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Is this the Workplace’s “Kodak Moment”? Insight into the Future of Work

Kay Sargent is Senior Principal and Director of WorkPlace at HOK where she is a recognized expert on workplace and an award-winning designer who has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to optimize their global real estate portfolios and create innovative work environments. In January 2021, Mike Petrusky hosted a live webinar broadcast called “Is … Continue reading "Is this the Workplace’s “Kodak Moment”? Insight into the Future of Work"

Is this the Workplace’s “Kodak Moment”? Insight into the Future of Work

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Kay Sargent is Senior Principal and Director of WorkPlace at HOK where she is a recognized expert on workplace and an award-winning designer who has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to optimize their global real estate portfolios and create innovative work environments. In January 2021, Mike Petrusky hosted a live webinar broadcast called “Is this the Workplace’s ‘Kodak Moment’?” to explore the future of work and discover how facility management and corporate real estate leaders should lead their organizations through these pandemic times. Hear Kay’s honest and eye-opening assessment of where we are as an industry during this audio highlight episode of the show! 

Ep. 146: Is this the Workplace’s “Kodak Moment”? Insight into the Future of Work

Full Episode Transcript: 

Kay Sargent: I’ve never had a CEO tell me, ” I’m really worried about Johnny sitting in 200 square feet.” What they’re worried about is their ability to innovate fast enough to stay relevant, and what they’re worried about today is the safety and the health of their employees. 

Mike Petrusky: 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 Petrusky: Hey folks, welcome to episode 146 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. It’s me, Mike P., and do I have a good show for you today. If you’ve been looking for an honest assessment of how the pandemic has really changed our industry, and if you want some great insight into the future of work and the workplace, you have come to the right place. My guest today is a frequent visitor to this program and I always learn so much from her. She’s amazing. Kay Sargent is Senior Principal and Director of Workplace at HOK. And just a few weeks ago, I had her on a live broadcast to answer the question, ” Is this the workplace’s Kodak moment?” 

Mike Petrusky: We had a huge audience. It was probably our largest webinar event ever. There’s not much needed as far as an introduction goes. We know each other well, we dove right in, got into some inspiration, some music, some quotes, and then Kay turned the tables on me and started asking me the questions that we all need to be asking to know if this is indeed our Kodak moment. So without further ado, I know you’re going to love it. Here we go. Hey, listen, we do things in style here. Kicking things off with one of our favorite guests ever. It’s the one, the only, the incomparable Kay Sargent of HOK. Hello, Kay. 

Kay Sargent: In the house. Literally in the house. 

Mike Petrusky: In the house, literally 10 months later. We’ll get to that. We’ll get to that. Let’s not rush too far. 

Kay Sargent: All right. 

Mike Petrusky: How you been? Everything good? 

Kay Sargent: Well, did any of us ever think that we’d miss 2020? Look, I’m glad 2020 is over and gone, but 2021 has been a little bit crazy coming back. 

Mike Petrusky: Yeah, that’s an understatement of the year, but we’re optimists here. We’re optimists, and we have a lot of things to talk about. Although we’re also realists, if you see the title slide here on the screen, and we have a tough topic here to cover. So I always go to my favorite marketing guru, Seth Godin, for inspiration. And he’s got a quote, “If you hesitate to map out your future, to make a big plan or to set a goal, you’ve just gone ahead and mapped out your future anyway.” So to put it in other words, Kay, as Rush said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” right? 

Kay Sargent: You’ve made a decision. Yeah, absolutely. Well, can I tag in with one of my favorite quotes? 

Mike Petrusky: Sure, please. 

Kay Sargent: And I’m going to change my favorite quote. I was actually going to say, “Common sense isn’t that common,” which is a Voltaire quote. And I think that’s really true, but in light of what has happened, and you and I both live outside of Washington, DC, and based on your quote, I will share a story. It’s not a quote, but I’m going to share a story. There’s a saying in the security design and preparedness realm that if you are not prepared, if you are not thinking about your future, you become the perfect victim. And I think a lot of us don’t want to think about the unpleasant and so we avoid it and therefore we get caught by it. I think we all could have predicted some of the events that have happened. I think we all know that it’s not a matter of if the next disaster is going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen. But very few of us really want to think about that. And so, there was a great story before the Super Bowl several years ago, big football fan, and Willie Gault was in the end zone right before the Super Bowl. And he’s in the end zone, and he’s being very quiet and there’s a whole bunch of people that are praying, or people that are running around preparing, and a reporter walked over to him and said, ” Willie, you’re about to play the biggest game of your life and you’re just hanging over here in the corner. What are you doing?” And he goes, ” I’m imagining myself receiving that perfect pass.” And he looked at him like, ” Why are you doing that?” And he goes, ” Because if I don’t imagine it, and prepare for that inevitability, when it happens, I’ll hesitate, and I won’t know how to react. And that could be the difference between us winning or losing this game.” 

Mike Petrusky: Wow. 

Kay Sargent: And it’s a great moment, I think, to really think about the fact, Mike, most of our corporate clients have not woken up to realize there’s a big target on a lot of their backs this morning. And we all need to be thinking a little bit more holistically. 

Mike Petrusky: Absolutely. You have been a leading voice in many, many capacities, years of doing that. And during this pandemic, when I started having my livestreams and started trying to find answers and as your clients did, they reached out to you and wanted to know what you were thinking. So we’ll get into all that here in a second. But Kay, I got to catch up with you about music. You know it’s a big part of my show. What are you listening to as you wander the woods and clear your mind? Is it music, or do you listen to podcasts? What’s going on? 

Kay Sargent: Yeah. Well, first of all, I’ve left the century. In the summertime, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I left the century and I went back to the 15 and 1600s. So I’m listening to all these weird Irish jig things in the 15th and 16th century, things, ballads or whatever. But if I had to pick one song right now that I’ve listened to a lot, I’m a huge Tracy Chapman fan. 

Mike Petrusky: Nice. 

Kay Sargent: Huge Tracy Chapman fan. But she actually- 

Mike Petrusky: Fast Car! 

Kay Sargent: Yeah. Well, I’m going to say Talking About A Revolution. 

Mike Petrusky: Okay, that one. Sure. 

Kay Sargent: That one, right? And I love Tracy Chapman. She actually was interviewed once and she’s very mysterious. She doesn’t do a lot of shows. She actually did sing that song before the election on one of the night shows. She came out of hiding to do it, but she’s very mysterious. And she wears a key around her neck and there’s all this speculation about, “What is the key? What is the key?” And finally somebody said, ” Tracy, you got this symbolic key that you wear around your neck, what is that key?” And she goes, ” It’s the key to my front door.” 

Mike Petrusky: That’s it. 

Kay Sargent: So, there you go. 

Mike Petrusky: There you go. This is your chance, Kay, to sing a little Tracy Chapman. Workplace Innovator live, you ready? 

Kay Sargent: I am so not singing because everybody would get off instantly. 

Mike Petrusky: The show would be over, right? Well, crosstalk I will try to resist, but I have to give at least an inspirational song when I’m in a new year, and reflecting and trying to find the songs that inspire me. Of course, these guys are the favorite of mine from Dublin, Ireland. Kay, do you know who I’m looking at here? 

Kay Sargent: U2. 

Mike Petrusky: But this is 20 years later, and we are celebrating U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind album. I’ve been listening to this album a lot, Kay. Do you remember this album? It has Beautiful Day, but my favorite from that album is a song called Elevation. Have you heard this song before? It’s a really upbeat anthem. 

Kay Sargent: I’m sure I have, but sing it for me, Mike, so I know. 

Mike Petrusky: Well, Bono says he’s, ” A mole living in a hole, digging up my soul now, going down excavation, I and I, in the sky, you make me feel like I can fly, so high. Elevation.” 

Kay Sargent: Thank you. I can’t top that, Mike. 

Mike Petrusky: If you need to get fired up folks, put on a little U2. All right? 

Kay Sargent: I’m so proud of you. Next time, you can sing Tracy Chapman for me. 

Mike Petrusky: I will, I will. Okay. Everyone who’s out there joining us live across the country, who have a huge, huge interest in this webinar conversation, I want to kind of set it up with how you set this up for me. I asked you about your thoughts about the workplace of the future, what it looks like, and this isn’t something new to you, Kay. You’ve told me over the years. In fact, I remember you talking about this two years ago at the iOFFICE crosstalk. 

Kay Sargent: You we wrote an article two years ago about this, yeah. 

Mike Petrusky: Yeah. And you shared it with us, but this is the set-up for this conversation. For the past several years, we have watched as industry after industry has been disrupted and forced to evolve. The retail sector has been rocked by Amazon, the hotel sector by Airbnb, and the taxi service by Uber and Lyft. But there’s also been a disruption in the commercial real estate industry, thanks to co- working and now COVID-19. The whole world is asking a fundamental question, what is the future of work? If we are myopic and focus too narrowly on addressing only the challenge COVID has presented with us regarding how and where people work, we will miss the bigger opportunity to address the real challenges we are facing today and those on the horizon. This might be our Kodak moment. So, Kay Sargent- 

Kay Sargent: Wow, you read what we put out there, Mike. I’m impressed. 

Mike Petrusky: It’s so well-said, and it’s something that you said two years ago. I didn’t really fully process it at that time. Didn’t register. Where are we today? And tell me more about this Kodak moment language. What do you really mean by it in how it affects corporate real estate facilities, the built environment? The folks out in the audience today are wondering how does it affect me, my organization, my future? 

Kay Sargent: Well, let’s just start actually, because there might be people that don’t know the Kodak story and what a Kodak moment even means. 

Mike Petrusky: Sure. 

Kay Sargent: So Kodak, for years and years and years, Mike, you and I can remember this from our childhood, you had your little camera, you had to buy your film, and you put your film in the camera. And then you had to take it, take to the drug store and then they would process it, and then they would get it back to you and of the 20 pictures that you paid to have processed, you might get two good pictures out of it. Right? 

Mike Petrusky: Yeah. A week later, a few weeks later. Right, right. 

Kay Sargent: Kodak for years, years and years and years was the leader in film technology. And they actually invented digital technology before it was a thing. 

Mike Petrusky: That’s right. 

Kay Sargent: But the powers that be within the organization said, “No, no, no, no. We make our money on film and the processing and the paper. Why would we ever want to do digital technology or digital photographs? Yeah, that’s not going to be a thing for us.” And they passed, and did not do it. So they created the next big, revolutionary thing that literally made them obsolete ultimately, but refused to think differently because they were so stuck in the existing way of doing something that it’s like, ” Well, sure, it’s costing tons of money, and sure it isn’t great or whatever.” But they passed, and it ended up ultimately biting them and being their ultimate demise when they had the answer the entire time. They just couldn’t think differently. So where we are right now in our industry, well, I’m going to… Mike, you always ask the questions. I’m going to ask you some questions. 

Mike Petrusky: Yeah, please. Okay. 

Kay Sargent: Ready? 

Mike Petrusky: The tables are being turned, folks. I’m a little nervous, but I’m up for it. So, just to set the stage again. We’ve seen it before. Blockbuster did the same thing. They had a chance to buy Netflix and go to streaming, and way before we knew what Netflix was going to be, they could have been that. And they said, ” No thanks. Our model works just fine,” and we know what happened to Blockbuster. Tie it to commercial real estate or corporate real estate and facilities. 

Kay Sargent: Yeah. Well, so first of all, are we in a point where something is broken and maybe there’s a better option? So I want everybody out there to think about the answer to these and we’re going to make Mike answer these questions. Now Mike, I understand the business that you’re in. So some of these you’re going to want to say, ” Well, of course we can do that,” right? But I want you to think about the majority of companies that are out there right now. How would they answer these questions? Ready? 

Mike Petrusky: Okay. I’m ready. 

Kay Sargent: Rapid fire, yes or no. That’s all you can answer. Okay? Question number one, can companies get in and out of space as quickly as they need to be? 

Mike Petrusky: No. 

Kay Sargent: Okay. Question number two, are meeting rooms designed and appointed to meet the needs of the users? 

Mike Petrusky: Sometimes, but not often enough. 

Kay Sargent: No. 

Mike Petrusky: No. 

Kay Sargent: Number three, when things change, are work environments flexible or agile enough to change with them? 

Mike Petrusky: I’m fighting to say our customers can say yes, but many cannot. So I’ll say no. 

Kay Sargent: Okay. Are we leveraging technology to create better user experiences? Do we have more options in control at our work points than we do maybe in our cars, or are our cars more sophisticated? So are we really leveraging technology to its fullest extent in the workplace? 

Mike Petrusky: Not yet. Yes. So I want to say sometimes, and there’s small advances that have been made but compare- 

Kay Sargent: Yeah, I told you were going to want to say yes to these, because we could. But we aren’t. 

Mike Petrusky: Yeah, but we haven’t. Yeah, well, when you talk about the car example, I know exactly you’re saying. 

Kay Sargent: So the answer is no. Yes. 

Mike Petrusky: Yeah, the answer’s no, because we have the technology capable of completely customizing the experience, yet that luxury car experience has not been at least up to this point something that’s been seriously considered or permissible in the workplace environment. 

Kay Sargent: Are you able to tap into the right talent at the right time? And do you always have the right number of people on your staff? 

Mike Petrusky: No. 

Kay Sargent: Do you have the correct information and data about what people are doing, how they’re using the space, and how things are or aren’t working? Okay, I know you have to say yes to this, because of the business that you’re in, but most clients out there, if they’re not in iOFFICE, think about the non- iOFFICE users. 

Mike Petrusky: Even iOFFICE users who are using sensors and they’re getting a lot of data about utilization and how people are moving, they still… because sitting at the knee of Kay Sargent over the years, I know that there’s something called thin data and there’s something called thick data. We give a lot of great data and we give a lot of great data points, but if you really look at it, it’s thin data and it’s open to interpretation, and can you explain? What’s thick data? 

Kay Sargent: Yeah, so thick data is data that is triangulated that you understand why. So it’s not just telling you something that’s broken, it’s telling you why. So nobody uses this work point. Okay, why? Oh, because there’s no power, or oh, because it’s over an air vent, or oh… whatever. So it’s about digging into it a little bit more and fully understanding why. So we’re going to say no, that most people don’t really understand to the fullest extent that they could. Okay. Question number seven, are spaces designed to truly support wellbeing and mental health? 

Mike Petrusky: No. Rex Miller would not be happy if I said yes at this point. He’s going to be clear. 

Kay Sargent: Number eight, are spaces designed to truly be sustainable? And are we really addressing climate change and dealing with embodied carbon? 

Mike Petrusky: No, I don’t think at all, in many ways. 

Kay Sargent: Okay. Number nine, are we supporting and enabling people to work anywhere, not just in the office? 

Mike Petrusky: Interesting- 

Kay Sargent: And people, do have the right setup at home? Do they have the right setup wherever they need to be? 

Mike Petrusky: No. We’ve learned that I think the hard way here, because of the crisis. 

Kay Sargent: Question number 10, are we addressing diversity and inclusivity and are spaces designed to truly make everyone feel welcome in them? 

Mike Petrusky: Again no, but I am passionate about this topic. 

Kay Sargent: But we could. 

Mike Petrusky: We need to do better. 

Kay Sargent: Just like Kodak could have gone digital, right? We are at a point right now where as individuals, as companies, and as an industry, we are at an inflection point and we are being given an opportunity to do something different. Because the whole world is asking us what the future of work is. In our answer, are we addressing all of those things that we know are important, but we’re not doing well right now? Because if we’re not, this could be our Kodak moment, because if we continue to not solve those problems that are important to people, they will find a way to do it themselves. And I think we really need to think about what is happening, what are the shifts? And be really honest about what we haven’t done well. And Mike, I haven’t even gotten into all the things that are on the horizon that we know are coming. Augmentation, artificial intelligence, robotics, holograms, are we prepared for those? Are you prepared for the knock on your door when somebody says, ” I’m neurodivergent and I need you to design a certain space for me, so that I feel welcome,” because it’s required by law? Are we truly making everybody… and we talk about designing for social equity, but does anybody know what that really means and how you do that? There are things as an industry we need to be brutally honest about, and realize there’s got to be a better way. And I think some of these things are happening organically. We’re starting to see some shifts towards some of these things, but we need to focus. I mean, everybody right now is so worried about cost per square foot and you know, all these ridiculous things. I’ve never had a CEO tell me, ” I’m really worried about Johnny sitting in 200 square feet.” What they’re worried about is their ability to innovate fast enough to stay relevant. And what they’re worried about today is the safety and the health of their employees. We need to address that. 

Mike Petrusky: Wow! There you have it, everybody. Some powerful stuff from Kay Sargent of HOK. In fact, that was just the beginning of an amazing hour I got to spend with Kay. I went on to ask for some practical advice to help our community of FM and workplace leaders know what they can do to help lead their organizations in 2021 and beyond. And Kay took a lot of questions from the audience as well. You really must check out the full hour- long video recording. I’ve left the link to that in the show notes for you to make it easy. And please, if you found Kay’s commentary as insightful and challenging as I did, share this podcast with a friend or a colleague, someone in your organization who needs to hear it. I hope that this is just the beginning of what is a very important conversation. I’m always so thankful whenever I have the chance to talk with Kay, and I will certainly invite her back again and I’ll continue to seek to share more interviews like this one with other industry thought leaders who can help provide us with the information, the insight, and the inspiration that you and I will definitely need if we hope to be a workplace innovator. 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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