On-Demand Webcast: Workplace of the Future--COVID-19’s Lasting Office Impact

June 23, 2020

Our panel of experts discussed organizational and workplace dynamics in the "next normal."


Transcript

Good afternoon. My name's Michael Morris. I'm a director at EisnerAmper in the real estate services group and I just would like to welcome you. On behalf of the 2000 remote professionals at EisnerAmper, we welcome you. We've got a dynamite panel lined up and the topic is Workplace of the Future: COVID-19's Lasting Office Impact. As we begin to return to the office, the next normal is being built on the fly. This challenging environment has far ranging impacts from office layouts and building procedures to employee mindset and company culture.

Michael Morris:Today, we're taking a closer look at how our workplaces will change through the prism of organizational and workplace dynamics. We're excited to welcome today's speakers. I'm going to do an abbreviated bio of each one because if I read them all, it'd be way too long. They've got fantastic backgrounds. First will be Roy Abernathy. Welcome Roy. He's an executive VP at Newmark Knight Frank's global corporate services consulting division. He oversees their consulting practice of over 200 professionals. He's got background in human health and transmission of animal born diseases to humans. Very interesting. He understands containment levels and behavior at an operational and architectural level, and he's got a deep background in real estate and works with multiple clients within that firm's practice area.

Our very own Natalie McVeigh is a director at EisnerAmper and for the center of individual and organizational performance. Natalie has been an executive coach and consultant for over 10 years. She's a practitioner of neuroscience and this is the best part, and a certified happiness trainer, an interdisciplinary field that stems from positive psychology, she helps clients navigate the quantitative and qualitative decisions that impact their lives.

Tamar Moy is an executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank and leads workplace strategy and human experience. As a practicing strategist specializing in design and human experience for 23 years at Newmark, Ms. Moy leads workplace strategy projects that enhance both the broker and client's understanding of the future workplace and the needs to guide the market search in dynamic and creative ways. I would like to welcome this great panel and we're going to start it out with Roy. So Roy take it away.

Roy Abernathy:Thanks. It's kind of a unique time, I think from a Newmark perspective and from a human experience perspective. I'm going to take on kind of looking at where we are today in kind of the near term relative to workplace and the human experience. To start there I'll talk a little bit about kind of how we frame it. There was BC, which was before corona and we're all looking forward to AC, which is going to be after corona and today we're really IC to some extent in the middle of corona. From a business and environmental perspective, there's massive pressure right now on costs and really a short-term view of that, but a lot of organizations are starting to look at the desire for change and how that desire for change is driving merger and acquisition opportunities, new digital channels are opening up because just like this, we're communicating in different ways than we ever have before.

Environmentally, we now know what it's like to put the brakes on the human impression or footprint that we have on the earth for a 90 day period of time and see what it's like when the earth really kind of takes a breath of fresh air. From a real estate and workplace perspective, which I know we'll Zoom into today. Again, that focus on costs, but really focused on kind of what new models are going to emerge and Tamar will talk a little bit more about that as she looks at kind of the distant future as we come out of this, and then from a workplace perspective, we're going to talk today about a lot of positive and negative learnings especially from a cognitive perspective and how this disruption and ultimately this transformation will have an impact on what we do and something that ultimately we need to push to get through to what is going to be this new normal.

Organizational and economic, certainly major shifts there, but organizations are going to get kind of reconstructed as we come out of this and one of the most important pieces is going to be the empathy associated with that, and then social and political. I'm amazed. I think that with the locust that we might have later this year and potential hurricanes from a new cycle perspective it's hard not to kind of get immersed in just how fast that both the social and the political climate have been shifting as we go through this.

When we look at where we are right now, we're all from Asia, Europe, U.S. perspective, everyone's coming back to the office, coming back to work. Globally, transportation is our biggest bottleneck. Whether you look at air, train travel or even driving at this point. Everyone's focused on cleaning regiments along the journey, whether it be a work journey or just going to the grocery. How buildings kind of restart is critical, restart from an aspect of new occupancy patterns but also restarting systems that may have been parked for a period of time.

Everybody's kind of pursuing this kind of, is there a corona free building model that's out there? And so you're going to see a lot more buildings, facilities, restaurants, hotels, taking your temp as you enter; different cleaning regimes; and contact tracing or tracking is a new model. I don't know that everybody realized this, but I know that Apple in their most recent update has the contract tracing, that's a part of the new update. You have to go in to actually turn it on, but that system's now live, although I don't think broadly advertised.

We're going to go through this shift in our planning of occupancy and utilization around a six foot or two meter in this new normal, in the interim state, and then the family impact or the impacts on our families as we transition through all of this is going to be a major shift, whether it's education, which I know we were talking about a little while ago or just the impact of everyone kind of living at work which that's been kind of the big shift as we've continued to work from home or kind of shelter from home and now transition to a model where we may begin as a person who's to go back in the office.

What does this mean? We just finished as of the 15th of June, the first 90 days, which was really more sheltering in place. This next 90 days, we're starting to open the doors and start to go back into culture, society and the environment, but we're still kind of mapping to this view of work that's always on, that is remote and that's really built around these virtual teams. This picture I think is a bit of a good example in that I was tracking my digital screen time over the last three months compared to the last six months. My screen time is up, I think 60% overall but not on my phone.  It's interesting that through the pandemic we're on our phone as a device less and on our computer more.  I just got a report back this morning from a survey that actual screen time on your computer is up by 95%, which was a big surprise for me given our perception is we are more mobile.

Interesting, I've heard this concept of Zoomification or the focus on Zoom type meetings has become a focus. This frames the things that we're starting to see in the population as we go into this second 90 days, a lot of things around this big focus on social media personally, increased consumption of alcohol certainly in this process, but other things that are stressors that are coming out of this and expectations that, Tamar and I always talk about. It takes 90 days to actually shape an internalized behavior. We'll realize we've now been working from home for 90 days. We've now internalized that behavior good or bad and we're starting to create that, or really internalize that as our pattern. That's going to make it harder to go back in the office and it's going to make harder to transition back to some of those face to face type of interactions we need to be productive.

So, we actually haven't been mobile, which is interesting when you look at our perceptions. Our old model where we were very mobile in how we were working and the daily path as work followed us. We've probably been more static for the last three to six months than we have been in the last 20 years from a mobility around work. Technology has had a much bigger influence. We've always been on, and we're seeing these patterns around isolation and distancing both from our coworkers and the need to distance in some cases from our families and then this is Zoomification or time spent on screen and with that is loss of sleep and other aspects that are... as we really get into this next 90 days are going to start to surface as a second stage in the pandemic.

The younger workers are more vulnerable in this process. Older workers tend to have environments set up or be able to manage this in a different way. We're seeing things even from an introvert and extrovert perspective that this is more isolating and driving a bigger impact as we go into this next shift into our productivity. I think if you look at the metrics for the first 90 days, we are working on average 9.75 hours versus a traditional eight hour workday so that's part of where our productivity was coming from. We were also kind of all going through it together, and now we're going to start the separate elements from the herd. Part of the herd may go back to the office. Part of the herd may actually now like go out of the house where we were all kind of sheltered together before, and so we're going to see shifts in expectations.

This gives you an idea, and this is more predictive than sampling today. One other point I want to make is we've known the implications of working from home at the saturation we're doing it now for 25 years. I mean, I was with Arthur Anderson in the 90s when they originally started the hotelling platform. We have a lot of history and science and understanding behind this and we know how to do it right, but at no point in time and history has the globe been kind of thrown in to working from home all at the same time. And so we are tribal and when I say we're tribal, it is that we need to connect, to work with, and to associate with other people, and this shows you an example.

Roy Abernathy:Vertically is the number of hours of day spent, over the horizontal is over a lifetime so from zero to 90 years. When you look at the time spent with friends, the time spent with parents and siblings, the time spent alone in the bottom right, the time spent with your partner and your children, you see that that time spent with coworkers up through age 60 or 65 is a significant part of our travel experience and really plays a role both in our development and our productivity. Finally, in this next stage or next aspect of the pandemic, we're going to see an impact on business.

We're going to see those social ties fray. We're going to see things increase like sick days which we really haven't had to deal with because we've already been at home to some extent, and it's been veiled a little bit. We're going to see disconnections from organizations, less friendships or kind of connections at work. It's interesting, we just got back results of a survey where half the CEOs that responded to our survey, said that they were lonely working from home and needed to get back into the office. This is just a reflection of kind of the next stage that we're going to go through in this near term future. And Natalie I think here I turn it over to you.

Natalie McVeigh:Thanks, Roy. That was great. We're going to talk a little about this idea of returning to the office. As Roy mentioned, we're at different phases. Some people have been told they can work from home till the end of the year, some even longer and some people are really trying to get back into the office. There's some data that really describes what it will likely look like when you're back in your office and it won't be this, haven't we've all been waiting for.

As Roy said, 90 days ago we were doing something different and that's not what it's going to look like. There are going to be many combinations of strategies used. The most effective is to stay home. That's the one that's the most effective, least risk but likely that's not going to happen with everyone so people are going to try to get into the office and that's the least effective strategy. What we do to try to make it more effective is some of these tasks here, where there's increased health screening when you arrive, increased assessable hygiene.

Studies show that if I'm able to clean my desk, I'll be much more confident that it's clean not that it hasn't already been cleaned. It'll reduce some of that anxiety and then there are masks or barriers and usually it's a combination, and there's something that happens when we wear a mask. It kind of does this, as you can see as you're watching me and not only do I look like a weirdo putting my hands over my mouth, you also can't hear me very well, but mostly you can only see my eyes. We're less likely to identify emotions effectively through just seeing someone's eyes. In fact, some of the studies show we're 70% less effective in identifying our emotions, so that connection you're trying to have with your colleague can't really tell if they're smiling at you or not.

That'd be one of the things that are happening while you're in your office. It's going to look different, and then there's a physical distancing where most people are recommending at least six feet. The organizations I've seen, they've been talking to, a lot of people are putting a 10 foot parameter. Some are putting a 12 foot parameter just so that we feel safer knowing that we're not doing the bare minimum, and what that does is there's an exchange of energy between me and you when we're within 10 feet of each other, not at 10 feet, but within 10 feet of each other and that exchange of neurochemistry is called enthalpy.

We're going to lose a lot of enthalpy too, that thing that makes it really enjoyable when we're together and some of these staggered work schedules will exist and they'll exist for several reasons. One is that there's a five day incubation period. If you just cut out that fifth day, they won't be there but also the disease seems to dissipate within 72 hour window so that helps with cleaning costs, and they're usually going to reduce the amount of people in the office. Again, you might be losing part of that community. Roy started the conversation about loneliness and I want to spend a little bit of time talking about that as well.

Isolation and loneliness are different. Being isolated means I'm not in communion with you. Loneliness is the feeling that I am not connected to you and there are three levels of loneliness. There's an intimate loneliness, that's usually with our primary partners or a best friend and a lot of people have a best friend at work. There's a relational component to loneliness where we have a quality friendship, social companionships, a little more depth, and there's a collective loneliness and that's really this network. Our work actually becomes a community for many of us.

We really want to make sure that all three of these levels of loneliness are supported as we come back into the office or as we work from home and likely it will be a combination of both, just the cost of safety going forward. What helps loneliness is not the quantity or frequency of social interaction, it is the quality of connections and how we feel about them. I'm going to spend a little time talking about how we can foster the quality of connection however it looks, be it in person in the office using these metrics and after I talked about them a little bit, they don't probably sound as fun to you to go to the office where everything isn't the way you wanted it to be and part of that is how our neurochemistry works.

I'm going to talk a little bit about psychological safety and stress. Prior to COVID stress was already agreed to be the health crisis of the 21st century by most researchers so on and so forth. It was actually considered a pandemic. 93% of the time that people show up into a hospital is because of stress related illness, and quite a bit of that is in the United States specifically.

There's two types of stress. There's eustress that's really helpful and productive. It's motivating, it's challenging. It gets me to go do things and then there's distress and this distress shows up around distrust and it activates a certain part of our brain called the amygdala. It's our primitive brain. It's not a reptilian brain. Our brains are nothing like reptiles, but it is a mammalian brain. Every other mammal that kind of acts against impulse is using this and that chemical that shows up has a 26 hour shelf life. We call it something highly technical. It's a cortisol hangover.

After you've been in an altercation or had a disagreement, it floods your body for at least 26 hours and because we've been doing this for quite some time, we actually have a buildup of cortisol that's been hanging out there and it cuts off that other part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex. That's that part of our brain where we make good decisions. It's the part of our brain that teenagers don't have. When you think your teenager is crazy, you're absolutely correct about that. They're not making good decisions because they don't have the part of their brain where they can.

There are two ways we can mitigate cortisol. One is oxytocin. This is really about trust psychological safety feeling as though we belong, being transparent, communicating and really involving this idea of we. Again, it goes against that isolation, how do we find a way to belong? And another way is through DHEA, which is part of our autonomic nervous system right next to the heart, both of these really have to do with finding our calm and it might seem really untenable to find your calm right now, but there are some ways to do that and part of it is communion and depth of relationships. What's going on now and why this is so hard for us is there's a model of complexity and change.

The way that we're able to habituate to change is really based on the complexity of the world and the complexity of my own experience. The complexity of the world right now is off the charts. I mean besides COVID, there are other things that are going on globally that make the world right now quite complex. The scale of complexity there is up to here. Now, the scale of complexity within myself not be able to match the complexity going on outside. We're going to talk a little bit about how that might be something you can tackle. Most of us, when we join organizations, we want to belong. In fact, neurologically speaking, our desire to belong outweighs our desire for safety.

Nietzsche said that insanity is the exception in individuals and the norm in groups. Some of the things that we do in groups really perpetuate what's going on, positive or negative and hopefully it's a good company culture that you're creating, but in that way we show up in a socialized mind, we become a team player. We want to be a faithful follower. We really seek direction. We find a way to be reliable. That doesn't handle much complexity, so if you're finding yourself there where you're really seeking and looking for direction outside of yourself, we want you to scale up. We want to find a way in which you start becoming more self-authorizing, where you find your own compass, you're able to problem solve and be independent.

The challenge about being independent however, is usually when I decide that I'm independent is because I want to be different than somebody. I'm going to pick on Roy because I know he can take it. I want to be different from Roy because he just presented, that's me being independent, but it's not real independence. It's rebellion, again, a stage that teenagers go through, but we also as adults do it and we do so in organizations. We want to caution you not to become independent because how you can actually make a difference in organizations is becoming interdependent.

Now, that's not being codependent. It really is to say, I can hold what's true for me and what's true for you and communicate about it even when it's uncomfortable, and that discomfort in communication, it's often categorized as gridlock, really breeds an intimacy, creates a depth and allows people to find that connection to avoid the isolation and that can happen by a telephone, by a Zoom meeting, or in the office. In fact, that's usually how people become best friends at work. It's that water cooler moment that we're not finding anymore and that even in the office where we're physically distancing and wearing masks, we might not find.

How do we have those conversations right now that allow for that depth so that my complexity can match the situation to really handle these things? How can we hold these inconsistent truths? These things that may be challenging and untrue like the desire to go to the office because I really need to get work done and going to the office may increase my risk of COVID. Those are inconsistent truths but they can be navigated.

One thing I just want to mention, and Roy also spent quite a bit of time talking about this, is the introversion and extroversion. Introverts and extroverts are handling COVID very differently. We've seen some studies that are all over the place. In fact, there's some studies that say extroverts are handling COVID much better because most extroverts are highly optimistic compared to introverts who tend to be pessimistic. I'm an introvert. I'll agree with the fact that I'm a little bit pessimistic, but not everyone who's an introvert is. What we do know about introverts and extroverts however, is where their energy comes from and what they need around energy and how that can be more and more effective.

One of the things that we're finding out is people who didn't know they were extroverts are realizing they're extroverts when they're home because the way their extroversion was expressed was very quiet. They were an extrovert who was reserved. In fact, they need the multiple solutions, the multiple amounts of people and voices so that they could get fed and the reverse is also true. There are some introverts who thought they were more extroverted because they were much more outgoing, but they're finding peace at home. One, helping your employees to understand the science of what they need and how they need it and how you can meet them there.

In fact, introverts are often doing much better on these Zoom calls. It allows them to see people but not engage as much whereas extroverts are desiring more one on one conversation. Now, if you were being an employer, coaching these people you would find that to be different in the workplace, but the roles are reversed and so how do people confine their own energy? Extroversion is also around numerous contacts. They're looking for some dopamine, they're looking for some changes. Any way that you can change up their routine, that's going to be really helpful for them.

I just want to talk about several different types of communication because these aren't going away. These communication models won't go away and in fact they should be used a lot. High bandwidth communications are the communications we used to have in the office, in the conference room, hanging out, chatting a little bit, getting our coffee before we had our meeting. These were the most effective types of interactions partly because being in person is more effective. In fact, requests that you make to people face to face are 34% more successful than shooting off an email.

You're also able to see the body language that people are expressing. We know in communication that 93% of communication is nonverbal, 7% is what you say, 55% is the body language, and 38% is the tone of voice. When you have these high bandwidth communications, you actually get to see all of those. Now, low band with communication is any communication where you're not face to face, where you really only get some body language and so for my example, you're not so much more than my shoulders. I could have my hands in a fist underneath me and you wouldn't know. 55% of that equation leads the table, and you usually do get the tone of voice, 38%.

Studies have shown that a lot of times even over the phone, you can know if someone's smiling or how they're feeling. The problem is, most of us are used to multitasking when we're not in person. It's habitual. Some of the things we do, we also would give time back. We'd use these meetings that were not a conference room meetings to be less inconvenient, if at all, humanly possible, and then there's synchronous and asynchronous communication. 40% of people have been studied during COVID to say that they're more effective at work from home than they were in other places. We're not worried about productivity, we're worried about collaboration.

In the last two decades studies show that we've become 50% more collaborative, which allows us to be effective but one of the things that's causing the Zoom fatigue is because we're having this scarcity around not being in the office, that we're overly scheduling these meetings. There's no thinking time in between our meetings. There's no travel time in between our meetings and we're not allowing people to do asynchronous work. There absolutely is a place for asynchronous work where we're working from home and that's a combination of trust and distrust because if I can't see you, I'm not sure you're doing anything. Finding a much more effective mechanism to keep the asynchronous work going is going to be helpful and then there is scheduled and unscheduled meetings.

Scheduled meetings are great. I know what I'm going to check in. I can come talk to you about things. There's a challenge with scheduled meetings and the major challenge is that I may wait. If I know I'm going to talk to you every Tuesday and something comes up on Thursday that I don't really think is that urgent or I'm not sure and I don't want to bug you. I'm going to hold it. I'm going to sit on this information for a little while just because I think I'll see you later, but what we had in the office was a lot of unscheduled communications. I'd see that your door was open. I'd come chat with you about something. I'd shoot off an email that I could then clarify with you at the break room and so on and so forth.

These six types of communication are really important. Now, high bandwidth when you can get it great, but we're not probably getting that right now and even the high bandwidth will look different because we'll be physically distancing in that conference room very far apart, but these other five, I'm trying to understand how to use them. When to you use them to be most effective so that people can start feeling as though we're connecting to one another. There was a quite famous study that actually had people who were highly connected. One person watched an episode of Sherlock, got on the phone and told the other person about that episode of Sherlock and the exact same parts of their brain lit up as though both people were watching the movie.

Just because we aren't spending time together, doesn't mean we can't hone that connection. We can't still have that resonance, even though we don't have some of these other factors that are going, and the main way to get that resonance is really with that transparency, with that vulnerability and being personal. There's a part of the brain called the temporoparietal juncture that loves sharing. The moment I tell you something about myself, your ears perk up. You literally want to listen.

The more you can communicate through personal stories, now there's also a bias called the storyteller's bias, which is a good bias to have in this case is more effective, you're going to be at leading teams the more effective you're going to be at communicating, and don't be afraid to be dramatic and to be silly. In fact, humor when used appropriately, people are seen as more confident and competent, and this has really changed. This has changed on the individual level. I mentioned the complexities earlier. Technical change is really easy. That's like when you hire a new employee and you need to give them some information.

All of us can do technical change. I just need enough time, 90 days, depending on the issue and some much longer, depending on what else is going on and then there's adaptive change. This is the way that I question my own beliefs, my own models, the things that I hold dear. Believe it or not, the part of our brain that lights up when an opinion is challenged of a deeply held belief of ours, is the exact same part of our brain as though I'm being chased like a bear. Hopefully you can help self-soothe as you're talking to yourself about these adaptive changes.

We speak a lot about neuroplasticity, but we don't actually understand what that means. There are three parts of neuroplasticity. Neurogenesis is I'm going to create a new neural pathway. Neurosynthesis is I have enough time to integrate it, and then there's also neural pruning, the thing I'm not going to do anymore but most of us, especially who have careers that are long in the tooth have a long and thick and deep neural network of the thing we used to do. We need to start creating long and new deep neural networks around this new thing that we're doing. That's the adaptive piece. It's very dynamic, and then there's the competing commitments piece and this is really personal for you to understand what your competing commitments are for this next normal.

If it's really important to you to get to the office because it'll look the same, that's a competing commitment. If it's really important for you to get to the office to enjoy and interact with your colleagues again, again, depending on how many colleagues you see, that could be a problem. Understanding the commitment that you have, what you're desiring throughout this process is going to help you find ways to move through this more smoothly and not just move to this more smoothly, be a change agent for other people in your organizations to do this productively, to create psychological safety and so on and so forth.

More than anything besides sharing stories, I would encourage you to ask questions, especially open-ended questions. It increases your emotional intelligence, but more than that, it shows people that it's okay to ask the questions and you'll likely find information that you didn't know before. Great, so Tamar.

Tamar Moy:Thank you so much, Natalie. It's fascinating really. I think the science behind how we as people interact with our space is really interesting and while we don't all have the background of the neurology that you do, I think really a workplace for many folks that never really thought about it before is under a microscope. Everyone's kind of really super focused on how they are engaging with their space and their people and their technology and so the conversations now around the impact of space on people and how people behave in the space is so interesting and having a lot of the science to understand it as you just shared with us is really critical and really interesting and it kind of helps to sort of separate a lot of the facts from perception or trends. Thank you for that.

The conversation that we've had thus far that Roy and Natalie have led have really been about the IC, what Roy called in the middle of coronavirus and right now as people we are, I think very ready for the AC, the more long-term situation that hopefully we find ourselves in the not too distant future, and really the idea here is that we are at a point where we're ready to start having conversations about what does this world look like post coronavirus, AC after corona. The reboarding period that we just described through Roy and Natalie is really focused around safety, getting folks back to work in a physically safe environment, decreasing stress and anxiety when we're there, and also controlling spend from a business or organizational perspective.

Right now as we start to think of what the world looks like AC we're talking about just to get folks a framework, after there is a readily available vaccine or a therapeutic and folks have kind of gotten over the acute memory of the stressors of being IC. The conversation now we want to shift to a little bit more long-term two years, three years more down the road and so really this is more about future casting.

No one really knows what it's going like, we're kind of writing history as we live it but the idea here is that as folks start to think about designing space for the future or designing their business model and the workflow for the future, or what kind of technology should I invest in for the future, we're having conversations with lots of our clients now for being much more thoughtful about this and that's wonderful and they should be, and this is the time to kind of be exposed to new ways of thinking about how your organization might work in the future and the role of workplace, but in our perspective this is not a time to make big decisions that can't be changed.

If anything that this has taught us and both Roy and Natalie have kind of talked about this, right? The longer that we're in this remote working environment, stress and isolation and other things might increase. The way people feel now about working from home was different from how they felt two months ago and it will be different three months from now, six months from now, nine months from now as we go. The conversations we're having with people and organizations as they kind of look at where we are now and this experiment that we've all been in together for the past few months and start to ideate on what this means for the future is be thoughtful, be mindful, but be agile because you're going to need to kind of adjust your thoughts and perspectives as we go on in this situation for the next 18 months, two years, whatever it is.

Some organizations are going to take from this experience the push that they needed, the shift to become a little bit more flexible we hope in how they approach their workforce. Maybe now people are more used to working from home and they might think if they're leaders of an organization, we should start to consider this going forward for at least a portion of our population, and that might work for many and for others, it might not because a lot of these cultural connections mentoring issues that we've already started to talk about.

Other organizations might think this is a great time to completely transform and reinvent the way that we get work done, to reinvent our business model, to reinvent how the workplace supports it and the tools that we would need to support the workforce. We're having these conversations now, but again, remote working. In its true form when it was first conceived of decades ago and up until now, ideally is really about giving people work life balance, variety, and choice, and control. I'd venture to say that no one here feels like they have those things.

When we are working with our clients, we have to say, don't think of this as an example of truly what the remote working experience might be. Let's talk about it, let's consider our future and most likely there will be a model or several models of remote working or alternative work place strategies that might make sense for some of your folks down the road. It's not going to be the same for all groups. It's going to be dependent on the tasks that are tying to be done as well as some personal factors thrown in there as well, but the idea is there will likely be a variety of different models that if a remote workplace seems like it might work for a portion of your staff, you might want to explore.

What we've been finding, not even just during this pandemic period but when speaking and working with clients for decades now on these alternative workspace strategies, is they'll need to be quite robust in order to actually have a tangible impact on your real estate portfolio. Just mobility to say it's a Friday, I don't have any meetings in the office, I have some heads down work I need to get done I'm not going to go in today, is a lovely thing and we hope that it is one of the results of coming out of this, this increase in flexibility and trust of employees and empathy of organizations but it's not going to be enough to say we can cut our real estate portfolio.

It has to usually be around 40% minimum of your population engaging in a workplace strategy where they can share seats on a scale or on a central that makes it realistic with regards to potentially reducing space, but at the same time we need to consider all the other impacts this might have on organizational ethos, how you train people, how you mentor people, how you bring people on board, how you build sense of trust and connection, everything that Natalie's been talking about. We are kind of using that harness built up connections now that we've had from before this isolation experience and that's why it's working well for folks.

If you start to think about working in this way, years and years and years down the road, that will erode to some degree. Not saying it can't be done and it can be, and it can be done very successfully, but there needs to be a very targeted approach and resources dedicating to nurture in distributed workplace model. As we also start to think of some impacts on our field space, the environment down the road, again, we're talking in the post vaccine world. What do we think this experience will do to our spaces and we're concentrating here specifically on the workplace.

We think that really the vast majority of the impact on the day to day work of folks will not necessarily be on space and physical infrastructure, but more on employee behavior and operations and policies. How you're expecting folks to kind of act when they return to a space, in a reboarding kind of more short-term thing and changes to the policies you have including and whatnot. That's probably going to be 90% of the changes right off the bat. More long-term, probably around that same aspect.

We are speaking with lots of developers and architects and strategists and really we do think that basically the way that we've been wanting to work for the past 10 years or so is not fundamentally going to change going forward so that when people do come to the office, they are fundamentally coming to the office to be with people, to be interacting with people, to be having that ideation that they want, that face to face collaboration and that communication and especially in this future mode, if you have a bunch of heads down work, the reality is you really don’t need to come into the office as you're just going to be coming in to sit at your desk and type away at your computer.

What we have been starting to consider now is of the design and planning kind of trends that we've been seeing over the past few years, decade or so, a lot of them are all about bringing people into the space and having them collaborate and communicate and come together, to Natalie's point, that meeting at the water cooler. That's where those bonds are really formed and maybe in the future, it's meeting at the sanitation station as you're getting your hand sanitizer. We'll have to see, but the idea here is that, it was about getting people up and moving around the space for these spontaneous collaborations, also to get just the physical health benefits of moving around and not sitting at the same position the whole day. That was fundamentally how we were designing space effectively before this.

We don't think these things are going to change. At first, we started thinking, oh my goodness, are folks now going to be looking for compartmentalization, for decreasing contamination and cross contamination between floors and suites. Are folks now going to not want to be sharing offices. Are they going to be looking for larger bubbles of space around them? We pretty universally think that that's not going to be the case a few years down the road. They're still going to want these hubs to bring folks together. We want them to centralized pantries and cafe spaces. We want the event spaces. We're going to want these amenities going forward as well, but there's likely going to be some new levels of expectations that are surrounding these spaces.

Some of the lasting design changes will likely be things like just a new level of expectation for cleanliness and hygiene when you're in your space and air quality, and monitoring that across the board as we go. There will be sensor based technologies to moderate utilization. There'll be touchless technologies to decrease having to interact physically with buttons and things, and so all of these were things that were kind of starting already.

This is just going to be a catalyst to kind of make them adopted on a more large scale and robust platform, and so if you're planning your spaces more, you're going to need materials that are more durable to be able to withstand these enhanced cleaning protocols, right? That might have some changes in the materials that we're using. We might be a little bit more influenced by healthcare facilities. We're probably going to looking at deeper increasing knowledge of entering and exit through spaces, so how are deliveries coming in? How are people coming in? How are we monitoring that a little bit more? I can see some changes to those protocols.

There might be a little bit more graciousness in our space, corridors be a little bit wider, not have seas and seas of desks, and the answer is probably yes. I think we're heading that way anyway, if you look at the research kind of before this happened. Can there be a 10%, maybe 20% increase in density? I think the answer is yes, but really a lot of the trends that we're seeing short-term in the IC, so the new hygiene protocols, remote working, social distance, how could we maintain hospitality in an environment where there is no face to face interaction? I know travel and business continuity. That's what folks are sort of thinking about now and probably in the next year or so.

I could see those priorities decreasing and an increase in attention paid to more of the long-term impacts which could be an elevated sense of wellness in this space, right? I mean, building design, air quality materials, things of that nature, agile working with a distributed workforce and folks that can move around to be more mobile than they have been now as Roy said. Culture and connection, people wanting to come back to the office for that reason. The experience becomes really important if people don't have to come back, what are you providing them in the space to be a real destination, and it's a lot to encourage it, and ideation, right?

We've been talking about collaboration, collaboration, collaboration for quite some time now. Now it's more about ideation and this idea of innovation and rich brainstorming. I think these are going to be kind of our new trends going forward and lastly, we have a look at what we were saying were kind of the general workplace trends leading up into this. We had six use of workplace trends, effectiveness, a space allowing for enablement, a space being empowering for their employees, experiential space, entrepreneurial space, and expressive space and we've kind of asked ourselves, are any of these not going to be relevant going forward in the future?

We believe they're all going to be still quite relevant, there just might be certain aspects of each one of these trends that are going to rise to the top and be of more prominence and importance. For the effectiveness, that was always about balancing efficiency and density, but being high performing enough kind of overdoing it. I see perhaps even more effectiveness and less efficiency if you're looking at efficiency and defining that from a density perspective. Another example is this idea of expressiveness before that was about really celebrating who you are as an organization, and then of us kind of branding way.

Now that's maybe going to be more about organizational empathy and expressing that, the more people side of a company to foster connections going forward.

Michael Morris:Tamara, thank you so much. That was fantastic, Natalie, Roy, great job. We have a number of questions that have come in and I'm hoping that you wouldn't mind fielding those since we do have about 13 minutes to go, and I'm going to go directly to Roy with this. What parts of the country are bringing people back first?

Roy Abernathy:It's really associated with a car, and so part of what we're seeing is the transportation modes are driving a lot of the ability to get back into the office and the train lines are the more concentrated, more dense ways of getting to cities, getting to the offices is part of what drove the saturation or transmission of the virus. Like the Northeast corridor, you can see almost intensity of the positive cases of the virus along the train lines, and so we've seen the center part of the country come back faster than the East or the West Coast, both the East and the West have taken a more guarded approach and we're continuing to see that as even... we've telegraphed there, I know The Times or The Journal came up today with a list of six cities or states that we're seeing a new peak in the number of cases.

More suburban and less urban is kind of the first pass and then from an organizational perspective organizations that didn't close have been the first to bring people back. Some of the retailers have stayed open through the whole process, healthcare support from a health provider perspective another central worker around that transportation infrastructure.

Michael Morris:Very interesting. Thank you so much. Natalie, I'm going to swing over to you. How do I create psychological safety for my team and organizations?

Natalie McVeigh:That's a great question, Mike. The first point I mentioned earlier was ask questions. Studies say that we spend 6% of our time asking questions and it generates 60% of ensuing conversations. One of the other things is fostering openness and curiosity, understanding that those questions go, and that really goes to Tamar's point of being innovative and then encouraging mistakes.

Natalie McVeigh:Some of the best high performing psychologically safe teams are teams that have made mistakes. Not that they haven't made mistakes, but how they deal with it, how they learn from it and facilitating an action which leads to motivation. 70% of people in the United States identify themselves as procrastinators and they believe that's because inspiration and motivation precedes action and the reverse is true. We've studied that.

Finding small ways in which you can get people to be active for them to feel self-actualized and then help them remember it. There was a Harvard study that said, if people can name at least one thing they did at the end of the day that they can share with that, they were proud of they become regenerative, more creative and more productive. Those are kind of the tips.

Michael Morris:Thank you for that. Tamar, are there certain industries that are more likely to see long-term impacts on their workplace than others?

Tamar Moy:I think so. I think that certainly if we think that there's going to be a push for a little bit more graciousness and planning, certainly the industries that were dentist, were the technology companies, the startups, right? I can see where for those sorts of environments, there'll be more of a push for maybe breaking down into more neighborhood planning and kind of having a little bit more of a sense of scale between spaces.

Where you have industries like law firms for example, that inherently are more generous with their sizing's, there's more private spaces. Workstations are a little bit larger. For them, I could see that there might not be that much of a change in their workplace from a design perspective, but certainly we do have law firms that are starting to ask about, do I still need my large conference centers? Are we going to be doing business travel? How are we going to be sort of looking at that sense of hospitality within this space?

I do think that no industry is immune and everyone is going to be asking these questions, but the ones that were a little bit more tech enabled might be looking at perhaps having more of their folks being remote, those have a greater impact on their workforce overall.

Michael Morris:Thank you for that. Roy. What's the highest risk of areas of exposure within an office?

Roy Abernathy:Areas where we congregate and the human to human transmission is the highest opportunity for the virus to move from one human to another. So much higher propensity than gaining it from a surface or any other type of contamination. Those spaces where we congregate like elevators, those spaces where we congregate when we wait, those spaces where we congregate unfortunately when we socialize and when we gather.

Michael Morris: Very interesting. Natalie, what is a simple way for me to encourage productivity and motivation?

Natalie McVeigh:I think it's really about finding what encourages employees to get moving. Really doing something creates people to do other things. Studies show that what we believe is how we behave, so if we can get people to believe that they're productive they'll behave and you can do the reverse as well. You can behave as though you're productive and you will also start to believe it. We call it sometimes fake it until you make it.

Michael Morris:Thank you for that. I like fake it till you make it. Tamar, I have traveled extensively for the firm and throughout my whole career, Roy, we were talking about it earlier. It does the same. What do you think the long-term impact on business travel will be? I mean, most of our business has done a con... a lot of it's done at conferences so the fact we are not out and about is very challenging.

Tamar Moy:Right. It's interesting. I think that long-term people will start traveling again. I think as they're talking a few years out in a post vaccine world, there'll be a real pent up desire to get out and see the world, I would imagine. I could see that happening, but I also can see that folks have realized that the virtual communication can be highly effective. I would think that maybe the sort of days of going across country for like one meeting is behind us and folks will look for kind of a more robust travel schedule and if they're going to go make it for multiple different meetings and have it really been impactful and for those one off meetings, I could see people just relying more heavily on the virtual communication for that.

It's interesting, so a lot of our clients we've been speaking to and I think you have referenced this before earlier on as well, people have been reporting that productivity has been maintaining at high levels and that might be because they're putting in the longer hours as we discussed but we have been hearing from clients now that have been tracking their productivity quite closely, that they were sort of riding out and finishing up projects that were in the pipeline already, and now we're at a point where new business would have started to kick in and there's a little bit of a decline now in productivity because the generation of new business has not been able to be as successfully done as it normally would be.

We're sort of anticipating to see a little bit of a drop there because of that and new business development is oftentimes very much about kind of meeting people face to face and having those first interactions and forming those impressions and that face to face sort of way. I think we'll have to kind of see how the productivity and new business development go over the years, because I could see that having a big impact on whether or not people are willing to track it.

Michael Morris: Unfortunately, I agree with you. Filling the pipeline is everything and it's a little light right now. Roy, back to you. I know our firm has gone to great measures to have preparedness to go back to work and there's no requirement on anyone and we're going to great extremes and here's a question. What are companies doing about temperature taking screening when coming back to the office?

Roy Abernathy:Most states at this point in the CDC's suggestions is that employers screen as people come back into the office. Now, that's typically screening at home. Before you start your journey into the office, answering a series of questions around, have you had any unusual exposures before your last time in the office over the last two weeks and then taking your own temp before you leave for the day or leap to get to the office. That's an easy simple way to do it and probably the majority of what employers are doing if they are screening, and then there's states like Colorado, they're very prescriptive. You have to do this as a part of the process.

Even more of it and next month we're going to see a lot more viability around testing and different types of testings. It won't be the long swab, but more of a saliva test or other modalities, that would really help around that and that's going to be a big boost in kind of the testing mode, because nobody really wants to have that big swab like shoved up on their brain. I don't, at least from just a sensitivity perspective. Screening is going to become a very natural part of our day, more so than we ever had in our history and when you look at... again, we're tribal, so we're going to follow what other parts of the world have done.

In Asia wearing a mask is a very regular part of just a seasonal outright, having your temp taken is a very natural part of going into different facilities, and screening questions are very natural part of kind of their response to this type of thing and it's the first time in the U.S. we've really been exposed like this. It will also become a normal part of our pattern.

Michael Morris: Again, unfortunately, I think you're right. Natalie, last question before we move to the networking rooms. What do you feel is the best mode of communication?

Natalie McVeigh:The best mode of communication really depends on the company culture that you have. Any mode of communication that you can have at depth. Even before this happened, virtual meetings were considered the least effective, least engaging. Now, if you can find some tips and tricks, and we do have a webinar on this to really make them engaging, that's going to be the best mode of communication because the visual stimulus, you can actually see my mirror neurons.

Natalie McVeigh:Even if you don't like me, when I'm smiling you can't help but want to smile. This will be used but using it appropriately and with the right context, with a tight agenda where people feel prepared and you actively facilitate, whereas I ask you questions, use the chat function liberally to make sure that people are engaged. It is video, but video used appropriately not overuse.

Michael Morris:Well, I do like to see people in person or at least live on the screen so it makes it much more real. We're out of time. I want to just give an applause to Tamar, Natalie and Roy, thank you so much for this.

About Michael Morris

Mr. Morris is a Director of Business Development, specializing in accounting, tax, and consulting services across a broad range of industries including financial services, real estate, and family offices.

About Natalie M. McVeigh

Natalie McVeigh is a Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence Group within the Private Business Services Practice and has more than 10 years of experience as a consultant and coach.

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