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The Phases of Reimagining and Relearning the Workplace in a Pandemic

Simone Fenton-Jarvis, BSc, MBA, FIWFM is Workplace Consultancy Director for Ricoh UK where she is passionate about all things Workplace and works with organizations to enable people to achieve their potential through Technology, Spaces, Processes and Culture. In August 2020, Mike Petrusky hosted a live webinar broadcast called “The Phases of Reimagining and Relearning the … Continue reading "The Phases of Reimagining and Relearning the Workplace in a Pandemic"

The Phases of Reimagining and Relearning the Workplace in a Pandemic

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Simone Fenton-Jarvis, BSc, MBA, FIWFM is Workplace Consultancy Director for Ricoh UK where she is passionate about all things Workplace and works with organizations to enable people to achieve their potential through Technology, Spaces, Processes and Culture. In August 2020, Mike Petrusky hosted a live webinar broadcast called “The Phases of Reimagining and Relearning the Workplace in a Pandemic” as Simone discussed returning to offices, the changes we have already experienced and what the future workplace might look like for all of us. She shared both a vision and practical steps to help us reimagine the workplace so we can make the most of this opportunity to rethink the value of workspaces during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Read the full transcript:

Mike (00:01):

Hey. Do you want more insightful conversations? Many of the topics we discuss here, around workplace design and strategy, are also explored in depth at Work Design Magazine. You’ll find many of my past guests contributing to the site and coming soon, I’ll welcome publisher Bob Fox to the show. He’ll talk about the winning submissions and the fascinating findings from the next work environment competition. So be a workplace innovator and subscribe for free today at Thanks.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (00:36):

As organizations evolve, the spaces will evolve, the technology will evolve, processes will evolve. So as much data as we can capture, the more we can make sure that they’re all evolving at the same time. That’s what we mean around that conscious workplace.

Mike (00:51):

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 there, folks. Welcome to the show. My name is Mike, and this is episode 126 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with industry leaders about the trends and challenges of the workplace in 2020 and beyond. And believe me, we have had a lot to talk about with our weekly live stream every Wednesday at noon, Eastern. We had a great guest on that live stream. She joined us way back in April, in the early weeks of our lockdown in quarantine, and I really enjoyed what she had to offer during that discussion. So I wanted to invite her back and get more of her thoughts.

         Simone Fenton-Jarvis is the Workplace Consultancy Director for Ricoh, UK, where she is responsible for helping organizations build people-centric workplaces. She is also an IWFM fellow and very active in that organization. But last month, Simone joined me and shared a great webinar presentation, called The Phases of Re-imagining and Relearning the Workplace in a Pandemic, and I wanted to share just a few of the highlights from that webinar presentation with you today. I am sure you will get a lot from it. So check this out.

         Welcome. Welcome. How’s everybody doing? I am so glad you’re here for another iOFFICE webinar presentation, and I’m so excited to welcome back someone you may know, recognize from past broadcasts, so Simone Fenton-Jarvis, welcome to the webinar.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (02:53):

Hi. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Mike (02:54):

It’s been, what, four months since you were on my live stream? I think it was back in April, early days of the pandemic. And so I’m excited to hear through this presentation. I’ve gotten a sneak peek folks. No spoilers, but it’s an amazing slide deck on re-imagining and relearning the workplace, these phases we’re going through. And I think that was really something I noticed is something we’ve gone through, psychological. Safety is a big topic we talked about four months ago and it’s certainly something you’re going to address today, right?

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (03:24):

Yeah, definitely. Most would say it offline where over… Everybody’s at different phases of where they’re at personally. And then when you kind of mix that up with the phases of the return to work… I guess we’ve kind of moved through the initial kind of panic, maybe, and rush everybody get out of your office quickly into, oh, actually, we know that we’re working from home for a while now. And then almost getting ready to go back and then being told we have to wait a little bit longer. And I think everyone’s kind of been at different phases in their own journey. So, I think, when we’re going back into that workplace, what does that look like from almost a return point, but then also looking into the future? So that’s what I’ll talk about today.

Mike (04:04):

Excellent. Hopefully what you share with us today will help us all either feel better about where we are, or give us some of the tools we need to prepare to go forward. So I think a lot of it’s about human beings and our human nature, and inspiration is something I’ve always done on my podcast. I’ve asked my guests to provide an inspirational or motivational quote to help get us to where we want to go in the workplace, and you shared one with us today. Why don’t you read it to us?

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (04:31):

Yeah, someone sits in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. And I think that kind of has resonated to me over the last few years, because I think within the work that I’ve been doing, sometimes you get to see the immediate value when you think, wow, that’s really made a difference. And sometimes it takes a bit of a longer kind of payback period, almost, but I know that things that I did years ago have now actually kind of come into fruition in their environments because I get feedback from people. And I think that’s where it’s almost saying to people don’t kind of lose motivation if you can’t see an immediate kind of affects. I’m sure that if you’re aiming to do the right thing for the people, you’re making that kind of innovation, and you’re taking them forward steps, then, ultimately, the trees will grow at some point, so just kind of bear with it.

Mike (05:20):

I like that a lot, and that is exactly what we hope to do today for our audience, which is mostly probably made up of workplace leaders that you are used to talking to that I talk to on my show, and it’s people in the facility management and corporate real estate world, as well as maybe some HR, IT professionals looking at technology solutions to try to bring that comfort level up. And during a crisis one of the things we’ve said over and over is that in the beginning we went through those phases of panic and crisis mode, and I think the people who kept their heads said, “Let’s not make any rash decisions. Let’s not do anything dramatic that’s going to keep that tree from growing.” So now we’re in this phase of rethinking and re-imagining what the workplace should look like now and in the future, and I can’t wait to hear some of what you have to say. So I’m going to turn it over to you here, Simone, for the phases of re-imagining the workplace.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (06:12):

So today guys, just to kind of reiterate what we’re kind of going to go through, and I think it’s crucial to say right at the beginning here, this is not going to be some step-by-step guide of this is what we need to do next. I’ve not got a crystal ball, but, hopefully, throughout all of this, hopefully we’ll all leave with some kind of questions rather than the answers. And hopefully some of this will hopefully make us think about a few things.

         So today we’re just going to run through almost that phase one, what does that initial return to work look like… return to the workplace, should I say, and then phase two, into the more kind of settling in period. When people have got back to some kind of rhythm, what does that look like? What comes next? Because I think we could alternately create a COVID-secure workplace and stop there.

         And then once the pandemic’s moved on, we kind of go back to looking like we were before, or we could reimagine that space, and that’s what the phase three is about. What does that space, and what does that workplace and culture look like in the world where it’s re-imagined? And then, also, how do we ensure that constant evolution?

         So just to start with, really, I guess, when we head into workplaces, we almost take it for granted it’s safe. Unless you work on a construction site, it’s just not at the top of your mind what that kind of risk, what may be coming with going into the workplace. And I think the one thing that has made us realize is actually, not only do we appreciate maybe facilities managers a lot more because we know now things they have to do for all of us, especially because it’s all over the news, which I’ll kind of get on in to a minute, but, ultimately, what can businesses do to make people feel comfortable? It’s all just kind of coming to a head at the moment and I think that’s where now we kind of almost need to get ready for what is next, not just what’s happening now.

Mike (08:04):

Absolutely. We’ve been in this phase of evolution of the workplace. You and I have been talking about it in our industry for a long, long time. And employee experience has become certainly a topic that we’ve talked about before the pandemic, and this whole situation has really poured an accelerant on it and really made us aware of even more of the human side, which is something that is interesting to me, for sure.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (08:27):

Yeah, absolutely. And going into that evolution we’ve gone from being cognitive in machine or utility through to people looking over, well, how do we improve productivity? And then it was our engagement was the next big thing, then it was experience. I guess the question is what’s next? See if we’ve covered all of these things… I imagine all them years ago when people were sat in workhouses in rows and rows and rows, they weren’t sat there thinking that one day that the workplaces would fill in with light bulbs, and bean bags, and slides. It was just kind of out of our thinking, so it’s almost what is coming next? But I think what’s going to guide that is the stats that you can see here. We start seeing that people… Even pre-COVID, 80% of employees said that the technology that they had didn’t allow them to do their job properly.

         Now it’s things like that that is going to becoming really, really crucial, because as we’ve obviously realized, technology has been quite crucial in getting us to this point. I think if this had happened 15, 20 years ago, I think the economy would be in a different state than what it is now. So I think there’s a lot of, again, positive things to come from the technology that’s out there. And people are still worried about that return.

         There were some stats, actually, a few months ago that said before the pandemic that if people could work flexibly, they would actually be willing to take up to a 25% pay cut. Now if you look at that now in a world where actually we’re going to be able to hopefully work in a more agile way, working from home, that’s going to be massive ticking box for people. And I think that’s where that evolution comes, is almost instead of being dictated, “This is the next way of working,” are we going to be able to have some autonomy of saying, “Actually, we don’t know what’s after experience, but actually this is what we want, so is this what we can have?” I think we’re in a really interesting position at the moment.

Mike (10:17):

Well, we’ve got great leaders, like Neil Usher. I like the quote because Neil’s book, The Elemental Workplace, he talks about, we’re never at the destination, we’re always moving, it’s a perpetual evolution, and some of the wisdom and the things that he was talking about way, way before the pandemic hit are certainly coming to light today. And I guess that’s one of the other silver linings is that you said we are finding out how resilient we are as human beings. And there’s an opportunity here to re-imagine things and maybe come out of this better and stronger and everybody in a better place than we were, pre-pandemic.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (10:53):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s the thing. I think when there’s a rupture, we can either rupture and fall apart, or we can build back stronger. And I’m hoping that this is going to be that situation where we all come back stronger in it. So when you start looking at what is that impact? What has Coronavirus done to our kind of mindsets? I do think that we’ll be almost feeling this for years. There’s already a lot of kind of stats out there around people, how they’ve been affected psychologically. I think physically that will be the next bit.

         But then when we start looking into how has our way of working been affected… At the start of the pandemic, I might have even mentioned it when I was on the podcast initially, back in April, people were saying that they were really enjoying not having to commute. And I think, as time has gone on, speaking to people now and through the work and surveys and things that we’ve been doing at Ricoh, the standard has changed. Instead of it just being, I’m enjoying not having to kind of commute, it’s been more around, actually, I’m really enjoying the fact that I can now have breakfast with our children. I can have a run in the middle of the working day. I’m getting more sleep. I feel fitter. I feel healthier. I’m at home and I’ve got everything around that I need. And actually, I’ve realized that technology can do what I need to do. And that’s not for every worker, but there’s a high percentage of people that that is the case for. So I think there’s definitely been a shift of it not just being about that commute anymore.

         And I think another thing that’s come out of this is when people start saying the impacts on climate, as well. I think just on the UK, initially there was something like 30% drop in the emissions and all the carbon rates increased, and it was a lot better. And now, because UK has opened up some extent, it’s been kind of increased by 16%, only in the last three or four weeks in emissions. And I think when you start looking at that, actually, we can see what damage we’re doing by traveling to work, when actually we can do things at home. So I think there’s also a lot of percentage of population that’s also thinking about that, as well. That’s going to be interesting how that plays out into the future.

         I think this is going to make organizations stand out against each other, I think, from a competitive advantage point of view. If these things matter to people, then organizations are going to have to move pretty swiftly. Otherwise, they’re going to have some pretty serious problems with recruiting and retention of their people. And then you look at things like the values of the organization. What were they before the pandemic? Is there anything that’s going to change about that? How important were facilities management in the organization before the pandemic? Has that changed now? So there’s a lot of kind of questions that people are going to start asking, and asking themselves and asking others. And I think that’s the impact on that next normal, is it’s just made us aware that we should ask a lot of questions.

Mike (13:52):

Yeah, and the biggest one is probably, as you mentioned, why do we go back to the office? Why does the office exist to begin with? And this has forced us to really think that through, and organizations will now have an opportunity to set themselves apart because we all have different expectations now than we did six months ago. And also, there are valid reasons that we need to be together. Maybe not every day of the week, maybe not all the time, but for certain things it’s been demonstrated and proven that in-person collaboration is something that is valuable and necessary as human beings. I certainly miss seeing people in person and going to conferences and all those things that I think will return someday. And we’ll just, again, have to make the most of this opportunity.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (14:35):

Yeah. So as we’re heading into that, what does the re-imagination bit look like? The bit that should be the anchor is that the people should be at the center of what we’re doing. So if we can keep people at the center of what the space is doing, what the technology is doing, and what the processes are in the organization, ultimately the people benefit, the business will benefit, and it will be that a win-win all around. And I think sometimes we have lost sight of that. The way that we’ve kind of, I guess, coined how we keep people at the heart of everything that we do, the work that I do… We use the conscious workplace, and what we mean, I guess, by that is making sure that the workplace is taking that counteractive consideration, so it’s engaging the people, it’s enabling them using the technology, and ultimately it’s evolving over time.

         So we want to come away from a world where every five years a facilities manager rings up and says, “Oh, I’m ready to change my system, or I’m ready to do a fit out.” Let’s come away from that world, and instead, let us be ringing the customer and say to them, “Actually, we’ve been looking at the data and this space isn’t being used as much as it maybe could be.” Let’s have a look at why that is. Let’s come and do a bit more research. Let’s look at the rest of the data sets. Let’s do that deeper dive. Why are we paying for space that’s not being used properly?

         And I think as organizations evolve, the spaces will evolve, the technology will evolve, processes will evolve. So as much data as we can capture, the more we can make sure that they’re all evolving at the same time, and that we don’t just become stagnant and relying on CapEx expenditure to kind of drive our next change. It should just be marginal gains almost all the time. And that’s what we mean around that conscious workplace.

Mike (16:28):

I like that. It’s a holistic view of the work-life integration, which is what we’re all experiencing.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (16:37):

So the future… Crystal ball time, I guess, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s not about what it looks like, despite some of the things I’ve just showed you. It’s not about what it looks like. I think it’s about, really, how our mindsets move into the future. It’s about how it feels to us. And I think from that point, we’ve probably got a few things that we can do.

         We could, I guess, do nothing. We could go back to a COVID-secure workplace, with all of the kind of earliest slides in there, return to normal. We could look at every workplace gone before. There’s about 18 different sites, now. See what fits, and if we all end up back in cubicles, then that might be what people want, or we could kind of be brave and really say, right, “We can define what this looks like next.” Let’s not look at headline-grabbing newspaper articles, and let’s not look at what we might want from Pinterest, and let’s really think, what do we want from work? And start feeding that back into the business and really define what that next workplace looks like for the organization, in line with the organizational objectives and goals and things. It can’t just be something that doesn’t fit.

Mike (17:48):

Let’s re-imagine the future. And let’s do it Willy Wonka style. I love this Simone.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (17:53):


Mike (17:53):

So you are a fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka?

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (17:57):

Yeah, I think mid-pandemic I ended up watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and as Gene Wilder started singing, I was like, “Oh, this could relate to the workplace.” And I think it is that you can do it. It’s not a kind of a… Don’t wait for somebody else to do it. Work out what you want from your workplaces, your life, everything. And you go and do it, because nobody else will do it for you.

Mike (18:34):

(singing) Simone, thank you so much. I appreciate your partnership with iOFFICE at Ricoh, and we appreciate the presentation today. It was great. Thank you for being here.

Simone Fenton-Jarvis (18:45):

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Mike (18:48):

There you have it, everybody. Nothing like a little Willy Wonka to brighten our days, and nothing quite like Simone Fenton-Jarvis sharing her thoughts around the phases of re-imagining and relearning the workplace during these pandemic times.

         I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Thank you, Simone, for sharing it with my audience. If you all would like to see the full one hour recording of Simone’s presentation, please check the show notes for this podcast episode. You will find a link to that very content, and I encourage you to check it out. I also encourage you to head over to Apple Podcasts and share your true feelings about this show. A little rating or review goes a long way to really help us spread the word and let more people know that they’re not alone on this journey to help our organizations manage the complexities of this difficult time. And I hope others will join us, as we are here to encourage and inspire each other 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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