Episode 1: Hybrid Happenings, the Here and Now

About the Episode

In this debut episode of Hybrid Hangout, Jen and Brian will set the stage with defining hybrid and its versions, what they are seeing in the hybrid workplace right now, as well as share feedback from the market.

During this episode, Jen and Brian discussed:

  1. Hybrid work, mandates to return to office and expectations around in office work. Brian explains what a hard hybrid work model is and they discuss how flexible work can and is being measured including with badge swipe data, versus actual real estate utilization ensues,  and how sensor technology can fill in the data gaps.
  2. Building a company culture with remote and hybrid workers. What is the experience each team member has and is it ideal? What is the right technology to support in office and remote workers participating in the same meeting, for example?
  3. Employees as visitors. Many are coming into a work office for the first time. How can technology support this experience.

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcription

Jennifer Heath  0:15

Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us for our very first episode of the Hybrid Hangout. My name is Jennifer Heath.


Brian Haines  0:26

Hey, and I’m Brian Haines, I’m living the true hybrid life here, I’m, I actually am at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas at the real time, I’d be conference this is often called the third space for those of us who work in a hybrid world, one being the home to being the office three being somewhere else where work gets done. I’m here on behalf of the IFMA Technology Council. I’m a board member. And I’m doing research on the emerging prop tech trends that we can report back to our one to 5000 user base. So it’s pretty exciting. There could be some challenges with people moving about because I’m literally sitting right outside of the conferencing area, which was a little bit of a challenge that will make Bill Jen,


Jennifer Heath  1:13

Thank you so much for joining us, Brian, in the middle of your show, I am safely at home with no distractions. In Franklin, Tennessee, I have been a fully remote worker for eight years now, I think so the evolution of hybrid has been really interesting from my seat. I’ve always appreciated the flexibility of hybrid. And it’s been really exciting for me to watch that trend expand in the last few years. So this is our new exclusive series that we’re doing for our customers through the FMS:Champions platform. And we’re calling it the Hybrid Hangout, Brian and I are going to get together once a month and talk through current trends, things that we’re seeing in the market, things that we want to share with you questions that we want to ask you so that we can continue to evolve our strategy and our solutions and our approach to hybrid work. So we’re excited to be here today.


And we’re going to start off talking about a recent news article. I’m sure many of you saw as well, that Google has announced that they are tightening some of their expectations and requirements for in office work. And there’s a little bit of backlash, like many of the other large tech companies that have announced these mandates these requirements in recent years, or in recent months. Really, there’s there’s a lot of opinions about it. So Brian, I would love to hear yours.


Brian Haines  2:41

Yeah, it’s interesting, Jen, because when you look at the headlines, it sounds like Google, Apple, all of these major international tech companies are forcing all of their employees back to sort of the previous way of working, which is in the office full time. But when you really read between the lines, it’s more of a what I call a hard hybrid model where they’re requiring their employees to be in X number of days per week, I believe Google and Apple are both three days per week. And they are going to use bad slights and bad sites to validate that employees come in. They’re also going to use that number one performance evaluations are you coming in? X number of days per week, in accordance with with policies? So it’s interesting, because there’s a tremendous amount of backlash. But it’s still hybrid, because it’s not five days a week full time. So it’s interesting. And we’re seeing a trend towards this more hard hybrid mode, I think. But overall, it’s it’s just another form of hybrid.


Jennifer Heath  3:42

Yeah, I think that there are a couple of ways to approach hybrid flexible, where you’re letting people pick and choose a more fixed method where you have some of these mandates. But I think that that employee choice is going to continue to really drive employers decisions. And one of the things we’ve really seen and we’ve heard people talking about is, is there they’ve been sort of waiting for the employer or for some of these larger organizations to make the decision, who’s going to take the next step who’s going to push it a little bit further. And I think we see more and more organizations are leaning in to whatever strategy they’ve chosen. If it is a more fixed hybrid, a flexible hybrid, fully remote, I think people are starting to sort of adopt those strategies.


From a real estate perspective, when I look at the Google article, and I see that they’re going to track badge swipes as a way to understand who’s coming in. That’s an important data point. For the executives in the HR team that are looking to drive attendance. It’s a very useful metric. But from a real estate perspective, that’s only giving you a really small piece of the pie. There’s so much else that we need to understand about the utilization of the space what spaces are popular, what spaces are our employees attracted to or what spaces or not being used at all. And there’s so many ways now that we can better understand that utilization. Brian, what are you seeing in terms of the technology around utilization?


Brian Haines  5:12

Yeah, it’s interesting. So all the rage right now around bad slights, you know, both, like I said, Google and Apple both made that proclamation that they were going to be chucking bad slides, it’s really just another form of presenteeism. They’re not necessarily talking about bad sites as a way to measure utilization. They’re looking at bad slides as a way to just see if people are and, and we think that swipes and we feel that badge wipes are an important part of the equation of understanding the utilization of the physical built environment, the office space, because it essentially, you know, marks the point when someone enters your facility. And if you’re using exit swipes, it marks the point when they leave your facility. There are other technologies that can do something similar.


You know, things like people, counters, flow counters, but bad points actually tell the company who it is who’s coming in and who’s leaving, which is quite interesting. So to me, it’s just a simple data point. It doesn’t tell you anything about their intent, what they did, once they were in the office, it doesn’t tell you who they met with, it doesn’t tell you anything other than presenteeism, in my opinion, in a lot of ways. And I think that if they truly want to understand how their workplace is being used, they’re going to have to broaden their use of other technologies. To do that, and we’ve talked about a lot of those technologies, we’ve got a lot of those technologies as part of FM:Systems, you know, work point sensors, Area sensors, ruin desk booking solutions, there’s a lot of things that you can do to actually measure how people are using the office space. But going back to, you know, the bad side discussion, to me is they’re just using it as presenteeism. In the old days, it was just your manager could tell right, they would walk around and if Jen was at her desk, well, Jen today, that’s simple, but it’s gotten a lot more complex, especially as people’s schedules coming into the office, or into the workplace is much more chaotic, right?


So they’re, they’re marking three days that they want people in, but they’re not saying specifically, many organizations are not saying, What’s three days, our research has shown that before the pandemic, the most popular day of the week was Tuesday, well guess what? Post pandemic, the most popular day of the week is Tuesday. And that’s followed by I believe, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Mondays and Fridays are just non-existent. Hardly anyone’s coming in on Friday. So yeah, that’s the way I think about this sort of emerging hot item and back slaves. I mean, come on badge lights have been around forever. I bad swiped into the computer center when I was at the University of Arizona in 1990. So it’s not like it’s new technology. But it’s being used in a way that’s, you know, obviously gotten people in a bit of an uproar.


Jennifer Heath  8:02

Definitely. And I think there is a really interesting question around looking at the workplace and the facility, not just as a cost, it’s no longer a given that you need a certain amount of square footage, because you have so many employees, you can be a lot more creative and how that space is being utilized today. And I think that that is creating an interesting challenge for facilities and real estate teams, because they really have to have a better understanding of the HR strategy, as far as are we looking to broaden our talent pool and hire more remotely? Are we looking to build that in office culture? And we want to focus locally? How do we need to be considering our facilities in the wake of some of these other opportunities and changes? So I think there’s just a really interesting opportunity for us to look at facilities not as a cost to the business, but really as an investment in the organization. So what kind of space do you want to deliver to your employees? And again, that alignment with HR I think, is a really interesting part of it. Do you have any thoughts? Yeah, we transition?


Brian Haines  9:17

You know, I’ve always got thoughts on things, Jen. So I’m not not afraid to share them. It’s interesting, because when you think about what Google and Apple are saying, they believe that people do better ideation, culture, building creativity, when we’re together. But they’re not really fit in a in a batch like that to do that, right? It doesn’t because it doesn’t tell you how people are actually using the building. So if we want people to come together, and we want them to come into the office, then we need to provide to them a type of space that you know, is built around collaboration, ideation, culture, building, all of those things, creativity, team building, all those things that we want when we bring people back together.


The offices that most people have are is that there’s absolutely no reason in my opinion, for people to come in. That’s what been and sit by themselves in a cubicle anymore. That’s not why they’re saying they want people to come back, they want people to come back because they think the best ideas happen when people work together. And I don’t disagree with that I actually do agree. But I think it does mean that we’re absolutely going to have to have a revolution evolution around the way we build our spaces.


Jennifer Heath  10:28

Definitely. And that’s a perfect segue into our next topic. There was a recent blog article that talked a little bit about the need for us to upgrade and really remake make over our meeting rooms, because we do have so many more meetings now that are some in person and some virtual, and it creates a real challenge. Anyone who has worked remotely like I said, I’ve been a remote worker for many years, this was always a challenge in the past, and now it has, it’s leveled out a little bit, because people are so much more aware of it.


If you’re the one person who’s remote, it’s really hard to feel like you’re an equal part of the meeting, it’s harder to, you know, make your voice heard, it’s harder to get somebody’s attention, when you have something to say, it definitely puts you at a slight disadvantage. Likewise, if everybody is virtual, and you’re the one guy sitting in the conference room, that’s not really a great experience, either. So there’s a little bit of understanding that balance of having some people that are remote, some people that are in office, and the solution, there really is technology, we have to have a tremendous improvement in the technology that we have in our conference rooms, and that we make available to employees so that they can have more cohesive productive meetings, even if everyone isn’t there in the same room.


Because as much as we value that ideation and culture, building that happens in person, I think we all also recognize and this was true pre pandemic, sometimes the best talent is not in the same town. That’s just a fact that the most important member of your team might be in Tokyo this week, and you still have to be able to have that collaborative connection. And that really comes through technology. So there was a recent survey, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, estimates that by 2024 75% of meetings will be virtual. So that’s just a staggering number when you compare it to 10 years ago, and most meetings were in person. So I think there’s a huge call for facilities teams and organizations to look at the technology they have and how they’re going to build that bridge.


Brian Haines  12:45

Yeah, Jen, I think we we both read the same article from our partner JL LT that was talking about if you’re building collaboration space, and you don’t have technology at its heart that enhances things like virtualization, and the ability to be able to have people who are in diverse environments, you know, dial in and haven’t had a positive experience. You’re sort of missing the point and what it means to bring people together. It’s interesting, that 75% number that you were talking about from the National Center for biotech information, I because I think the truth is, it’s probably going to be 75%, which will have at least some form of virtual component, I think people will still come together. But there’s a need to have a virtual component that doesn’t make the people who are dialed in virtually feel less than or not as part of a specific meeting. And I’ve seen us struggle with this.


When you look at when you’re looking at old technology, things like like you’re having a webcam up on the wall. And it’s showing sort of a view down a conference room where people are sitting around a table talking and the people dialed in, never get eye contact. They never get they never get a word in edgewise because it’s hard to break in. You know, there’s a lot of technologies, we bought the house and if you’ve seen that very cool device that’s in the middle of the conference room, which gives kind of a 360 view. And I think that that kind of focus is it’s what is really going to happen. Frost and Sullivan forecasts of the conferencing devices market is going to grow fivefold. As demand for technology enables high reward and greater use of small to medium sized conference rooms increases I completely believe that that’s going to happen and it’s going to be an area where it really blows out right now.


The press release came out yesterday or this week. FM:Systems has announced that we’re moving our own corporate headquarters to the Raleigh Ironworks which is just a very incredibly cool tech forward, diverse new area that’s being developed in Raleigh and we’re moving in there as one of their newest tenants. Our office space is going to be a technology showcase not only for our clients but for ourselves. And it’s you know, when we’re when we’re talking with the architects, Little and Associates which is another one of our partners and JLL is our partner in this firm. object, you know, we’re designing conference rooms that have the ability for people to dial in virtually as part of the discussion, we’re not just going alright, we’re going to put a plop a table down to put four chairs around it and put a, you know, a screen on the wall, we’re talking about what the experience is going to be like when people sit around and they’re facing the people who are dialed in virtually and how we can make that sort of wall disappear between the virtual world and the in person world. So I think it’s fascinating.


And I think we’re going to see a massive increase in focus there. But going back to the original discussion, we need to be able to measure those right, we need to understand how many we need, how they need to be laid out how they’re actually used, so that we’re providing the best space, we don’t have. We don’t want people cramming into cubicles to try to do virtual meetings and things like that, that that were never really intended for that purpose. And it’s interesting.


Jennifer Heath  15:56

Yeah, I’m so excited about the new space. And the idea of us, creating that opportunity to have a much more immersive meeting experience is really powerful. Because we have always been a distributed company, we’ve always had multiple locations and have had to, to work through how do you bridge that gap of not everyone always being together. And a phrase that I’ve picked up in the last couple of years is digital equity. That’s what it’s called when you when you leverage technology to create that experience that is equitable, no matter what side of the table or the camera you happen to be sitting on. So I’m very happy to hear that we are putting that right at the center of our new office space. One other question I would kind of like to pose to our audience, if folks are comfortable posting there in the chat, one of the things that we talked a bit about at our user conference this last spring, is the idea that there is such an intersection now between facilities and IT, facilities managers are having to become so much more involved in technology decisions. And it’s maybe a little bit outside their wheelhouse in some cases.


So I’m curious, for those of you in the audience that are you know, facilities and real estate rooted? Are you finding that a challenge within your organization to communicate effectively with your IT teams to sort of put into words what it is that you need, the challenges that you’re trying to solve? I think one of the things we’ve talked a lot about since the beginning of the pandemic is the idea that HR and facilities and it have to have a relationship like they’ve never had before, in order for hybrid work to really be successful. And I think this is one of those components where you’ve got facilities in it, that are maybe not always speaking the same language. But they’ve got to get on the same page in terms of making some of these decisions. So if you’re comfortable posting in the chat, that’s just an interesting kind of data point. For me personally, if that is a challenge that we’re seeing, in maybe moving some of your initiatives forward.


Brian Haines  18:07

Yeah, Jen, while we wait for questions to come in. It’s interesting, because the EPA Technology Council asked me to do some research this week on cybersecurity and whether or not we should be doing more messaging to facility managers about the importance of, and I always say, because I do presentations on this pretty often, if you want to get negative attention within your organization, take an IoT device that’s unsecured and stick it on your corporate network and see if you don’t have somebody from it, knocking on your door within minutes, it’s really a bad idea. We need to understand that.


You know, things like that are how we get people penetrate our security. We get hacked, as they say there’s a lot of things like that, that are coming into play. And even going back to the basic conversation around that where we started, Jen was around that site. So that’s why it’s systems don’t just magically appear. They’re technology that have to be selected. They’re often integrated with your security system. They do have PII. So, you know, for instance, it’s telling your organization who you are, based upon your badge, swipe with a lot of considerations that need to be taken into place, which means our facilities teams and our real estate people are actually really getting a lot closer to HR, right, like we’re starting to border and we’re starting to cross over an areas, which are more sensitive that we need to message to our employees and users of our facilities, even visitors and any questions come in there, Jen?


Jennifer Heath  19:35

I’ve got a couple of comments.


Brian Haines  19:42

That’s interesting, because Betty Morgan’s is one of our favorite clients was saying that not a challenge here because she has created a great relationship with HR and IT from a facilities perspective, which is really fantastic to see. I think if we turn the clock back x number Five years ago, like pre pandemic, and we would have said that sort of thing. People would be like, what would you have to do what I mean, it’s really changed quite significantly. So that’s really great to see Betty, thanks for that comment.


Jennifer Heath  20:15

So, Brian, the last topic we had on our list today that we want to talk about, is sort of an ongoing trend that we’ve been observing as we’ve been coming out of the pandemic, and that is the phenomenon that employees are acting like visitors, they are coming into maybe a space for the very first time, even though they’ve worked in that company for the last 18 months, maybe the nature of the workplace has changed dramatically. They’ve gone from fixed seating to hybrid. There’s all these variations now, in our experience experiencing the workplace. What are you seeing in that realm? How is that changing the way we’re thinking about our workplaces?


Brian Haines  20:54

Yeah, it’s interesting, because we started to see that, you know, early in the return to the workplace, sort of at the end of the pandemic, where we actually started having meetings, and our clients started to have meetings more. So within the office, people were coming in, they’re confused, many were hired during the pandemic, I’ve never been to an office come in very infrequently, they don’t know where to get a mouse, they don’t know where even where the restrooms are, they don’t know where you know, where the break room is, they don’t know where someone sits, because it’s all like I said, it’s quite chaotic, right. It’s actually the intervals are more like visitors were coming in at the strange intervals, we’re not sitting at the same place every day. Typically.


Although it places are underutilized, a lot of people I suspect are probably grabbing a place that feels comfortable or familiar with them. But really, what we’re seeing is this kind of, you know, everyone’s kind of a visitor to the organization. And we’re seeing, really the use of visitor type amenities, take off things like help me find the location where Jennifer sitting today helped me understand where the break room is, helped me to understand what days of the week my team is going to be in. And things like Lockers are becoming really, really popular. I was talking to a client in the UK a few weeks ago, they put lockers in place, and they have different kinds of lockers, they have assigned lockers, and they have reservable lockers. And people come in, and they put their stuff in there during, you know, during the day, and at the end of the day, they go get their coats, and you know, their motorcycle helmet, or whatever they may have. They take their work from their desk, they put it in a locker, they lock it up, there’s all of these amenities, which are sort of saying, we’re kind of being treated like a visitor instead of like a permanent resident, if you will, of our facilities. So it’s quite interesting.


I think it’s something that we’re keeping a really close eye on in our new office. Right inside, not only will we have badge, swipe security, because we have to, it’s very, you know, it’s a lot of technology. It’s our office, we’re we’re not going to have in our new environment, you know, a front desk person, there’s a signing kiosk, which is integrated with our bed swipe system, in visitor sign in employee sign in. It’s a really cool technology. But that’s how we’re looking at it. And I think that’s how the markets looking at it as well.


Jennifer Heath  23:12

Yeah, one of the things again, going back to our user conference, one of the comments that was made in a session was the idea that people who’ve entered the workforce in the last couple of years. So you know, the younger Gen Z set [age] 23-24 just out of college, they’ve never had the experience of going into an office every day, 40 hours a week. And I think that that really raises some interesting questions. It’s, they’re sort of perfectly suited for it, because they’re already so tied into their technology. They’re so used to virtual communications and interactions. So they’re almost better suited for it maybe than older generations. But at the same time, they’re at that point in their life, where they’re meeting people, they’re moving to a new city, they’re starting a new career.


I think that that’s an another interesting challenge that we’re going to have to think about is how do we bring some of the these younger generations together to help build that social connection, build some of that fabric? That is your culture? So I think that’s another sort of interesting component in all this is there’s going to be a real generational difference in what we’ve experienced and what we expect in the workplace.


Brian Haines  24:23

Yeah, I agree. And it’s interesting, because if you if you look at workers have been in the workplace for a long time, such as myself, you know, in the past, that was really the space you got was based upon some form of hierarchy, right? Like as you moved up the ladder, as you got more seniority, you got a better space and you sort of you felt like you’re under space, or you deserved your space. So many of these younger workers who had not experienced the workplace, they don’t have that kind of baggage that we do and I call it baggage because I think the flexibility around what we’re capable of having within the workplace, which means every single day, you get the best place to do the work. that you need to do that day and not the place that someone tells you, you have to go to every day, or the seat that you have to sit in every day. But you get to get to choose the one that is best for a meeting or best for coming together with your team to do ideation and you know, whiteboarding on the wall using digital technology or whatever that may be. I think that’s exciting. And that energy is going to be brought by a different generation. It’d be really, really cool to see this play out.


Jennifer Heath  25:26

I think that’s a really interesting point. And I agree that it is sort of like baggage, there’s a certain level of superiority and inferiority in that old system. And now there’s as level of equity that maybe we didn’t have before. So I think that is a perfect closing comment there. So we are going to wrap it up, send Brian back to his session or the blackjack tables wherever he might land. Thank you again to everyone for joining us today. Thanks for the engagement in the chat. We hope that you will join us next month, July 24. We are going to take a look at the history of hybrid work. Our next episode is called Beyond the office walls. So we look forward to seeing you all then, and have a wonderful day.


Brian Haines  26:13

Yeah, I’m really excited. Jen, thank you so much for joining me this is Brian Haines live from Caesars Palace signing off.


Jennifer Heath  26:20

Thanks, everyone. Bye bye.


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