Highmark Health

How Highmark Health has navigated post-COVID-19 workplace return and real estate optimization using FMS:Workplace

The Customer

Highmark Health is a national, blended health organization serving millions of U.S. customers as one of America’s largest Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers, a growing regional hospital and physician network, and a portfolio of affiliated businesses.

Total Sq. Ft. Managed
Domestic Locations
Total Employees
Sq. Ft. Headquarters

The Challenge

With a legacy of compassionate care and philanthropy stretching back to 1848, today Highmark Health is the third largest integrated health care delivery system in the nation. Delivering such expansive services requires variety of physical real estate holdings. Highmark Health manages 79 locations, including its corporate headquarters, Fifth Avenue Place, an iconic building and a well-recognized part of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Highmark Health went above and beyond to ensure the health and safety of its 35,000 employees and all patients and visitors coming into its facilities. The Real Estate Services team used FMS:Workplace to plan and help deliver a safe environment for their workforce and extended patient community.

As Highmark Health moves toward a post-COVID-19 business model, it has faced new challenges in real estate and workplace planning. Once again, the team has leveraged on workplace data from FMS:Workplace to create and execute strategies for success with a hybrid workforce.

“FM:Systems Workplace was an important component to Highmark Health’s resiliency and adaptability during the COVID-19 pandemic. It enabled us to know where people were. It also allowed us to bring our people back safely.”

– Mark Tishko, Corporate Real Estate Services Project Manager

The Solution

FMS:Workplace is an integrated workplace management system that has helped the Real Estate Services team at Highmark Health ensure safety and sanitization during the pandemic, as well as develop strategic plans for supporting a hybrid workplace experience. First, the company had to determine which employees would be onsite, offsite, or flex employees who spent some days in the office and other time working remotely. Then, they used FMS:Workplace to interact with employees and determine when they could come in, allowing them to make reservations and provide health attestations.

Today, they are refining their long-term strategy beyond safety and distancing, to focus on purposeful design. “The key thing about this is partnering with the different business units in the groups, as well as with our corporate real estate, to define the different teams’ workplace needs based upon their functions of work.”

Mark Tishko, Corporate Real Estate Services Project Manager for Highmark Health, explained that change management is critical to navigating the post-COVID workplace strategy His team is trying to design spaces that are inviting and appealing for employees who want to come into the office. Different tasks will need different spaces. For example, some employees will come to the office needing a quiet, isolated space for heads-down work. Others will primarily want to use the office to meet with their teams and collaborate on projects.

Floor plans in FMS:Workplace enable the team to experiment with new layouts while preserving key safety measures like physical distancing. Move management functionality simplifies planning and tracking employee moves, minimizing downtime and preserving productivity.

Integrating with HR Systems for a Hybrid Workplace

To help with scheduling, Highmark Health integrated FMS:Workplace and its Human Resources system, Workday. Now, both HR and Facilities always know how many employees are at the office and where in the building they’re working.

Highmark Health is leveraging innovative technologies in multiple ways to support their hybrid workforce. The company is experimenting with technologies to connect with people remotely as well as in the office, in video meetings without a degradation of connection quality. They are also using Badge technology and sensors to enable touchless entry into the building and elevators. Not only does touchless badge technology help employees feel safer during COVID, it also improves ADA accessibility.


Reinventing Spaces for Employee Comfort

Today, Highmark Health is working on plans to reinvent spaces in the headquarters building to help employees be more comfortable and collaborative during their time in the office. Tishko describes the company’s pre-COVID approach to workspace as “very traditional” heads-down culture, with dedicated seats and individual spaces. The pandemic required the workforce to adapt from traditional to flexible very quickly. Now, the company is trying to find the right middle ground—a flexible path forward that satisfies employees who prefer a traditional office as well as those that crave remote work.

“In our main headquarter buildings, we’re trying to reinvigorate and revitalize our lobby spaces to make them more inviting, enticing employees to come back by providing different amenities. We’re also looking to make more collaborative spaces, so people are not always tied to that traditional desk mentality,” said Tishko.

The company is also trying to tailor designs to the “mini cultures within the larger culture” to reflect the unique needs of different business units. “Right now, we’re really looking to partner and pilot a lot with our different business units, because from our perspective, each business unit is a little different,” Tishko acknowledged. “We are doing a pilot program in a lot of our regional headquarters to do more of an activity-based design and/or retrofit of spaces to present and pilot with our different groups when they come back into the office.”

“Originally, we were using FMS:Workplace for what I would call our ‘blocking and tackling’—move management work orders and typical space management. But when the pandemic hit, we ended up leveraging it as a reservation system, using the hoteling and space management, and then connecting it with our Workday HR system feeds and tying it in with employees and then health attestations. FMS:Workplace gave us the configurability and flexibility to do different things that we wouldn’t initially have thought about until we got hit with the COVID situation.”

– Mark Tishko, Corporate Real Estate Services Project Manager

What’s Next

Highmark Health is exploring additional ways the FM:Systems solutions can support the workforce and the company culture. For example, at Highmark Health’s headquarters, the company has offered free breakfast and lunch at the office during the pandemic. Now, the Real Estate Services team wants to be able to deliver workplace-related services and amenities to employees more easily.

“We’ve been looking to transition into FM:Systems newest system, FMS:Employee,” said Tishko. FMS:Employee is a suite of solutions that help businesses improve the employee experience and create a more employee-centric workspace. These solutions are scalable, cloud-based, and mobile. The mobile app will be a key benefit for Highmark Health employees. Employees will be able to plan meetings, schedule conference roomsreserve desks, and more—all from their

Real Estate Portfolio Optimization

The Real Estate Services team also has an ongoing strategic project to analyze the big picture of operational value across the real estate portfolio. Specifically, the company wants to leverage owned properties more than leased properties, in order to optimize the portfolio moving forward. Many of their leases are 10 years or more, so this is a strategy that will play out over time. Tishko explained they are taking a middle of the road approach to reducing the real estate footprint, being cautious not to give up space the company may need later.

“We’re looking to make sure if any leases are coming up, is it a value added to our operation? Is there a business-driven reason why we would have those leases? We’re really heavily leveraging our owned property, making sure we’ve got the right people ratios now versus just the headcount seats. There’s a big analysis of the overall portfolio to make sure we’re offering the right type of spaces. And that we have the right number of spaces on an activity basis, like focus spaces, project type spaces, conference room spaces. So, it’s a holistic picture that we’re looking at right now,” said Tishko.

Highmark Health enjoys enterprise-wide facility management with FMS:Workplace. The Real Estate Services team knows what the entire facility management portfolio contains—both owned and leased property—and how each facility and spaces within it are being utilized. This data drives efficiency and provides the insights needed to optimize space usage and reduce costs while ensuring the health, wellbeing, and productivity of the workforce.

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