Let’s Get Real Episode 12: Facilities Management and CRE Strategy

Discussions on the Workplace and Corporate Real Estate Podcast

Written by Sandra Panara, Director of Workspace Insights

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Facilities management role in building CRE strategy
  • Working with IT and HR to bring companies together
  • Workplace experience roles and Facilities Managers
  • Facilities management is all about the people – Function over design
  • How can CRE enable different working styles and locations?
  • Assumptions and pigeonholing people and how they work
  • How to immerse new employees in the organization with no office
  • Appearance of company culture vs. reality
  • Role modeling company culture
  • Moving away from the 9-5, Monday to Friday grind

If you liked today’s show, check out more episodes of the Let’s Get Real Podcast! This podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Transcript: 

Sandra

Hey everyone, welcome to Let’s Get Real with Sandra and Friends, a workplace consortium podcast brought to you by Relogix. I’m excited to be sharing conversational musings about current events and how we envision the ever-changing world of work. I’m Sandra Panara, Director of Workplace Insights at Relogix. With 25 years of hands-on experience, I help value engineer global workplace portfolios and employee experiences by aligning workplace analytics with corporate real estate needs.

Have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future podcasts? Please drop me a line at podcast@Relogix.com.

Today, I’ll be discussing the role of facilities management (FM) with my friend and colleague, Simone Fenton-Jarvis. Hey Simone, happy to have you join me today! Please take a moment to introduce yourself to our listeners.

Simone

Hi, I’m Simone. I’ve been working with Relogix now for around 4 or 5 months. Prior to working at Relogix as the Workplace Consultancy Director, I’ve worked in FM on the ground, I’ve done workplace strategy as Chief Workplace Officer and as a workplace consultant. So, over the 15 years’ experience that I’ve got, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve heard a lot and I’ve done a lot. And I’m at the point now of working from a data standpoint, to make sure that the data-driven decision-making happens when previously in my experience, it’s all kind of happened by accident. So that’s why I came over to Relogix.

Sandra

The various roles that make up corporate real estate in most organizations have been elevated tenfold. Functions like workplace strategy, occupancy planning and design, and facilities management, are all busy trying to figure out how to align the workplace with new ways of working, all brought on by the experience of the pandemic. It’s been said that facilities managers don’t own workplace strategy. Do you think facilities management should do strategy?

Simone

Yes, absolutely. How many times have you been involved in projects where it’s passed to facilities managers to execute, and there’s a massive disconnect. It takes me back a few years ago where I was involved in refurbishing a leisure center. The architect actually put glass stairs in the swimming pool area that went up to the reception. Now, obviously from a facilities management point of view, that’s not going to work. That’s an extreme example, but it shows how facilities were left to basically manage what happens next to maintain health and safety. And as much as that’s an extreme example, there are so many of those examples that happen within the workplace.

It’s linked to how meeting rooms are used as well. Often they’ll say, let’s put the nice meeting room in front of all the windows, and then you’re trying to manage the employee experience but they’ve got no windows because they’re all in meeting rooms. It’s really small examples like that that are all operational, but if facilities management were involved in the wider strategy planning, then these kind of operational things would be raised quite early on in the project, which can only be a benefit for everybody.

Sandra

So you’re saying that facilities management should be included in the actual strategic planning process and be brought to the table similar to change management? That they shouldn’t just be operating in a bubble and saying this is the direction that we should go, implement it, and then say, here you go facilities management, now you manage it.

Simone

Yes, absolutely. I think if facilities management is done right, they’re the hub of the office. They know people, they know how people behave, they know where the challenges are, they’ve got that constant temperature check of what’s going on in the workplace. And that is crucial to determine what future strategy looks like. It’s crazy that they’re not involved in early discussions, really.

Sandra

That’s interesting because that’s been my experience as well when I was in facilities management. I remember working very closely with designers that were coming into the office who would go off and do their thing, and I would maybe provide some input in terms of what was needed. Then you’d get these beautiful designs and you’d look at them and you’d go, ok, that’s not going to work. There I’d be with my tracing paper rejigging things.

It’s true, it’s problematic that facilities managers are always at the tail end of projects. Obviously, I agree too that they know the internal customer, they know the users and the problem areas. Do you think, from a skillset perspective, that they have the appetite to do strategy?

Simone

I think it’s hard to blanket it with every facilities manager. Some facilities managers go into facilities because they love the operational aspect of it and they don’t want to be involved in strategy. But as facilities managers progress through their careers, they realize how the operational and the strategic actually affect each other, and that if they got involved in strategic, it’d make operational easier. That’s when the penny drops and they realize, I actually should be involved in this now.

But that’s when you start to discuss being at the strategy table, but ideally they’d have been there years ago. You can’t just say, here’s a project, you need to be at the table. How do we get facilities managers involved in strategy?

It goes back to the job role, the accountability, the responsibilities. If organizations expected that FM were involved, then I do think facilities managers would naturally step up and say yes, we can see the importance. I think we’re almost caught up in this kind of imposter syndrome situation where FM are saying, I’m not strategy, because I’ve been told I’m not strategy. And I think strategy really needs to come from both sides of the organization, from FM and the leaders.

Sandra

I would agree with that. So, thinking about organizational structure, recently you just did a fairly decent deep dive into corporate real estate as a structure and as a whole. There’s the fact that each organization has got so many different titles and roles and functions that are spread all over the place, and we both know that there’s not really a standard for who does what. Do you think that facilities management is positioned to work well with IT and HR in bringing the organization together, because of the fact that they understand the customer?

Simone

I think so. I think that’s where my previous frustration has been with the sector. Pre-pandemic, facilities were the ones that had the power to start bringing in HR and IT in a room together and saying, this is the employee experience, this is how we need to work together. But FM have not really grabbed that opportunity, and I think that’s why within the UK, we’ve really started going down the workplace route. This is where “workplace experience” started hitting off and it was workplace managers or chief workplace officers who were the “workplace person”, there to be people-focused within the space. I think this is something that’s happening within the UK. And globally, you’ll see a lot of workplace job titles, but that’s not quite the “workplace” that the UK mean at the moment. I don’t think we’ve seen enough conversations about how we get HR, IT and FM to get rid of the silos that exist day-to-day within a workplace. So, I think FM have a really good opportunity to drive it. It’s just a question of whether they’ll take the opportunity and run with it. I think that’s the key.

Sandra

You talk about workplace experience⁠—I’ve seen more workplace experience jobs in the last 18 months than I have I think in my entire career. And it’s true, again, there’s a lot of differences, depending on who the organization is. Does it report to HR, does it report to corporate real estate, in some instances it’s even part of marketing or communications. So you look at that and think, what exactly should that role be?

Workplace experience, to me, is kind of an elevated role of facilities management. I wouldn’t say traffic cop, because that’s a little extreme, but in the sense that you know how the space is supposed to be used and you make sure that the experience that comes with those spaces is actually working for the people when they’re coming into the office.

I think what’s interesting too is the fact that, as we know, the whole idea of work is no longer limited to just the building. So workplace experience also transcends the traditional office. I think that’s where the communications component comes into play, of promoting or trying to  get people to come to the office or just making sure that people are still communicating.

On that front, how do you foresee the impact on facilities management of the fact that more and more people are saying that they don’t want to work from the office as often as they used to? How do you think the role will change?

Simone

Throughout the pandemic, it was interesting to watch how some FMs were automatically put on furlough and told, you’re not needed, we’re in a pandemic, the building’s empty. And then some FMs were crucial to enabling people to work from home.

I think it goes back to the organizational attitude and the culture, and how people perceive FM. With regards to how FM will or should change going forward—FM shouldn’t have ever been about the building. If it’s about the building, what happens when we’re in a pandemic and the building’s closed? FM should have been about the people.

And that’s where the workplace experience piece comes in. A few months ago I was doing a bit of a parody webinar with Ian Ellison, and I was the person that was saying, it’s all about the workplace, and Ian was being the person saying, it’s all about the building. And I think the conclusion we came to at the end was, FM need to adapt quite quickly, because otherwise, HR are probably going to run with this. I saw that this week CIPD are doing a conference where somebody’s speaking on workplace design. So if FM don’t step up, HR are going to take it and that would be a shame.

Sandra

That’s one of the things I’ve always found fascinating in our industry—everybody wants to own design, everybody wants to own strategy, that’s the fun part, the creative part of designing what the future of the office and the future of work is going to look like. But to your point, when you take the physical building out of the question, suddenly the requirements for designing the future of work are very different. There’s a huge people element to it, there’s IT infrastructure, the tools and technology that are required to enable people to work. There’s the communications of making sure people can connect with each other. With a building, you sort of just put the infrastructure in and then people come in and do whatever it is they do. That’s very different when that no longer exists.

Simone

It’s funny, I had a real-life example of this in the last few weeks. I’m building a garden office, and I was there arranging armoured cable to come through from my router in the house, and I’ve got a good Wi-Fi connection, I’ve arranged the practical things like heating and insulation, the windows and making sure there’s no glare. And my wife has been the one saying, I want to decorate it like this, and I think we should have a window there, you can put your desk there. I had to say, I’m not having my desk there because I’ll just be bleached out all day. I’m the one that’s been quite practical, and she wants to make it look nice. I said, I’m using the space, not you, so I think I need to have a say in how the space needs to work.

It’s been interesting, this happens every single day in organizations. I said to her, you should know better because you’re an FM so I’m disappointed! But I think that speaks to how we need to make sure the FM are setting strategy, because they’re the ones that should be bringing the voice of the people and saying actually, this is irritating for people using the space. Let’s make sure that we design this element out right at the start.

Sandra

So it’s function over design.

Simone

Yes.

Sandra

You also touched upon earlier the concept of the pandemic and the impact that that’s had on the physical space—I know from previous experience as well, having gone through Y2K and SARS back in 2003, FM are very much involved in disaster recovery. How do you think disaster recovery might change in organizations from an FM perspective?

Simone

I put my FM hat on the other day and I thought, what was my disaster recovery plan when I was operational FM? And it was always, let’s go to this other building, or let’s make sure that this process is in place. It was never that the building is generally unavailable, and no buildings in the country are available. You need to work from anywhere with an internet connection. It just wasn’t on the agenda because no one really expected it to happen.

Even with things like snow and weather planning—it’s always been, we know we can get skeleton staff in the office. But why are we asking people to go in to a physical building when we’ve just learned quite clearly that many jobs can be done remotely? That’s where the disaster recovery planning now needs to adapt to the world that we’re in. It makes the internet connection more important, not the physical space. As long as there’s an internet connection and we can perch somebody with a laptop, we can work. That’s where disaster recovery needs to really start focusing.

We spend thousands making sure our buildings are fine and working, but organizations are not spending thousands making sure that their employees have got a strong and stable internet connection in their home, and I think that’s probably the first thing I’d look at—how can we make sure that that connection is there.

Sandra

It’s funny, I had the exact same thought about the fact that when we thought about disaster recovery, it was always on the premise that, the building burns down you just go to another building or if there’s an event of that nature, there was always another building as a backup. You’d never think that suddenly no buildings are available, and what do you do? So that’s quite comical, actually, that we had that thought probably around the same time frame.

Thinking about then the role of corporate real estate specifically, and the role that they play in developing strategy and even potentially influencing management and operations, what are you seeing from that angle?

Simone

In my experience, CRE have always been the people that are saying, this is when the lease is coming up, these is the rates. From an FM point of view, it’s almost been, “this is what we have to do because this is what the lease says”. I think where CRE could start working with the wider organization is, now that we know we can work in a different way within an organization, how can CRE enable the locations of the properties to enable that? Not so much a hub and spoke model, but more thinking, do we really want people to travel 2 hours to a physical building if they can travel 20 minutes instead to a building because there’s 10 people in that local area who could all work together? That kind of more operational, day-to-day aspect and what that looks like from an employee experience point of view.

For example, if I was living 3 miles away from you, I would say, let’s just go and work here. I wouldn’t say, let’s both travel into Ottawa and go to work. We need to think, how can we enable not just CRE to drive that, but to give people the choice as well. It’s not about people not being trusted, and having to be visible in an office. Actually, it’s about working with others where it’s convenient to work, where we don’t need to travel in to an office. But we need CRE to say, this is what location strategy can look like off the back of all this. We don’t really need massive buildings in one central location anymore.

Sandra

I think there’s definitely truth to that. It’s something I’ve been very passionate about over the years where I’ve worked for large organizations that have had portfolios with multiple buildings in the same city center. You’ve often got your downtown location and your suburb locations. But being a data person, I want to try to understand where people are located relative to the buildings. You’d always see people living on the east side of the city working in the west, and people from the west side of the city working in the east. They’d basically wave to each other on the highway as they went to work in the morning because their teams were on the opposite side of the city. That’s crazy, right?

I think what makes it challenging is you still have business unit mentality. If we think about what’s happening right now and all these conversations around collaboration and teaming—when people think about teams, they think it’s the entire business unit that has to come in to the office on a certain set of days and work together, when in reality, that’s not how teams work. Just because you belong to the same business unit doesn’t mean you’re working with the person that sits next to you. Often, you’re working with people in other departments, or in other areas. I think that’s a huge miss, to say, this is how we’re structured and therefore this is how we should sit together as a team.

Instead, we should be using information to understand how people really interact with each other. So we can look at where people live and where they work, but we can also go a bit further and look at who they’re actually interacting with. When you’re thinking about having a meeting with someone or working on a project with someone, it should be, here are the buildings available to me, which one makes the most sense based on what we’re trying to do. There were some companies several years ago that started to do that. They were saying, if we reduce the square footage in our downtown location, we can go into the suburbs where rent is cheaper and still service our employees based on wherever it is they live.

Simone

And for sustainability as well, we don’t want people adding an extra carbon footprint in if we can avoid it. I think there’s definitely that angle as well.

Like you say, with the whole neighborhood concept where we say, right, you’re in finance, go and work in the finance neighborhood—I’ve always struggled with that as well because you don’t just need to work with each other as a department. And I feel there’s almost this conflict between a person being a human being that needs a sense of belonging, so “I work for finance, I’m sat with my team, I’m building relationships”, and then the need for collaboration, that expands way outside of that team or department. I think that’s where the conflict comes in. I think we’ve been driving things by that sense of belonging and saying yes, you’re in that team, you should sit there with your team, when actually we should have been saying, who do you most work with? Who do you never work with? Who should you be working with? How many emails are you sending to different people across your department, and how can we reduce that email traffic by just moving you next to them? Obviously, that works in a physical environment, but if you look to things like Slack and email, where is the traffic? That should be determining what the office layout looks like.

Sandra

That’s a really good point, because it raises a couple of things that I think have always been issues in the past but I think are more prominent now—that’s around privacy, and just the general use of data or the value of data. All of the things we’re talking about to understand the nature of how people work, where they work, who they work with, it’s all in the data.

That’s been my thing—yes, you could survey people and ask them, who do you work with, who do you want to work with, but it’s all there in the data. More often than not, when you compare the reality of who they’re actually working with, it’s usually a very different story.

We can use data to guide people around timing, for example, when is a good time to meet with someone. Or if there are groups of people in an organization interested in a certain topic, there’s always a digital trail of conversations to get a sense of the topics, so we can say hey, Simone, let’s talk about FM—and you’re going to be in the office Thursday, so maybe Sandra wants to go in Thursday too, because we have something in common.

It’s interesting to me because there’s a lot of conversation out there right now about how you entice people to come back to the office. There’s a lot of focus still on the physical, trying to mimic the hotel industry and making these spaces that people are just going to magically hang out at. I saw an article someone posted the other day about creating co-working spaces in a department store. My comment was, when it comes to office space, we need to define what the value is, what people are willing to pay for, whether it’s the actual employer or the employee, that will bring people back into a space of some kind for that specific experience. I think it has something to do with learning and growing as an individual and being able to connect with people that are usually out of reach. But that’s my personal opinion, and everybody’s motivated for different reasons as to why they’re drawn to a specific space.

Simone

What was interesting throughout the pandemic was all of the assumptions that were being made around the office—you go there to sit at a desk so we still need rows of desks, and then it changed to, no we’re going to the office to collaborate so we’re just going to rip out the desks and we just need meeting spaces. All these assumptions are being made, but somebody that has not got the environment in their physical home, they might want to go to the office for a totally different reason. I think we’ve fallen into that trap of making too many assumptions and pigeonholing people and how they work.

It comes back to the question, what is the persona of the organization or the department. With a persona you can make that generalization, but what about the individual? What if you listen to what their actual needs are. I think it goes quite deep into that kind of parent-child transactional analysis relationship, because people come out of university and they might start a job and they’re still in that kind parent-child mode. But in an organization, why do facilities have to keep walking around the office and say, put your mug in the dishwasher, do that, do that—why are facilities still the police of some organizations? We’re adults. If we can start enabling people to be an adult in the workplace and trust them, I think that is the core piece here. If we trust them, people will use the space how they need to and it will be output based, and best for the organization, best for the individuals. I think culture is absolutely the underpinning thing across all of this.

Sandra

I totally agree with you, I think there’s tremendous truth in that. Just the behaviours in general and the role that facilities often take as the traffic cop or sort of policing space to ensure cleanliness and making sure that it remains presentable and professional, but—why? That’s not really your job, per se. But somehow that’s expected because there’s a professional appearance that needs to be maintained.

Simone

Look at the Google garage and where Amazon started—these organizations didn’t walk into a flashy workplace where everything was rustic wood and scaffolding and filament lightbulbs. They didn’t walk into that environment and start Google or Amazon, they started an organization by working effectively together and as a result, they got a nice workplace.

Sandra

And people are respectful of the space. You mentioned something about new people coming into the workforce. I’ve heard a lot about new hires coming in, too. I was listening to a podcast yesterday where they were interviewing 2 people from different walks of life, and the older person was challenged by the idea of mentoring and bringing in new people to an organization. How do you completely immerse that person in the organization if they never step foot into an office?

It got me thinking, you’ve got 2 types of people: people who’ve experienced something and now it’s gone, so you have something to compare to, and then you have people who’ve never experienced it, so they wouldn’t know the difference. They may have heard about it but they’ve never actually experienced it. If we look at the generations that are in the workplace today, they’ve experienced the whole concept of working in a building, but as we think about this new generation that’s coming in, where everything they do is digital, I for one can’t see how that’s going to be problematic for them.

I think Dror Poleg made reference to this in one of his courses at the Real Innovation Academy, about music. I’m going to date myself, if you think about back when you had LPs, or even 8-track tapes and how music has evolved over time, the reality is that everybody has music in their pocket. It’s the same sort of thing. You can technically have work in your back pocket because everybody has a phone, you’re connected to your coworkers, so how is it different? This whole concept of mentoring is interesting to me because it’s usually voiced by people who have been working in the workplace and not stopping to realize that people that are coming in or coming out of school have never experienced working in the workplace.

Simone

I totally agree. There’s a CEO, I can’t remember who it is, but he doesn’t have a laptop. He travels the world and he does his multi-million pound business by office phone. He doesn’t need a laptop.

I’ve been writing an article around culture, and how we’re used to pushing culture on people. They walk into an organization, there’s a nice shiny vinyl on the wall, and they say, “this is what we mean by our culture”. I think what we need to do instead is have the people pull the culture out of the organization. If we have to keep pushing it, that’s a lot of work that we have to keep doing.

A good test of this is when I joined Relogix. It was the first time I’d joined an organization that was based in a different country. I had no idea what to expect, I was used to being in an office, but then I was choosing to work in my home office. I was thinking, I’m not even going to see my colleagues, what’s this going to be like? I made a point of going in and trying to almost forget everything that I knew previously and ask myself, how do I need to work? What do I need to achieve? How am I going to do that? There certainly have been days where I’ve said to myself, I really should speak to another human being in Canada because I’ve not spoken to a Canadian in a few days! And you do have days like that. But I think, we always talk about culture as a thing, but culture is people. And we can make sure that if people are working together, they will naturally pull the culture out of collaboration. And that doesn’t need a physical office.

Sandra

Everybody’s talking about culture, and I often question, in the sense of how it’s talked about, is culture real? Or is it a crutch? Culture’s being tied to the physical space—they say when you walk into a space you get a sense of what the culture’s like, and I can be the first to say no, that’s not true. I’ve walked into gorgeous spaces or I’ve worked in offices that have beautiful spaces, whether as a consultant or even as a direct employee, and then you talk to people and you’re realize it’s nothing like that. So, the appearance of culture is one thing, but then what is the reality of the culture? And that’s really what people are trying to get at, which has nothing to do with the physical space.

Simone

And we always try to measure culture, and it always ends up being the question of how do we create a business case for culture? Something I wrote about recently was, I’ve come up with 9 cultural indicators on how to measure culture. It’s not as simple as a score though. It’s got to be a mixture of things. I’ve pulled out things like the finances of the organization, the sustainability, employee engagement, absence, customer satisfaction scores—that’s the culture of the organization. I’ve written about this in quite some depth, and I think we need to come away from measuring it. It goes back to a point I was making earlier this week about how many more reports do we need on gender diversity in the workplace, about it being a good thing? It’s not about it being a good business case—it’s about it being the right thing to do. And it’s the same thing for culture. If you’ve not got a good culture, that’s just not the right thing to do. So why do we keep trying to measure it. It should just be a given.

Sandra

I totally agree. Another interesting point you made was when we were talking about the concept of facilities management policing the workplace. If we think about the whole aspect of culture and maintaining, improving and managing culture—there’s an element of babysitting happening as well. Is that really necessary? I personally struggle with that, especially when there are obviously things happening in an organization that shouldn’t be happening. That’s where the focus should be if you really care about culture. And yet you have companies looking at putting monitoring software on laptops so they can watch their employees to make sure they’re actually working. What are your thoughts on that?

Simone

I totally agree, I think when we get caught up in the physical and talking about how the physical and culture interact, I think it’s basically about a façade that’s going up. We’ve got a good culture because look at our workplace. And actually, I’d prefer to work in an organization where dirty dishes were stacked high but I wasn’t being watched when I was working on a laptop from home. It’s that kind of culture that’s deeper than what the physical is. You can almost put it in the context of cultural iceberg—you’ve got all those things above the water, but it wasn’t the top of the iceberg that sank the Titanic, it was what was underneath.

I had one experience of an organization that basically banned their employees from talking to each other about what their pay was. It was in the HR handbook they were not allowed to discuss pay. As a consultant, when I got to the bottom of it, it was because there were people doing the same job with different outcomes and there were certain people who were being paid more than they should have been, because they had certain relationships. And there were people who were getting paid less because they were mums and they were working 3 or 4 days a week. And there were all of these really significant issues going on in this organization. And I said, so you’re trying to babysit people by not talking about their wages. And you think that shouldn’t be being done. But actually, if someone wants to discuss it, they should be able to. You’re trying to cover up the fact that you’ve got issues with your culture. I think we need to come away from the babysitting. We shouldn’t have to babysit culture.

It goes back to that idea of push vs pull. I think if we’re pushing and we’re babysitting, there’s something wrong. Because once a kid gets to a certain age, you don’t have to babysit them anymore. For the first few weeks or few months of somebody being in an organization it should be quite prescriptive—this is the culture of the organization. But then we should be able to leave them alone without going back and reminding them. That’s where the other people in the organization come in because your people should be the ambassador of the culture. And it shouldn’t need FM walking around reminding people, because everybody else should be reminding people every day. It’s about role modeling.

Sandra

I also think that the mindset we have as employers, managers, and leaders when you’re working in a virtual environment is very different. If you think about the workplace, you could waste 8 hours if you wanted to and nobody would know. You could just shuffle papers around and that would be fine. But I think in a virtual world, your success depends on how much ownership you take, how much accountability and responsibility you have for your own actions.

I sometimes wonder if the whole concept of work has been in the past just waiting for people to tell you what to do, which doesn’t translate well online. You have to be very forthcoming, you have to own it and take initiative. In the workplace, some people do and some don’t. But online, you have to, because as you explained, being in a different country for example, you could go 2, 3 days without seeing anyone. I’m the same, our office is in Ottawa and I’m in Toronto, so I don’t see people every day. So, I’m very dependent on communicating through our tools, and I have to take initiative if I want to know something. Yes, there are channels on Slack to see what’s going on, but if there’s a specific thing I want to know, the onus is on me to reach out.

How much do you think the culture is really referring to trying to manage or measure the engagement of people? I think that’s the fear right now, that without actually seeing it, you have no idea if people are actually working or walking their dog.

Simone

Exactly. And I think to some extent, does it matter if someone’s working or walking the dog? Because I could walk my dog for 45 minutes and do some of my best thinking. If I sat in front of a computer screen, I’d go nuts. I think sometimes it is the understanding the outcome. I think if organizations are clear in the vision of the organization and the objectives, and they know how to measure the impact that people have in the outcomes, then I don’t think it matters if someone’s working 10 hours or 50 hours a week. If the outcome’s there, and they’re performing, and that’s the level that you’re expecting, I think everything should be good.

We’ve got to come away from the 9 to 5 or even Monday to Friday. 4-day weeks still keep getting talked about, and now it’s in to the 7-day week. Actually, I think a 7-day week sounds nicer—often on a Sunday, because I’ve relaxed, I’ll get an idea, and I’ll start doing a bit of work. If I know that I do that, then I’ll just start a little bit later on the Monday. That’s working to our optimum. And sometimes you wake up and think, I’m not going to be productive today, you just know. Well, why are we trying to work? Why don’t we just have a few hours, re-set ourselves and then log on, and we’ll probably end up doing the 8 hours of work in 4 hours, because we’re more productive, rather than just sitting there and getting worse.

Sandra

I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it when I started working from home. You get the loneliness, which lasted for about 4 to 6 months, and then you had that feeling of guilt, where you always felt like you had to be working so you overdid it. And then probably about a year into it, I started to understand just how I operate. The time of day that I was most productive, and how I think best. If I have to think, I can’t do it sitting in front of my computer. I’ll go take a shower or go for a walk or do something completely unrelated to work, and suddenly the brain just kind of kicks in to all of the creative thinking, problem solving, all of that great stuff.

Simone

I was at a conference last week and Kirk from Google was talking about the need for a cognitive cleanse between tasks. That’s your brain resetting. You’re probably not going to do your best thinking sat in front of a computer screen. Nobody probably ever has.

A few weeks ago I walked into our office, and I was like, yay, I’m walking into the office! And when I came home, the first week back, I was miserable. I actually just missed being in an office with people. I’m in a different time zone again and I felt really lonely and disconnected from the organization. So I said, I need to get a grip and sort this out. I said, let me get into a meeting with that person, let me reconnect in my virtual world and get in the habit of being virtual again. It takes some discipline. It takes reflective thinking and knowing how you work to get it right.

I think that’s where organizations need to come away from personas and into the realm of, we trust you, you’re an adult, how do you need to work?

Sandra

Do you find that going out and hanging out with friends, or even just having the ability to go out and have coffee, have a chat, helps your state of mind? The pandemic certainly has limited this, but does it help your state of mind when it comes to working virtually?

Simone

Absolutely. I think obviously the pandemic was an extreme version of it because you’re working on your own all day and living on your own, or just being with my wife—I just needed a conversation with somebody else.

Sandra

It’s true!

Simone

I think if you’re going to be working remotely and virtually, I like to make sure that there’s planned things in the evening or in the middle of the day. It’d be easy to just never leave the home. And it’d be easy to just remain in this weird kind of world. So, I think you have to be quite disciplined. “I’m going to leave the house tonight, I’m going to go for coffee, I’m going to see a friend”. Because otherwise I’m on my own all the time, and it’s definitely not healthy.

Sandra

This has been fun! Any final thoughts?

Simone

My final thoughts are to anybody listening, take initiative and run with it. Don’t ask for permission, just ask for forgiveness after you’ve tried it. That’s for FMs, for anybody wanting to drive change in a new world. Just crack on with it and show what can be done. Because if you wait, somebody else will do it instead.

Sandra

Fantastic. Thank you again for your time today, I really appreciate it.

Simone

Thanks!

About the Author

Coloured headshot image of Sandra Panera Relogix team
Sandra Panara, Director of Workspace Insights

Sandra has both a deep and wide understanding of Corporate Real Estate and Technology. With over 25 years hands-on experience she is able to apply non-traditional approaches to extract deep learning from the most unsuspecting places in order to drive strategy. She has developed an appreciation for always challenging the status quo to provoke and encourage new ways of thinking that drive continuous improvement and innovation. Sandra believes square pegs can fit into round holes and that the real ‘misfits’ are those environments that fail to adapt. Her expertise ranges broadly from CRE Portfolio Research, Analytics & Insights, Workforce Planning, Space & Occupancy Planning & Workplace Strategy.