14:19):

I think it will also, given that we are better at remote work strategies, it will also cause us to have another look at our portfolio strategy. To see if maybe we need to continue to right size space. If we can increase in ratios of people working in a distributed fashion, there’s a chance that we might get into another level of rationalization of our portfolio space. So just another comment to dovetail on David’s great point.

Mike Petrusky (14:46):

Maddie, escape from reality. Remember Rupert Holmes, The Pina Colada song. If you like pina-

Madison Dujka (14:52):

I remember it.

Mike Petrusky (14:55):

Coladas. So, this week’s song to keep our spirits high is what?

Madison Dujka (14:57):

It’s actually High Hopes by Panic! At The Disco.

Mike Petrusky (15:01):

How’s that opening go? Give me the trumpets. That’s kind of that opening horn section.

Steve Todd (15:05):

High, high hopes.

Madison Dujka (15:09):

Brendon Urie, the lead singer of Panic! At The Disco has a very, very unique amazing voice that there’s no way I could get as high-pitched as he could. So I’m not even going to try. I’m so sorry.

Mike Petrusky (15:22):

All right. I will not put you on the spot. My recommendation, and this has a story behind it, because this past weekend, my daughters and I had plans to go with their husbands and significant others to a concert here in DC for a band called Colony House. Have you ever heard of Colony House? So good, so inspirational. Their music, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for the last several weeks. And they have a new album that just came out in January. They were touring in support of the new album, and it’s called Leave What’s Lost Behind. How relevant is that? And actually the song after song about dealing with troubles in life and so forth. Little did they know how relevant would be but, there’s a song on there called, Everybody’s Looking For Some Light.

            And I’ll just read the lyrics. I won’t try to sing it but, when the world is weighing on your shoulders, when the sorrows heavy on your soul, carry on and sing on like a soldier saying, “Come on, come on, we’re going to make it home.” I said I wouldn’t sing, but everybody’s looking for some light. And it’s so good. So check out Colony House folks. It’s fantastic.

            Rex, let’s talk about the workplace and the fact that stress was already a big problem in our world of facility management and corporate real estate. We had to deal with people managing their very busy lives. And Kerry you could speak to this too, but I want to start with Rex because he really spoke to a lot of the research around the dangers of stress, and some of the needs to nudge people towards a healthier, more balanced life. What do you think things look like after we do get back into work? Have you thought this through? I know it’s way again, early on, and we’re not setting a date or a time on this, but as FM leaders, watching workplace leaders of all stripes, what do they need to be thinking about, preparing for, when it comes to that new normal post-pandemic or post-lockdown?

Rex (17:17):

Well, the mental health issue is going to be huge because we’ve taken people out of their normal routine and that’s stressful. Because habit lowers cognitive load. You don’t have to think about it. But when everything is new, that increases cognitive and emotional load and it’s stress. Everyone’s in a different stage of five stages of grief. I expect that some people will come back traumatized by this. There’ll be a little form of PTSD. And we found that in education, when we did the education book that just came out, that there’s a lot of incidences of trauma and vicarious trauma, secondary trauma.

            So I think that’s going to be a new issue and we’re going to start seeing more depression, more medication. So helping encourage people on healthy coping, has got to be kind of a new part of our discipline in what we do. And it first starts with us. The adage is, either in consulting or counseling, you got to do the work, the internal work. You got to be that. You can’t give what you don’t have. So unless we have margin and capacity as managers, when people come in, if we’re stressed, there’s something called an emotional contagion, just by the fact that we’re stressed. Even if we put a game face on, we’ll amp up their stress.

Mike Petrusky (18:41):

Yeah. That’s important to think about because we’re talking about culture questions here, Kerry, right? Because you talk about this in your book and how you tied everything back. All your tips about changing the culture or infusing a culture in an organization, was tied around recognizing the human beings that you are working with and managing. And tell me just your thoughts on that. Rex has mentioned it a couple of times now. The fact that we’re grieving.

            And for those that don’t know, there’s a great article out there, Harvard Business Review talked about the way to kind of name that feeling you have. That feeling of disappointment or sadness about how your world has been turned upside down. It is a grieving in the loss of your normal, whatever that was for you. Whatever escapes you had, when it came to, for me, going to the movies or my trip with my family that was scheduled for Disney World in a couple months, we grieved the simple loss of those things, but it’s also this loss of human interaction connection. And Kerry, you have a lot to say about how we can better look across the aisle at that person, whether it’s an employee or a colleague, and as managers, help them cope with this by building a culture that allows that level of vulnerability, right?

Kerry Wekelo (19:50):

Absolutely. And it really does start with looking at each person, where they are today. And because things are so rapidly changing, maybe one of my team members is fine today, but then tomorrow, she’s dealing with something personally. So I think it’s important before you just go in to what you need somebody to do, is ask them how they’re doing. Kind of how you started this podcast today. How are you doing today? And just taking time for that because you’re going to understand, we have an office in the UK, and they’ve been on complete lockdown. They can’t even go out. And I have a colleague who he has a two and a four year old and he’s like, “They don’t understand why they can’t go out.” So he’s really struggling. Whereas I have older kids, so I wasn’t thinking that that was so hard, but so understanding where people are coming from and ask them every day, don’t just assume that they’re okay.

Mike Petrusky (20:47):

I like that. Any other comments coming in Maddie that we need to know about? We want to make this interactive-

Madison Dujka (20:47):


Mike Petrusky (20:51):

Folks. This is was talking with you.

Madison Dujka (20:52):

We actually have a lot of comments circling back to the mention of mental health. Haley says that many companies are not set up with services to assist with this factor, or considering it in these uncertain situations. Pushing resource reminders, both company provided and national is vital. And Steven also chimed in and said that he would agree with Rex on the sort of trauma and grief that we’re all experiencing. We have our own experience, but also that of our families and friends, in addition to the public grief, which adds to a whole deeper dimension in the breadth of it.

Rex (21:29):


Mike Petrusky (21:29):

Yeah, Rex comment on that for us.

Rex (21:31):

Well, first of all, I would recommend every company do a webinar on their benefits package. There’s employee assistance programs available. Most employees don’t know about it, and those are mental health-focused. That’s an easy thing they can do for their employees. And then in terms of the vicarious trauma, or it’s called secondary trauma, when someone is traumatized and you’re a caregiver or emotionally connected, you become a little bit of an emotional, kind of you absorb that trauma. And part of processing through traumatic situations is actually physical. So if you do yoga, pilates, there’s a mind-body connection. And part of what trauma is and depression, is a disconnect between what the mind is thinking and what the body is feeling. And so physical coordination moves help resynchronize that. So it’s as simple as breathing and it can be as complex as doing yoga.

Kerry Wekelo (22:31):

And to that point Rex, yesterday our virtual team lunch, I’ve started doing each week doing a mindful break. And I taught a four-part breath that our employees can easily access so quickly because it’s just was really important for me to kind of … I am a yoga teacher on the side, so bringing in that-

Rex (22:52):

There you go. Good.

Kerry Wekelo (22:55):

Mindfulness into our corporate culture has been something that we’ve done for years, but I’m doing a little bit more openly right now because I think people need it more than ever.

Rex (23:03):

Yeah, that’s great.

Mike Petrusky (23:04):

Awesome. Thank you all for doing this. Rex, Kerry, thank you so much for being on the livestream today. It’s been awesome.

Kerry Wekelo (23:12):


Rex (23:13):

Yeah, take care.

Kerry Wekelo (23:13):

Yeah, take care. Be well!

Mike Petrusky (23:13):

Bye everybody-

Madison (23:14):


Mike Petrusky (23:14):

See you next time. Until then, peace out.

            You’ve been listening to the workplace innovator podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee-centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit


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As the host of both the Workplace Innovator Podcast and the Asset Champion Podcast, Mike's role at Eptura is to share thought leadership with CRE, FM, and IT leaders in the digital and hybrid workplace. As an in-demand public speaker, Mike engages audiences with his focus on the human element of workplace and facility management at International Facility Management Association, CoreNet, and other industry events.

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