Part one of four articles dedicated to ‘business resilience’ in the world of the ‘new normal’
Late one evening a guest on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s show gave a fascinating interview. Tomas Pueyo discussed his March 19, 2020 article for the publication Medium entitled “The Hammer and the Dance” when describing the methods of how the pandemic was dealt with by countries around the world and the efforts to re-entry into our society and restart the economy. The hammer refers to the draconian methods of how we had to close our economic and educational systems down which sent us back to our homes to ‘shelter in place’ for what has turned out to be weeks turning into months.
This reality of why we have had to use a hammer was to try and not overwhelm our hospitals with more CV-19 patients, but it has made even us eternal optimists have doubts, as Dr. William Schafner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University revealed, “My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry. But I’m learning to guard against my optimistic nature.”
And when the next phases happen as the economy opens up again, when workers move back to the altered state of our workplaces, it will be like a dance where each step or phase needs to be choreographed by a collaborative team of leaders from facility management, real estate, human resources, finance and IT. While HR and IT have awakened to the importance of both the physical and digital workplaces and spaces over the last few years, finance has just figured out the value of their real estate and facility management functions to not only cost cutting efforts, but productivity of the workforce, as well as talent retention and acquisition.
Ben Weber (MIT, author and colleague of the social physicist, Sandy Pentland), Greg Lindsay (author and journalist) and Jennifer Magnolfi (founder of Programmable Habitats) predicted in a Harvard Business Review article in October 2014 that, “office space is not just an amortized asset, but strategic tool for growth”, but even though this idea should have come to the attention of the C-suites as it was published in one of their beloved magazines, it still was not embraced as widely as one would expect.
This article will describe what action items these professionals can take in each phase during ‘the hammer and the dance’ and what follows in the third phase when we hopefully have learned from the first two and execute plans which will constitute the ‘new normal’ which hopefully, by this time, the dance will have bought us enough time for scientists to have developed a vaccine to prevent and cure CV-19.
An introduction to the phases of creating the ‘new normal’ workplace
There are three phases for creating the new workplace for organizations to thrive in today’s chaotic environment to be able to make the most out of whatever the “new normal” means in the unpredictable future we now face. These phases include 1) Respond, 2) Recover and 3) Resilience.
In this first phase we are currently in, we must recognize that we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution with new and older proven technology tools available to us to plan, design, construct, manage and operate the workplace which could transform our work and our lives. In the aftermath of the crashing effects of the pandemic, if we haven’t experimented or implemented these tools, the time is now.
One way to experiment is to become partners with your local university or community college (contact one of their programs concerning the built environment- like FM. architecture, engineering or sustainability and invest in their department research) and tap into their research and ‘living labs’ which can give you the required brain power and resources to try some of these new technologies using your company as a case study.
Also consider collaborating with community non-profit organizations who may also have their own ideas (particularly on energy savings which could involve a group of buildings in a neighborhood) activities like physical distancing will be important in how we plan our re-entry into workplaces, as it is in our cities and neighborhoods (as also social justice where we have ‘just cities’ replacing the concept of smart cities as evidenced in research at places like the ‘Just City Lab’ at Harvard Graduate School of Design).
It is important to note that the way we implement technology in the second phase, ‘Recover’, is also very important to make a positive step for our society. It is therefore recommended that you consider adopting the UN’s 17 Sustainability Goals (see below ) which will be referenced in the Action Plans in the description of the next two phases.
By adopting these goals, this will also reflect on the importance of social justice to all of the sustainability work including the workplace. This will become even more important post -pandemic when we have a chance to improve society while at the same time being kinder to our planet.
We also now have clearly defined metrics to measure performance in this second phase (both old ones and newly created ones like metrics for wellness and labels for ‘just buildings’). This is also important since transparency of our actions will be something all organizations will have to be aware of during this dance.
The third phase, ‘Resilience’, is the most difficult one to predict as we can only predict what the dance steps will be: will there be more gardens on our roofs automated for optimum growth? Will Google be the biggest real estate company in the world? Will our workplace walls be smart enough to give us preliminary answers to our workplace problems? These are just a few questions we may have to deal with in predicting the environments we expect to thrive in for the future.
The next article in this series will focus on the response stage and the need to focus on scenario planning and operational management of real estate, covering topics from seating scenarios and new workspace configurations to facility restrictions and visitor management.
If you have an immediate space planning, workspace scheduling and strategic portfolio management technology need, please contact the Trimble Manhattan team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Sanquist, Resident Writer
Nancy Sanquist is an IFMA Fellow, an AIA Associate, and is currently Chair of the IFMA Foundation Board of Trustees. Nancy has been in the real estate and facility management technology business for three decades; she has spoken at industry conferences all over the world. She is a well-known author and editor, including two IFMA Foundation books, Work on the Move (2014) and Work on the Move (2) (2016). Nancy formerly worked as an academic professor in art and architecture (UCLA; Lafayette and Muhlenberg Colleges), as a historic preservation urban planner (Easton, Pennsylvania), and as an urban revitalization consultant (Hollywood Revitalization, Los Angeles).
Trimble’s ManhattanONE software makes your real estate work as hard as you do by simplifying the complexities of managing a diverse portfolio in dynamic times. Our integrated, flexible platform delivers deep operational and financial insight to unlock value across your organization. Full access to every module of our comprehensive suite results in 360-degree visibility and unrivalled control. You’ll make decisions with speed and confidence, building experiences that motivate people and elevate the properties in which they work.