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How Facility Management Leaders Will Support the Hybrid Workplace

Lena Thompson FMP, SFP is Director of Building Operations at the American Psychological Association, Kelly Johnson is Director of Facility Services at the Association of American Medical Colleges and R. Case Runolfson is Senior Director of the Facility Management Department at the American Institutes for Research. In June 2021, Mike Petrusky hosted a webinar for … Continue reading "How Facility Management Leaders Will Support the Hybrid Workplace"

How Facility Management Leaders Will Support the Hybrid Workplace

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Lena Thompson FMP, SFP is Director of Building Operations at the American Psychological Association, Kelly Johnson is Director of Facility Services at the Association of American Medical Colleges and R. Case Runolfson is Senior Director of the Facility Management Department at the American Institutes for Research. In June 2021, Mike Petrusky hosted a webinar for Facilities Management Advisor called “Future Ready – How FM Leaders Will Support the Hybrid Workplace” where this panel of experienced FM practitioners shared their experiences in facility management and offered best practices for the future of work. They discussed the return to offices and what the future workplace might look like and how to support employees. We know that workplace leaders will face unexpected challenges moving their teams forward in a hybrid working model, so let’s find out what three experienced FM professionals are doing to prepare their facilities to meet the needs of their workforce in the months and years to come.

Ep. 167: How Facility Management Leaders Will Support the Hybrid Workplace

Full Episode Transcript: 

Mike: 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. 

Mike: Hey everyone, and welcome to Workplace Innovator live. Joining me today to have a conversation about facility management and the future workplace. I am thrilled to welcome three of my dear friends from the Washington D. C. area. We go way back. We have served together and have been a part of the International Facility Management Association. The capital chapter of IFMA is our home base. An amazing panel who really has a lot of experience as FM practitioners. And that’s what I’m most excited about today. So first let me have you introduce yourself. Kelly Johnson, give us the one-minute bio. How about that? 

Kelly Johnson: Hi, good afternoon everyone. Hi Mike, thanks for including me. As was already mentioned, I’m the Director of Facility Management at the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington D. C. Right now, I am also finishing up my term as president of the Capitol Chapter of IFMA after a long-term involvement with IFMA, 20 years I think at this point. I’ve been an FM practitioner, as Mike said for 30 years. I’ve been in fast growth corporate space largely in telecom. I’ve done third party involvement with HP and with Amazon, and now I’m in the association space. So that’s me. 

Mike: Great to have you here Kelly. Lena Thompson is the director of building operations at the American Psychological Association also here in D. C. Lena, tell us briefly your story. 

Lena Thompson: Well, good morning everyone. Mike, thanks so much. Always a pleasure. I mean, literally always a pleasure to have a conversation with you about the work that we do. I’ve been a practitioner for over 25 years. I love what I do. I’m also a certified IFMA instructor. I teach the SFP, the FMP. I love my students. They are so great. Some of them may be even on this call today. I’ve been with APA about 15 years and prior to that I was with another organization about 15 years, but facilities has been in my blood for a while. I started at about 13 and I loved being and doing what I do. So that’s a little bit about me. My bio is on there somewhere. So, look at it when you get a chance if you want to know a little bit more about me. But that’s the fun stuff. 

Mike: There you go. Thank you, Lena. Case Ronaldson is a mentor, a friend. And please tell us your story briefly. 

Case Ronaldson: My quick story is, prior military, graduated from the Naval Academy, was a Marine Corps officer then went into federal service which was my first introduction to facility management. And then I had the great, good fortune of starting my first FM job here in the D. C. area with a large law firm. And that was a great way to get exposed to it and have been in that profession, several different kinds of jobs. Fortunate enough to work internationally. Also active in our local D. C. chapter of IFMA. And now I’m on the board of trustees for the IFMA foundation, and I’m currently the senior director of facility management in American Institutes for Research. And it’s always a pleasure to be with these three. So thank you Mike for the opportunity. 

Mike: Awesome to have you here, Case, and everyone. So a lot of experience here folks, the topic is an important one. How FMs are helping to support their hybrid workplace? And I’m going to find out here in a second about how each of these practitioners is dealing with this next phase of the pandemic experience. We’ve all been through a lot.  

They’ve got real world practical experience. On my podcast, I talk a lot to consultants and researchers and even anthropologists and sociologists to get an understanding of how human beings behave, how work has changed, how we all need to be prepared for what is next when people return to offices slowly and some resist that return, and some want to see more flexibility and more control. And in a practical way, how as a facility management leader, will you be able to handle that and support the people, because that’s what you’re all about? So we’re going to get into all that here in just a moment.  

But before we go there, on my podcast, it’s an essential piece of the show to inspire the audience. So I always ask to have my guests bring with them some inspirational quotes from some famous people. There’s plenty to go around when it comes to this topic of dealing with disruption and change. And you all know it as FM practitioners change management is a key core competency for what you do.  

So we’re going to talk about that, but I always like to kick things off with a quote from this guy. He’s one of my heroes in the marketing world where I come from, and his name is Seth Godin. He’s a guru of sorts and he has a lot of thoughts around change and dealing with people in work and in marketing. We’re going through a very challenging time right now. And here we are 15, 16 months into, at pandemic experience, we do see a light at the end of the tunnel but we are certainly under the weight of a very difficult time. 

 But listen, “Optimism rules on this show, so change is not a threat,” Seth says, “It’s an opportunity. Survival’s not the goal, transformative success is.” So, we’re not looking just to get through and just survive, we want to thrive. We want to adapt. We want to innovate. And that’s what I’m all about here. And again, there’s nothing new in the world of change.  

When I talk to folks like my panel around change management, in years past we were talking about workplace change, technology, disrupting the workplace, bringing new ideas, strategies, maybe a move, maybe a redesign of the workplace, opening new corporate headquarters facilities, getting people to adjust to those changes. And this quote from an old 1994 book called the Flight of the Buffalo, is one that’s been paraphrased over and over again on my show. And it really is applicable today as now we are changing into another realm of existence going forward post pandemic, hopefully. 

 And here it is, change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up. So, that is setting today. That’s the challenge before us. We have people we want to take care of as we get ready for the future. And you’ve got three great FM leaders that are currently in the middle of these decisions and these conversations and building the strategy is going to carry us through.  

So with that as the setting, let’s dive right into this subject matter and talk about where we are today. Obviously you all have heard many webinars and what many conversations around what the hybrid workplace is. But I really want to hear from my panelists in just a minute or two, where they think we are as of June 2021, this summer, a year after we all went into lockdown and send everyone home and they had to deal with getting their buildings through that. Now we are beginning to reopen, where do things stand? So Kelly, let me start with you and give us the, where are we now at your organization? 

Kelly Johnson: Sure. Thanks Mike. So just for a little context, the double AMC owns 1,300, 000 square foot building downtown D. C., right next to the Convention Center. It’s 11 stories of beautiful classic space. We occupy most of it. Prior to the pandemic, we had about 450 people reporting to the building out of our 750 employees on a daily basis.  

We had a 15, 000 square foot conference center on two levels. I act certified conference center on two levels that hosted about 200 meetings per month. And then the pandemic happened and we sent everyone home like everyone else in March of 2020. In October, we did a soft reopening to accommodate people who are having a really hard time working at home to prepare for that. We did like many of you did. We deployed hand sanitizers. We deployed masks at every entrance. We changed traffic patterns. We put in signage. It looks like that today, masks are required in the building, social distancing and personal hygiene, respiratory hygiene. Signs are all over the place. That was a self- selecting procedure to come back into the office and in case of hardship or essential work in the building.  

Self- selecting, we have 25 people who have signed up for that program since October. When we go back to the office in September in larger numbers after Rosh Hashanah, it’s again self- selecting. We don’t expect much demand at that point. So we’re not making a lot of changes in the building. We feel like at this point we need to observe what’s happening with the caseload. We’re waiting for some information on the science so that we can make internal decisions about masking and social distancing and how that will impact how we’re using plenty of space to get creative in the short term. 

 The organization has gone to a hybrid model from a leadership perspective. We are giving employees in the long-term the ability to make the decision about whether they come back. Right now, HR is evaluating all the job profiles in the company to determine whether they’re fully remote eligible, remote eligible within the DMV or they have to be on site. We expect the required onsite percentage to be very small. So, when we go back in September, it’s really a period of observation to see how many people want to come in and what the science looks like around the requirements for safety. 

Mike: Excellent. And so many questions come to mind after hearing that explanation Kelly, but I’m going to resist asking them and we’ll come back around to that human experience, dealing with people and giving them the flexibility and choice. That’s certainly something I’m hearing a lot of, but there are some downsides to that too. And I want to ask you about your thoughts on that. But before we go there, Case, give us your quick state of the world at American Institutes for Research, AIR. 

Case Ronaldson: Thank you, Mike. Very similar circumstances Kelly on that timeline that she described. We’re a bit behind on the soft opening. We are referring to ours as return to office, as distinct from return to work. There was a successful transition immediately to the new work environment. And the hybrid workplace also existed at AIR.  

We have had remote employees and teleworkers. And what we’ll see through this is the shift in proportion. As Kelly described, we’ll go up in numbers of being a premier research organization, data rules. And so we’re in the process right now, and my colleagues here know this because we keep each other informed. We’re right on the cusp of sending a survey to all of our staff.  

AIR is an international organization, and so we have about 40 offices across the world primarily in the U.S. And so the other wrinkle for us is really dealing with the vagaries of where the world is. We’re not at a uniform place with things that we may take as a given here in the D. C. metro area. So that’s also a component. So we’re going to rely on that survey, one macro event for AIR. About 18 to 24 months ago, we started really ramping down our portfolio. 

 So we’re at about 42%. So really we’re looking to see what we get back on that survey to see how that’s going to fit in some critical areas. Then this D. C. area is one of them. So, once we have that data, we can start to figure out the algebra about how many are going to be a remote. What’s going to be the circumstance with the threshold for teleworkers that will have their own assigned offices as opposed to those that will require hoteling? And we’re focusing a lot on technology but also blending science with the cultural values and where people’s heads are, because those are not always aligned. 

Mike: No, they are not indeed. Interesting that you bring that up. And again, I’m resisting the followup question. I want to give Lena the chance to share where things are at APA, and then we’ll get into some of the real nitty gritty here. Can’t wait. Lena, where do you stand? 

Lena Thompson: Thanks, Mike. I’m a lot of what Kelly just shared. But like Kelly space, is a classic building, we have about 300,000 square feet of space. And prior to COVID, we were a hybrid office. And I was trying to get leadership to understand that we had about 200 plus employees that were working virtually anyway. And so in March, when we all left the office and we started to work remotely, heaven forbid they come back and say, “Oh, I think you were right, we can downsize our office space a little bit.”  

And so we’re looking at our footprint right now, trying to decide what makes them make sense. Should we or should we not decrease our footprint in the office space so that we can work on what looks like the new workplace environment? We are also working on our survey, like Case said, we want to get a thorough survey out there. We’re a data- driven, we’re a scientific based organization. We are looking at everything that’s going on. 

 I’m a part of what’s called the workplace advisory group. And it is just that, we are a team of leadership that are looking across, not just our own portfolio, our field, but we’re looking out to our communities to see what other organizations are doing, how we can incorporate those things. And my two panelists here, I’m always looking to them for new and innovative things that they are doing in their spaces. We have not been in the office since March 13th. Like no one except for my team has physically been in the office with the exception of a few people.  

So we have not had to deal with a mask mandate or hand sanitation because in the beginning we couldn’t get it anyway. So, we just chose not to. But where we are currently right now is, we’re discussing things and we’re trying to make that decision based on the scientific data, based on the numbers going down. Because in the words of a very smart man that I know, he said, “If you have to wear a mask, then you’re going to have to pull, you have to do all these resources and all the financials that have to go along with it. Why go into the office if you have to do that?” So, we’re in that space now where we don’t.  

And so now the transition occurs. So, we’re basically working on our return to office roadmap and we’re making sure that we’re tapping into our community, our customer, they’re so important to this process. And I know there are a few questions on here. I wanted to share more of my thoughts about that. But this panel, there’s a lot of experience and I have some questions for the two of you after this, based on what you just shared about what’s going on right now. 

Mike: The time is going to go by way too fast so let’s keep it rolling. 

Lena Thompson: I know. 

Mike: And I’ll circle back. It’s funny, you all three, and I didn’t know this before we started, but you all have very similar approaches. You’re in the association space or the research world or the scientific community. I should have invited the CEO of Morgan Stanley to come on. Have you read the article where he’s got the opposite view up in New York and he’s telling folks you need to come back September and if you don’t, I’ll be surprised and unhappy.  

And again, there’s more to that story too. I want to be fair to all of these conversations because I think the danger is when we have a opinion or have a view, and this applies to life in general these days, especially in our polarized world, is that we have a confirmation bias problem. We believe something. We have been through a pandemic. This is something I’ve been trying to express, I’m not sure how well I’ve done it over the last couple of months, but each of us has come to a place of comfort and understanding of what our risks are and what we think we want and what we expect from our employers. And as you can tell from some of the data if you’re not going to get that, if they won’t allow flexibility and choice, a lot of people will be voting with their feet and leaving their organization. 

 In fact, I’ve seen up to 40 or 50% of the workforce is looking now. So as facility management leaders and people who care for their employees and want to provide that place, that experience where they can be their best selves and do their best work and deliver on the outcomes that the organization is looking for. We have to take a holistic view and you all touched on this to some degree that culture plays a big role in this and that your organizations are looking at data and the science behind what’s best for the organization. What happens when there’s a mismatch? And this is where I want to say, it’s okay to have different opinions and nuanced dialogue because as I joked about that Morgan Stanley headline, there’s an easy headline to pull that says, out of touch, Morgan Stanley CEO demands everyone comes back. And he’s just clueless to the fact that employees want flexibility and choice today. But if you dig deeper, I think he’s concerned about the young people in his organization, the people who need to be mentored and the people starting in their careers who don’t have those connections like us older folks do.  

And there’s some reasons why we think that being in the office is important. So we could go in a lot of different directions, but if we want to create a human centric experience, and Case, I’ll start with you this time, just to rotate things around. How are you approaching this fact that, you said there’s no one size that fits all.  

You’ve got some experience in the world of hybrid work, but as you look at the data and then you kind of compare what people really do, how will you respond if what you’re seeing is not matching up with what you expected? 

Case Ronaldson: So not to sound like the love child of the CEO of Morgan Stanley, were all running businesses. So there is this dynamic tension. And what you’ve heard from my colleagues and me is this high view of the objective. But it’s about staying in business and being productive and creating a work environment that does that, but also respects retention. And we need all of those things. And so that complexity plays into it very much.  

I saw a similar, I guess it was an open letter from the Apple employees that said if they had to come back to the office, 39% of them would quit. Newsflash, the unemployment rates 6%. So that other 33 is going to be looking for work. And I get it that really these are extremes that we hear. The reality is, is that all of us are in the business of compromise in finding that mix, and we’ll do it. One of the key elements for us as FMs I believe, is really tying into the strategic goals. And they include all these things we’ve talked about, everything from DEI to communication to productivity or profitability, retention of staff, appropriate benefits. So this falls into that mix Mike. I hope that helps. I don’t want to sound like the French, but it is dealing with all of that. 

Mike: It does. Well, you’re right. And that idea of we send the cater to the top talent and all this war for talent conversation is accurate when it comes to trying to draw those top folks. But there’s the 80, 20 rule. It seems like in many cases, we have a lot of employees who maybe are afraid to speak up and trying to do their best and contribute. And they do, but they’re not the ones we’re hearing from, they’re not the ones that get all the attention. So Lena, you have some thoughts on this and some of the questions around trust and transparency and culture of hybrid work requires an understanding of all different types of employees, right? 

Lena Thompson: It does. And I think the one group that we’re not really talking about is the people that are actually going to continue to work from home. They’re not coming back to the workplace. And as Kelly said, most organizations right now are looking at how the job titles are. Who gets to work from home? Who works hybrid and who has to come into the workplace? My team alone has to come into the workplace, they don’t get to work from home. But there are a lot more people that are going to continue as we move forward.  

More than 60% of our organization is probably going to have the majority of their time in their home environment. And that’s an area which we left off of the map, because we’re talking about coming back to the office, but it is still going to be their office. So we really need to start to address that. But from a overall perspective, the APA has really been very thoughtful about all of this. And I think when we first started out, it was sort of like, you’re not going back in six months. You’re not going back in a year. You’re not going back till 2021. And now we’re in a place where we’ve got to reconsider all of that.  

We’ve got to rethink how we approach that. And it’s not all about the data as you said, it’s really not. It’s more about what’s going to work best for our organization at the end of the day. What’s really truly going to work best? And our CEOs drive that sometimes, they do. It’s just the bottom line, because it does become a bottom line. 

Mike: Indeed. And that culture question. It does. And it’s a balancing act. I don’t envy their role and the need to lead. I think workplace leaders need to lead and top level leaders need to lead with empathy and with understanding. 

Lena Thompson: Absolutely. 

Mike: And not demand people do something, but figure out what’s best for both the organization and for the people. So, Kelly, you mentioned it in your state of the world that your organization, that you’re all trying to figure this out. You’re having meetings, you’re discussing it. You are trying to follow the data and make decisions that are best, but you mentioned no one size fits all. What are you prepared to do or how do we do it as FMs especially, since that’s the audience here? Do we have the ability to chime in and say, hey, let’s consider this other perspective? 

Kelly Johnson: Absolutely. And I would say, I feel really blessed at this time to work for an organization that from the very, very top has come through this with empathy and with compassion. We’ve turned our thinking on its head I think. We had all of the civil unrest starting last summer and that has definitely played a role in elevating our focus on DE& I and DEI& B initiatives. 

 And so we’ve pulled it all apart. We had telework policies before the pandemic, as I mentioned, maybe half of our workforce reported to the office on a regular basis. Those policies were inconsistently managed. So there was an inherent inequity in their application. As we look forward, the leadership team has assembled, there’s a hybrid workplace core operations group. And it is a mixture. It’s not just leaders from IT and facilities in HR, we have individuals as part of the group from our CAT team, which is our culture advanced team.  

We have a representative from our DE& I council who are our staff level positions. So that there’s a real broad perspective we will be surveying. We have broken our approach into three phases. We’re in this first phase called the operationalized. Which will run from now through the end of the year, where we are peeling apart our policies and procedures.  

And we’re talking about the position eligibility. And we really are trying to come at it from a completely different perspective. And in the back of my head from a quote perspective, Kay Sargent said on one of these calls in the very beginning of the pandemic, our thought leader, our local thought leader Kay Sargent said, ” One size misfits all.” And I just think that we have to embrace that in everything that we do now. And it’s difficult. We’ve got real big challenges ahead, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to shine. 

Mike: Indeed. 

Lena Thompson: Mike- 

Mike: So let’s keep that positive outlook. 

Lena Thompson: Real quick Mike. Thank you, Kelly. I’m going to say something really quick. Change management or change is in our world consider job security. Let’s all embrace it. It keeps us moving, it keeps us going. 

Mike: Great job, Lena, great transition to the next slide, change management in the FM world. And Case I want to come back to you on this because we are talking about managing change and managing people and having that voice as FMs to say, we know what people are like. We understand human behavior to some degree. We’re not scientists in that regard, but I’ve talked to many and I think if anybody can handle this, FMs have an insight into this human behavior and how space works and how communication is essential. Expand on that a little bit Case. What do you think some of the dangers are when implementing a policy around remote work or flexible work or hybrid work? What are some of the pitfalls we need to look out for and need to voice? 

Case Ronaldson: So there’s three real components that any leader has to think about when we’re talking about change, how we all interpret it. The first element is change devalues our current skillset. Because we’re entering into a new phase. It’s could be as straightforward as learning a new software application. And so along with that metaphor, if that’s the first part, so I know this old software, hey Case, nobody cares. 

 So now you have this new software, it’s new work, it’s more work. And for a lot of us, there’s not a clean transition from old to new, they overlap. So the workload just went up. And then the third component is the outcome is uncertain. We don’t know it’s going to be better. Our boss tells us it is, but we haven’t experienced that yet. So with those three built in frictions, leaders have to embrace that that’s where people may well be.  

And then work through that. One of my favorite quotes on this is Guy Kawasaki. He says, ” Create smooth paths to change.” And that’s really what you have to do, and it’s about what you were talking about to Mike, through communication, but it’s also through modeling. That’s what people see. They hear what you say but they judge you on what they actually see you do. Does that get to your point? 

Mike: It does. True story, and certainly as a parent, you learn that pretty quickly. That it’s all about what you do and not what you say. So Kelly, let me come back to you and ask about your thoughts on change management. And I’ll reframe it a little bit because we do seek information from our employees and from people, what they want, what they need. But I’ve been hyper- focused on this idea, probably because of my own experience, here I am 15 months into my living in the Hobbit hole to quote Lord of the rings.  

I’m like Bilbo Baggins now, adapted change in the early days of the pandemic was tough for me. The Zoom fatigue, the overload of all these digital meetings was a challenge, but I put up some boundaries, created some new habits, and now I’m quite comfortable here in my little basement area where I broadcast daily. And I think if I can speak for others out there that are experiencing a similar thing, they’ve gotten used to certain elements of the quarantine life. And now we’re asking, as far as the change management exercise is let’s change back to returning to public settings, returning to maybe a commute on public transportation.  

For me getting on a plane, going to a conference, that’s my job and expect that to re start this fall. But I have concerns. And I know as a person, as a human, I struggle with getting out of my current comfort zone. Now, the new normal, the new habit is broadcasting with pajama pants on that you all can’t see right now. 

 So with that in mind, and knowing that people are going to resist getting out of their comfort zone as you and your leaders are talking about creating a policy, creating a culture that encourages people to be their best selves and make that choice. You said a 100%, your choice employee, what’s best for you. What happens if, like me I need a leader to tell me and challenge me and like Gandalf to Bilbo Baggins, challenge me to come out of my Hobbit hole, that comfort, the fireplace, the drink, the pipe, and say, “Come back out, have an adventure. Come to the office, interact with your colleagues, interact with your customers, your friends at IFMA.” It’s going to be a calling that needs to take place. Do you follow what I’m saying? And if so, do you have any ideas? 

Kelly Johnson: In some regards, this isn’t new. How we interact with people in the workplace and what we get from people in the workplace, it’s all built on trust. So, from a very fundamental place, we’re doing these town halls. The CEO has town halls, 600 people call in to these town halls and we spend, it’s 90 minutes, and we spend an hour taking questions from everything about equity. Like, what if I want to move? What if I don’t want to come back? What if my manager makes me? What are you doing with my smart trip card? Do I still get smart trip money even if we’re not writing? So if they run the gamut and I think just by opening up and being very transparent to the organization, you’re building trust right out of the gates. I mean, it takes time.  

Again, back to Case’s point, it’s what you do. So it’s one thing to mouthpiece and have these conversations, but you actually have to follow through with the actions and the communications and the practices. I think one of the challenges that we have in the new world order is a lot of the telework problems before had a lot to do with our managers who weren’t trained to manage remote workers. Who punish people for performance issues because they can’t see them. Don’t promote them because they can’t see them. So it’s a whole new mentality, not a new mentality, but we really have to elevate those managers or we have to move them out because this is the new world. And I think that this work from home environment amplifies weak management in a way that we’ve never seen before. So I think that’s a big part of it. 

Mike: Exactly. 

Kelly Johnson: And people leave bad managers not jobs usually, and that all that is the trust and transparency. That’s how change management works in my view. 

Mike: So good. So many challenges there. And Lena coming back to you, you could speak to this in regards to change management or just in terms of some of the practical policies and procedures, again, you’re putting into place. But have the needs of the employees changed this FM role of supporting and providing services? And you mentioned it earlier, now you’re supporting people’s employee experience, whether that experience has taken place in the office or at home. What are some of the things you’re thinking about with regard to that? 

Lena Thompson: I mean, COVID it’s taught us nothing else in facilities management, is that our roles are critical and that we’re important. And I think it’s taught a lot of people in our leadership roles where we fit into the organization. And for me, the change that I would love to see is that we are no longer sitting on the side of the table, we are at the table to be a part of these discussions. From my perspective, the change that has happened has forced me to really look at the telework community and to support them in a way that which we’ve never supported them before. 

 We had to implement new desks at the stand desk, give them chairs, provide office supplies. Our mail delivery services was critical to our business, our overall business and how we get our materials out. And that became very apparent early out in the game. And we had to shift our policies as it relates to that, how do we delivery services? How do we get all these materials to people across the DMV? 

 So to me, the changes that had to occur, the pivot that happened was a direct reflection on how facilities management can and will always be a critical part of every business. The built environment is not going to go away. We may shrink in our footprint, but some of my colleagues have 50,000 square feet, 25, 000 square feet. It doesn’t matter how much space you’re supporting, a million square feet.  

The people and the support services that we provide are instrumental to the success and the overall I guess, culture of the organization. And to go back to that culture, the world of culture, you’re absolutely right, Mike. It has totally shifted in a way in which I think we have a wonderful opportunity from not just facilities management, from a leadership standpoint to shift that. And to talk about shifting that from how we lead our facility management teams, how we support them and how we make sure that they get equitable delivery of services from us as leaders. So that’s my take on it and hopefully that helps. 

Mike: Very helpful. Excellent. Case, I want to shift back to you because you mentioned this earlier, that technology will play a big role in the future. It always has and maybe we need to lean on it more than ever. What do you think the role of technology will be especially in this hybrid workplace? As a FM leader, what tools are going to be valuable to you and what are you anticipating? 

Case Ronaldson: So the first part Mike, and I appreciate the latitude you’ve given us earlier, I want to go back to a point that both Kelly and Lena made with regards to the lens. I think that many organizations have to rethink management, staff managers in particular, and what the training is. And we talked at a high level about policies, but policies that aren’t trained and implemented are worse than no policy. Because now everybody sees through that and says, ” Okay, everybody gets an exception except me.” And so that’s one aspect. And then the other, Kelly hit on this, this idea of focusing on the function of the employee with less emphasis on what level or title they might have. I think that’s going to be absolutely critical for successful organizations coming back. 

 So we’re going to pivot to your point about technology. It hits on something that I think is also a key question, and this is why all of us that are in whether you call it an advisory group or task force or a brain trust. The reality is every successful one includes general counsel and HR among others, communications, et cetera. Technology is part of that as well. One of the biggest questions Mike is going to be, where is the line of duty of care for staff?  

Right now, in the past pre COVID, it was right here. It was inside the four walls, and it was very straightforward. That’s all changed. And so everything from OSHA to… Again, this whole inequity, another point my colleagues made for people, somebody is living in a studio apartment, how are they going to effectively work from home as opposed to somebody that’s an empty nester and got three bedrooms to pick from for their home office? What role, if any, does the organization have? So, it’s central to it. And it just brings me to the technology. So for us, our technology is really making things like ergonomic assessments available for staff at home.  

And I said, we had telework and we had checklists and true confessions, they were fully realized or applied. There was a lot of handshake agreements on telework. And that’s an area that we’re in the midst of. And it speaks to, again, both Lena and Kelly have talked to. Upgrade your policies, that’s a great idea, but then enforce them. For us on technology, the other thing we’re going to focus on is this fluidity.  

Our reservation systems where revamped. You can now do it from your personal device. It’s no longer centrally controlled in all cases. For conference rooms, we’re still doing a lot of that. And we still have a high touch concierge capability, but we want to create the space for self- directed work. And that is our emphasis. And then IWMS inaudible systems are absolutely essential for tracking. The last part is life safety, and being able to, when something goes bad and your looking eyeball to eyeball with a first responder, and she asks you, ” Is everybody out of the building?” You can’t guess. So that aspect has been made all the more difficult than on any given day, you may have a different group inside your space. 

Mike: Very good. I’m looking at the clock and it goes by too fast as always, but I know Kelly and Lena, you probably have thoughts on technology and everything else. And you all have thoughts, I’ve had to rush through some of the categories. So let’s leave some time for Q&A, I know some great questions have been coming in and we’ll get to those in just a second. But before we get there, I want to give you each a chance to share some practical tips. I hear the voice of our good friend, Jeff Snavely, who may be out there watching, telling me what do I take away from this time with you all on this panel discussion? We’ve covered a lot very briefly, we can take deep dives into all of these topics, but give me some practical advice. What is my takeaway? Kelly, I’ll start with you. 

Kelly Johnson: I think, Lena touched on it earlier about, this is our opportunity. These crises are our job security. I’ve said that to my team for years. All these people who can’t figure stuff out and solve these problems, like they are our reason for being. And while the spotlight is shining bright on what we bring to our organizations. 

 I think for me, as we talk about policies and procedures and we talk about all the changes, for me the most important lens is what are the guiding principles. What is it I’m trying to do and I’m trying to deliver, and how can I be part of the solution and not part of the problem? And so I will say as a time facility manager, a lot of my head space was filled with standards and things I could replicate and things I could scale and that doesn’t work in the same way anymore. So my real thing is how do I get to yes?  

How do I help the organization solve this problem at an individual level? And I’ve gotten better at that over the last five, six years. How do I give this person a sit stand desk when that person has a fixed desk and how do I manage setting the precedence that I can’t do across the board? So it just really is how can I get to yes, to make this person, this individual humans experience better? And just remembering that you don’t know what people are bringing to their experience that day. You don’t know what they’re dealing with at home and just keep the lens that everybody comes to it with good intent and wants to do their best. How can I support that? 

Mike: I like that. Excellent. Kelly, thank you. Be kind to one another. We need to be kind and understand that what I’m dealing with is not the same as what others are dealing with. Lena, your practical advice as we head into the future. 

Lena Thompson: Well, I would be remiss if I did not say that being an instructor and being a part of the facilities community, being a member of the local chapter and learning and growing so much since I’ve joined IFMA, it has changed my world. And meeting professionals like you see on this panel and becoming friends and networking with them, hearing their stories and being part of their discussions.  

That is where my head is today, because change can happen locally, but it’s happening globally. And we are all interconnected in some way. And I would like for you to take away, get your FMP, get your SFP, continue your education, do something for yourself, educate yourself. That is one thing that the community can’t take away from you. I mean, your organization can’t. Once it’s yours, it’s yours.  

And grow with IFMA, grow with your organization, grow and learn that there is a community out there that’s there to support you. You’re not alone in all of this, and you can sit on, blindly on a webinar or you can come and join the community face to face. And it will be face- to- face and in person very soon, but continue to do it virtually whatever’s most comfortable for you. 

Mike: I love it. Great advice. Lena thank you. Case, practical tips. 

Case Ronaldson: I’ll use a quick quote to be brief. In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed. They must be fit for it, they must not do too much of it and they must have a sense of success in it. And I think you’ve heard two great examples on how one can do that. 

Mike: Excellent. The question was, what did you do during your quarantine experience? And I know that we’re getting to the point where people are going to ask, hey, you’re coming out of it, what did you do? And for the up skilling and the recommendations to find out what you’re best at and utilize those skills is all really great stuff. For me I hope I’ve learned stuff. I’ve become more self-aware. I know of what my limitations. And as one of my guests on my podcast said, “I hope to make better mistakes tomorrow.”  

So with that in mind, I want to get to the Q& A time. And I want you all to submit your questions. There are many that have come in. Emily, I’ll ask you to read some of those here in just a second, but before we go there, you all know if you listen to my podcast, that music is a huge part of what keeps me sane, especially during this last year plus. And I’ve always asked my guests to share music. I didn’t have time to get into everybody’s musical recommendations. So I hope I can speak for all of us when I summarize that, of course, the 1980s has some great music we can all look back on and have good nostalgic feelings. Y’all remember this guy, Billy Idol, he’s still around. Actually, this is a recent picture of Billy, looking as good at age 60 something as he did back in his twenties in the early ’80s.  

But he released an album here in the U.S. and it had some great songs on it. The classic White Wedding, which of course is one of my favorites. And it came to mind just a couple months ago when my daughter got married here in D. C. this past April. We had a nice day for a White Wedding, but as I make this turn towards looking to the future and returning to offices, returning to public spaces, returning to conferences and reengaging with you all, I think Billy says best when he said, ” It’s a nice day to start again. Yeah.” What do you all think? 

Lena Thompson: At least you didn’t make us sing it. Thank you for that. 

Mike: I did not. I’m not going to put you on the spot like that. With that thank you Case for taking time to be with us today. 

Case Ronaldson: Thanks Mike. 

Mike: Lena, it’s always a pleasure. As you said, I’m so glad that we had a chance to talk and we’ll do it again soon, I’m sure. 

Lena Thompson: Thank you so much Mike. 

Mike: And Kelly thank you. 

Kelly Johnson: Thank you. I appreciate the conversation in this community. Couldn’t do it without everybody. 

Lena Thompson: Agree. 

Mike: I’ll just close by saying Emily, thank you so much for controlling the questions. And for those of you out there who are not involved with IFMA, we all are very supportive of the International Facility Management Association. Check it out if you have not done so already, if you’re in the D. C. area, come say hello to us in the months to come as we return to in person meeting, hopefully. So with that said, thank you for spending time with us today. I hope that in some small way, during this hour, together we encouraged and inspired you all to be a workplace innovator. Peace out everybody. 

 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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