Designing Harmony: Crafting The Future Of Workspaces And Culture

About the Recording

Our CSO, Brian Haines recently participated in Realcomm’s Designing Harmony: Crafting the Future of Workspaces and Culture webinar along with several other participants. In this webinar the panelists explore the art of creating a win-win for owners, operators and tenants, a harmonious balance that elevates the entire ecosystem. Dive into the intricacies of workspace planning and uncover the transformative potential of tenant applications. Witness the evolution from traditional office spaces to vibrant functional neighborhoods that redefine collaborative environments.

Unpack the nuances of clarifying “work,” explore avenues of defining optimization and learn the significance of setting proper expectations for a thriving real estate ecosystem. This webinar is your guide to navigating the complexities and embracing innovation in the dynamic world of real estate.



Betsey Graham
Brian Haines
Michael Przytula
Taylor Marsh
Jacob Simons
Michael Walsh

Watch the Recording

Episode Transcription

Betsey Graham  0:01

And, and Hello, Brian, our next guest, we’re delighted to have you. You are the tree Chief Strategy Officer of FM:Systems. And thank you for being here today.


Brian Haines  0:13

Thank you so much about the Chief Strategy Officer at FM:Systems. I’ve been involved in transformation of the digital workplace as well as operations and facilities. From the beginning of my career, my education is actually an architecture 23 FM:Systems moved into the Johnson Controls portfolio company. So we went from 220 employees to now having 100,220 friends. So it’s pretty exciting transformation for us. All right, take it away. Thank you, Betsy. Yeah, so I’m just going to go through a couple of slides to sort of help explain our take on crafting the future of workplaces and culture, and designing harmony, and FM:Systems, we really believe designing harmony in the workspace requires some elements, a couple of elements, a variety of data sources, to really help inform decision making and an iterative process.

We’ve never seen one of our clients get it right the first time. I mean, literally, it’s, especially since we’ve gone through such a massive transformation post pandemic, you just can’t create an open office environment with a ton of amenities and, and expect it to be right the first time, especially if you’re not talking to the occupants, understanding what your culture is, what you’re trying to achieve, and really measuring that on an interim basis. I’m going to give you an example of one of our clients who has gone through this what I call a digital transformation journey. It’s really, I think, a big success story. The client is a very large leading healthcare organization, a large portfolio in this example, they needed to transform space for 5000 employees, about a half million little bit more than a half million square feet. And for multiple level buildings, a lot of this was part of a big merger that they had completed. So not only are they merging facilities, but they’re also merging culture. And at the same time post pandemic, really transitioning to a hybrid workplace, talking about a big challenge and a really exciting challenge for them as well.

And they’ve been looking at this from a number of different perspectives, one is centralizing their workplace data, identifying popular hotspots to inform future design, because they really want to iterate as I was saying earlier, they know that they didn’t get it right, exactly the first time they’ve really been measuring occupant experience from a whole different variety of standpoints, you know, everything from utilization to how people feel within the space itself. And really looking at cost avoidance looking at things like bad data analysis, really looking at this across a very broad portfolio. And what I call multi data point analysis doesn’t sound very fun, but it’s actually pretty exciting. Because we’re now really, at the point where technology has come along, I know everyone’s been talking about AI. And I’m going to mention sort of our view on AI here in a few minutes.

They’re really the types of data sources that this particular client is taking into account was everything from occupancy sensors, areas, sensors, environmental sensors, looking how occupancy affects things like indoor air quality, and using that measuring that with utilization to see if poor air dot air quality actually affects people’s desire to use a space, people can actually feel these things, looking at things like booking data, space and lease data so that they could plan from now into the future. Even bringing in things such as total cost of ownership within the facility, and the portfolio of facilities and sort of measuring utilization against that I always say if you’ve got two identical buildings, one in New York and one is in Chicago, one’s got incredibly low utilization, and one’s got massive utilization. And their operating costs are the same. Ask yourself which one of those buildings is more important? In your portfolio.

The next thing I want to talk about is really how you can go about the process of digital workplace transformation because it really is about data. It’s interesting. I’ve been at this for a really long time. And I see a lot of organizations still at the very beginning point of digital transformation and digital transformation is absolutely important in this context as we look at our traditional buildings on the left, and then we start to do things like connected buildings, being involved with a company like Johnson Controls now I see the possibilities of connected buildings, taking that journey with data connecting building control systems to how buildings are actually used.

Ultimately, you know, we’re all focusing on smart building development and then in the end, I see it coming autonomous buildings where buildings have enough info motion to actually start making decisions based upon things like AI, Massive Datasets to actually really start making decisions. An example is if I’ve got a 13 story building, and on Fridays, I’ve got sort of occupancy that’s quite low and people are scattered all over the building, why can’t we reshuffle the buildings bring all of those people down to maybe a couple of different floors and turn off the rest of the building. I mean, really, it’s about creating a sort of a an energetic occupant experience, where we know that the number one reason why people are going back, it’s not about amenities.

It’s not about what the space looks like. It’s actually about we like one another. As employees, most people actually want to be around the people they work with, they want to be around their colleagues, their friends. And that’s really, from our research is the number one motivator for people coming back to the office, there’s corporate mandates and things like that, that force people back, but the truth is, people really want to be around one another. So if we raise that that building, we get sort of a double hit, right, we get people around one another collaborating, we also get to reduce our energy exposure. And that’s really about expanded data sets, looking at information that we’ve never looked at before, really measuring things like utilization to occupancy cost to employ a wellness and comfort indoor air quality. And I told you, I would, I would, I would touch upon AI because it is quite, quite important.

Our approach to AI at this point is taking all of these complex datasets that I’ve been talking about. And using AI to provide insights in ways that humans can easily consume them. You don’t need to be a building engineer, you don’t need to be a data analyst to get valuable information back and being able to do things such as natural language query and being able to ask questions like a human would, I can simply ask systems like what we’re providing and get answers back, even though the data is incredibly complex. And my questions may be pretty sophisticated AI is enabling us to be able to do that. And it’s a really, really exciting time to be as part of this transformation. The last thing is really, a lot of talk about digital twins, and really digital twins to us is really taking connecting intent and reality for the full building lifecycle, and being able to measure that accurately.

So as we model things in data, and then we look at things in reality, we’re really getting to the point where the model actually is very close to reality. And we can manipulate that we can do scenario planning, we can do modeling, we can do look at you know, maybe dialing things up and down, what happens if we reduce energy costs, and really optimize the use of our facilities as part of that iterative design process that I was talking about earlier?


Betsey Graham  7:44

So I love I love energetic optimization. That is awesome. Thank you. We got about time for one quick question your if someone’s starting their digital transformation, as you know, a lot of organizations are where’s the best place to start?


Brian Haines  8:05

Yeah, it’s interesting, because I think it’s the same thing. I always tell people when they ask what AI is, and how it can provide information to them. First of all, you need to know what your outcome is, or what your what you’re searching for, in terms of an outcome is that outcome, I just need to optimize the use of the facilities from a utilization perspective, does it take into account how’s that going to affect the culture of my organization? Do I want to maintain the culture as well as transform my organization? At the same time? Do we have a mixed portfolio of maybe new leading edge smart buildings combined with historic facilities, really looking at things across a broad perspective? I think having data and having an understanding of what your goals are, and being able to measure that through a process is really the key to that to that question.


Betsey Graham  8:55

Well, thank you so much for being with us today. We’d appreciate it. We’ll see you in a few minutes as we get to our group panel. There we go. Great. Thank you. Um, we have a question from Mark, the technology side, half of this. What are the business side of this? And I think this was for Michael, earlier on. What is the business side? The outcomes you’re achieving?


Michael Przytula  9:26

Yeah. Great, great question. Thank thanks for posing. And I think that, again, this comes as one of the first things that you need to define upfront along with, you know, why does the place exist, right, it obviously exists to provide some kind of business benefit and how is that being measured? So, you know, there’s obviously for some of this stuff, there’s an ROI story. You know, one of the top ones going around at the moment is well, can we reduce real estate can we reduce spend, etc, etc. And that’s, that is definitely one of them, but there’s just as much opportunity for us to reinvest in spices that I kept right to bring them up to the level that, let’s just be honest, that we’re all expecting. And going back to the Lisbon data, there’s clearly a big gap between what exists and what people are looking for. So, there is a financial story around this, but we’re definitely seeing and encouraging organizations that are getting financial returns, to look at how you can take at least some of that, right and reinvest it back into the portfolio that you’re keeping to keep you on the on the leading edge of what people are looking for, and what quite honestly, your competitors are going to be offering to talent as well.


Betsey Graham  10:39

Thank you, Jacob. Um, you know, a lot of this has changed. We’ve been talking about it for ages, a lot of our clients are starting to implement this on new projects. But how do we anticipate and stay ahead of disruption caused by change, you know, this technology and AI and things like that are going to be a disrupter at first. So how do you stay ahead of that? Yeah,


Jacob Simons  11:11

I mean, I think it’s, I think it’s appreciating where it’s coming from, and what the nature of change is, like I mentioned with that model, we can we can see things happen before they have implications to our org. So when we say change, a lot of times we’re saying is, how is this going to affect our industry? Or how is this going to affect our company? You know, it didn’t, it didn’t make much sense for like Blockbuster to hold on to the predominant system and make the case for VHS, you know, while the predominant system was waning, just that, you know, that ship had sailed on demand behavior had shown up new technologies made cloud based access to content available, so that that transformative system was on the scene, the behavior was shifting the triggering events were were revealing themselves, we call those signals or forces. And people started to speculate, well, we think in the future, people will opt into a lower fidelity, maybe even lower quality piece of content, to have it in their pocket or accessible without, you know, an archive on the bookshelf, or need to go to a rental store, you know, it’s kind of an age old example.

But it’s a good way to pay attention to the triggering events that will accelerate things very quickly AI is the obvious one now that everyone’s grappling with. But the behavior changes happen in other spaces, as well, and we need to get out ahead of those to be kind of remain differentiated, innovative, and relevant, quite frankly, the further we are we fall behind, the less likely we’re perceived as innovators, the more likely we face complexity within our organizations. And if we fall too far behind, we become obsolete, and the world doesn’t need us. Thus 52% of S&P is going away. And the last bit here, so none of our companies are immune.


Betsey Graham  13:02

Correct. Michael, speaking of that, Michael Walsh. You know, I was thinking to myself, if I was in the audience, you know, when is the best time to engage ladies men? You know, it is great data, but when is it most relevant? At the onset, and can really guide solutions?


Michael Walsh  13:29

Yeah, good. Good question. I think it’s really down to the to the business and what’s going on, to be honest with you. So, you know, a lot of the work that we do is kind of pre and post evaluation. So we’re looking at a space pre change, and then post change. And then crucially, we’re measuring the improvements using that same Leesman index that I mentioned earlier, that we’re able to see improvements across kind of features, functions of the office and how satisfied people are with that space as well. But fundamentally, it’s down to what the organization needs, you know, whether it’s focusing on hubs, you know, central offices, whether it’s focusing on satellite offices, whether you know, there’s investment projects going on where they need to measure the success, I think the common theme amongst all of it is that measurement piece and standardization is, you know, the ability to use a metric, a methodology that’s trying to analyze the space, understand how it’s being used, and then use that same process, that same methodology to then compare and contrast.


Betsey Graham  14:33

And my follow up question, and then Michael, I’d love your thriller. I’d love your take on this too. With 7000 employees and thinking about multicultural offices, how does that filter play into Mike Walsh the data that you’re receiving and then Michael Shula I’d like you to comment on how Accenture has dealt with that.


Michael Walsh  15:09

Yeah, I’ll be very brief then and I’ll hand over. I’ll hand over to Michael. I think, Betsy, the kind of crux of your question was kind of, you know, cultural and regional differences amongst amongst officers are what good looks like there. Is that is that,


Betsey Graham  15:22

yeah, you know, your capture data, but how does the filter of the cultural differences sway that data, when you’re looking at standardization, and multiple satellite offices, etc?


Michael Walsh  15:38

Yeah, I think the beauty of having the data at scale that we do on policeman and HQ is in a nutshell, benchmarking. So you know, I mentioned Leesman pluses, which is an accreditation that we give to outstanding workplaces, you know, that’s a global benchmark. So whether you’re an office in Toronto, whether you’re an office in Singapore, whether you’re an office in Bangalore, you know, we know what good looks like in terms of delivering it delivering a great experience to the employees. And that’s the crucial thing, because we’re asking the employees about their experience there as well. So really, we’re really focused on delivering great places to work, regardless of kind of where those offices are. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t kind of cultural and regional nuances that we try and tease out of the data is, you know, we can benchmark industry by industry, you know, tech organization against tech industry, financial services, against financial services, or even region to region, you know, office versus the APAC benchmark, for example, as well. So we’re focused mainly on that primary mission of making great places to work, but the ability to benchmark cut and dice the data and look at Regions, industries, etc, is a crucial part of of what we do as well.


Michael Przytula  16:52

Thank you. Yes, I’ll just jump into it onto the back of that. So definitely, as a large organization, no 720, something 1000, I think was the last count that, that I saw. In many different countries across the globe, there’s a couple of different things that we strive for. And I know, you know, with a lot of the global clients we work with strive for, as well as one is you can have a set of standards around experience for the brand, right? What does it feel like, regardless of where you’re from, to go into the workplace or to or to go there to do different things or to execute different activities. But there’s definitely a value to regionalizing some of those experiences, right, whether it be through design, whether it’s through capabilities, but still, in its essence, we believe this comes back down to like the reason for that place to exist, you know, in some countries, and in some cities, even we’ve found differences inside the US that people will go to the office or choose to go there for different reasons, right? larger cities, where public transport is really easy, for example, that getting around is easy.

And where people are living in smaller housing or smaller apartments, tending to go to the office more as a place to work, right, as opposed to in the US in in other large cities like Dallas, or Houston or things like that, where the commute is longer, but people are living in large houses, they have extra rooms that can set them up, they’re less likely to go. Similar situation and other countries around the world where people may be living in multigenerational households, for example, their purpose for their office will be different than the purpose for, say, an office in New York City or an office in San Francisco. So having a set of standards that that we apply, or we have available, applying them appropriately to the different types of facilities, or the different types of buildings based on, you know, the the desire of functionality or the desired capabilities there, but also, you know, very closely tied to the reason that those people are choosing to go there.


Betsey Graham  18:58

Good data. Thank you. So Brian, I have a question for you. You remember, you mentioned a number of different data sources that can feed into the workplace analytics platform. What do organizations need to think about as they can consider incorporating AI into their real estate and facility platform?


Brian Haines  19:22

That’s a good question, Betsy. And the way I think about it, I’m going to turn it a little bit and that is the depends what question you’re asking, right? In terms of what data you need, right? If you don’t have information to help you answer that question, then you’ve probably picked the wrong data sources. There’s been a massive trend towards measuring utilization for instance, within organizations, everyone’s doing it. There’s a lot of companies that are good at it. There’s a lot of technology that’s come along over the last half dozen years of battery life getting longer, better connectivity, and it’s allowing us to have an incredible insight and into how places are being utilized. But utilization alone doesn’t tell you why people aren’t coming. It doesn’t tell you why people aren’t coming. It doesn’t tell you if they’re happier being there. It doesn’t tell you if they’re more productive, it doesn’t tell you much other than is it utilized lower than you expect or more than you expect. So really, I think we need to have all of the datasets, all of the information available to us that we need to answer the questions that we have.

And the questions are getting more complex, just like utilization and facilities are getting more complex, they’re much more interconnected than they ever have been, you know, the advent of smart buildings moving towards autonomous like I was saying earlier, really needs, frankly, bigger brains than what we as humans have. I know a lot of really smart people, but I’m not sure I know, those kinds of people who could take literally trillions of pieces of information and tease out insights that are then delivered to me, as someone who’s not a data person, I am not detail oriented. But I can use things like AI to get insights from really complex datasets, multi data point analysis, as we refer to it, that helped me make decisions. And that’s really I think, is important understanding what you’re trying to achieve. And do you have the data available to help answer those questions?


Betsey Graham  21:19

All right, Taylor, on that day, did companies need to resign themselves to spending 1000s of dollars in order to put in sensors and and start getting this data in place?


Taylor Marsh  21:38

That’s a great question. You know, so when you look at kind of the outcome that you’re trying to achieve here, right, this this understanding utilization, and understanding your current state, and maybe your future desired state, there’s ways to leg into it, right, for lack of a better phrase, and one of the things that we see is, as you’re looking for solutions that are going to provide these insights to you, it is best, at least initially, to have a solution that reduces your initial capital outlay if possible, right. So a solution that is open and agnostic and can work with your existing infrastructure. So that way, you can start to glean these insights with your, your, your current install, right. And then as you gain that information. And as you’re really purposeful and working with experts, like the people that are on scholar, right to, to help understand what other additional outcomes you want to achieve.

That’s how you’re able to start, you know, determining what additional data points you need, what the best providers are going to be to do that for you. And then what the most cost effective way is going to be to be able to extract that data. So you know, one of the things that we see and how we help our customers is, is to really be able to tie together multiple existing data solutions and provide that contextual data based on what you already have installed. So I would encourage everybody to take a look at that is how can I leverage the things you’ve already invested in to glean these insights, and then be purposeful about how you add additional capabilities in a way that’s going to be open and flexible and connected going forward?


Brian Haines  23:21

Think that’s us frozen?


Moderator  23:26

That’s not good when Betsy gets frozen, that that’s, that’s that’s not good. Let’s go to Jacob. Another question, too. I think you got a very nice compliment, I think, for you talking about space being the most profound issue and as a social enabler in the world, so are you is that generally the statement? Or would you say that’s across the board with all all businesses, there should be some level of that people, executives that are thinking about how they’re going to redesign their space should build that into their, into their design?


Jacob Simons  24:06

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a it’s a comment, it’s coming from a psyche that I have, and I think a lot of my colleagues here again, so show, you know, share. I mean, obviously, we’re, we’re biased towards place but we’re all here because we believe in it. As a social scientist, not an architect, I think, you know, we’re social creatures and I think convening in places is profoundly powerful. Some of the earlier questions you know, touched on what’s the business outcome and I think whether you’re talking about talent attraction, retention, activation of innate human capabilities like creativity, which I showed a snapshot for research for productivity itself, mental and physical health purpose, which largely if you unpack where you derive purpose, one of the key ingredients is meaningful relationships.

So things like mentorship and personal growth come from those relationships, even speed the market, in some ways comes fluidly through have teams that are in proximity to have strong proximity to one another. So I just think we need to get past the case making place because it’s it’s super powerful. And if anyone wants to go head to head in a debate about that, I would welcome that. But we need to do is more of what Brian and Michael and everyone has been alluding to is, What’s its purpose? What are the conditions that enable the outcomes we want, and then get really serious about creating those environments, because the opposite is true.

People also need agency trust and novelty. And, you know, there’s, there’s ways to disable the outcomes that we want. And we could create that through the environment, or we could create that through a policy doesn’t speak to a broader array of human needs. So I think it’s just a, we got to get past that, that frontline issue of this place still valuable. Yes, definitively, yes. And now let’s get to the hard, complex and meaningful work of designing great places that people tend to use.


Moderator  26:00

Let me go over to Taylor because, again, having been a chief technology officer for a pretty large company, and consulting did I’ve done consulting with other companies, when you say, okay, look, we’re going to collect millions of data points from the sensors in these buildings. And we’re going to combine that with your accounting system, your back end office systems, and we’re going to provide role based data visualization, and they look at me and go, What language are you speaking? And are you talking about spending hundreds of 1000s of dollars on sensors in the building? There? We’ve already got sensors, they’re generating data, and we can’t even keep track of it today. So what how would you if you’re in the office with this CFO or the CEO, and we’re talking about return on investment? How does this become a priority? To bring systems, you’re talking about a system that is going to bring it all into one place? Right, I’ll want a workplace system that is end to end. So you got to speak to that a little bit?


Taylor Marsh  27:04

No, that’s, that’s a great point. And we’ve certainly had plenty of those conversations. So the first and I forget who brought this up earlier, you know, when you look at portfolios, real estate portfolios, right? Rarely are they homogenous, you typically have a beautiful new construction, that was Greenfield designed and has a lot of really interesting things in it. And then you perhaps have a building like I’m sitting in, right that I think we were built in 1905, right, amazing architecture, but the things that are in the ceiling behind the walls, maybe could use a you know, a little bit more attention, right, like those types of things. So you know, what we, what we prescribe on this is, real estate is a game of places, right?

So look at your exact footprint, designed the right outcome for each location that maximizes your access to data, based on the investment that makes sense for that location. And use a platform that has as much flexibility as you can to interact with the systems that are already in place to give you the information that you’re looking for, right? And then leverage your scale leverage your you know, your organizational capabilities, right to acquire the solutions that that you want to standardize against. Right. And that the last point I’ll make is, you know, standardization is, is a dream right? Of systems, right? This could be access, this could be the sensor driven, this can be building automation, etc. Right. But that is a process, right? That requires an investment. So having a flexible tool that can that can help you grow. That is the best way to do so in a low capital intensity.


Moderator  28:45

All right. All right. Fantastic. A couple more minutes. I see Betsy is back. Can you hear us Betsy?


Betsey Graham  28:51

I can. Sorry. That’s, that’s my plans with all this technology.


Moderator  29:00

So I’m sitting here waiting in the wings just waiting. Then I can ask your question. I’m going to throw one out, and then you guys could finish up and I’ll stay on just to close out here at the last minute, but perfect. Taylor mentioned, you know, building 1904. So Brian, imagine if you walked in and you set your little portable sensor down, IQ is not really all that good. So indoor air quality, maybe there’s a little bit too much mold that maybe there’s a little bit too much co2, they may not want to advertise that what happens in that scenario? Yeah.


Brian Haines  29:42

Yeah, I think that’s an interesting question. You know what the number one driver for interest in indoor air quality was, I mean, a couple of years ago, Chuck, no one was even talking about it. The Canadian wildfires. Last summer really started to drive an interest in indoor air quality. And there were actually, you know, companies that were advertising that their air quality was better if you would come into the office than probably what you’re what you’re getting in your home. So that’s really interesting. I mean, Chuck, honestly, we live, we live in a world of data transparency, I think if you’re afraid to show your occupants what the air quality is within the office environment that you expect them to come to, you’ve got bigger problems culturally within your organization.

So I really, I’m a big fan of transparency. I’ve seen I mean, I, you can see the impact on utilization on air quality. There’s a lot of organizations that are really focusing on it, because employee wellness and health is a big concern. Honestly, the best way to keep employees healthy and well is to provide a really wonderful work environment for them that that is healthy. And so I think it comes down to that, Chuck, I’m not a fan of privacy and data when it comes to things like that.


Moderator 30:57

I got you Betsy last. I’ll give you a 32nd wrap up and then I got to shut it down.


Betsey Graham 31:04

Well, I thank everybody and I’m sure Chuck will as well for joining us today. I really appreciated your insights. I look forward to getting a copy of presentation. And I’m glad to have some other resources out in the market that I can tap into for creating some of these workplaces and creating special spaces and experiences for our clients. So thank you. Thank you for having me.


Moderator 00:31:35

So again, I echo Betsy’s comments. Thank you guys. We really do appreciate your time. And we put these things together. We produce these webinars for an opportunity to bring information to the Realcomm community, not just some of these. They’re compact. And I think what you might find is that these conversations can lead to bigger conversations, and that’s what conferences are about, and that’s what networking is about. And you get an opportunity to work with these great people and you see them and they’ll respond to your email. So again, thank you all to our panelists, and thanks to the live audience. We did get a few good questions, and I think we addressed most of them here, especially there at the end. And whether you’ve joined us live or you’re watching this as a recording, we just thank you for tuning in. And be sure to register for our next webinar. It’s on February 22. It’s called the unbelievable underutilization years of overlooking low voltage tech potential in building efficiency. And then on March, well, I’m going to save that. No, actually, I’m going to mention March 14. I don’t see the slide here, but it’s that.


Moderator 00:32:45

Give me my four bars. Right. It’s all about building communications, distributed antenna systems, in building wireless CBRS, Wifi, which ties into this topic we just discussed, especially with indoor air quality. All these sensors has got to provide data and back to the source in some way. So tune into those. They’re going to be great conversations. We really do appreciate it. Also, you see that on the bottom right hand side there. Be sure to register for the Realcomm IBcom that’s happening June 20 and 21st with pre conference events starting June 18. That’s in the beautiful Tampa, Florida convention Center. And we would look forward to seeing you all in person there. I hope everybody on this panel can make it. We love interacting with you and everybody who’s tuned in to the audience or watching this as a recording. So that’s it for us today. We wish you all well, and I’ll just finish with be safe. My indoor air quality here is just fine. See you. Bye.

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