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Episode 123

Workplace 2021 – Get Ahead of “The New Normal” by Communicating Data and Truth

with Vik Bangia of Verum Consulting, LLC

Vik Bangia is a Strategy, Operations, and Corporate Real Estate Outsourcing Specialist and the CEO of Verum Consulting, LLC based in Minneapolis, MN. Vik joined Mike Petrusky and his co-host Madison Dujka on a recent “Workplace Innovator Interactive Livestream” to discuss the emotional challenges of returning to offices, the future of the workplace in 2021 and how leaders should keep the wellbeing of the workforce top of mind while planning for it all. This highlight episode offers valuable insights delivered during our weekly live broadcast happening every Wednesday at Noon ET.

Space-Right Safe Distancing Made Simple

Connect with Vik on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vik-bangia-0b54522/

Read the full LinkedIn article on “Workplace 2021”: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/workplace-2021-get-ahead-new-normal-vik-bangia-vik-bangia/?trackingId=jjcQyHA85unFA53NKGgF%2BQ%3D%3D

Learn more about Verum Consulting: https://verumconsulting.com/

View the full recording of this and all past livestream broadcasts here: https://www.iofficecorp.com/resources?type=livestreams

Discover free resources and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Read the full transcript:

Mike Petrusky (00:01):

Hey. Do you want more insightful conversations? Many of the topics we discuss here around workplace design and strategy are also explored in depth at Work Design Magazine. You'll find many of my past guests contributing to the site.

         And coming soon, I'll welcome publisher Bob Fox to the show. He'll talk about the winning submissions and the fascinating findings from the Next Work Environment Competition. So, be a workplace innovator and subscribe for free today at workdesign.com. Thanks.

Vik Bangia (00:35):

Most of the tools and techniques that they're talking about are what's happening with the building facility themselves. I think a lot more has to be talked about when it comes to wellness and when it comes to employee wellbeing because those things are important to address.

Mike Petrusky (00:51):

This is the Workplace Innovator Podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOFFICE, the leading employee experience focused IWMS software that delivers real-time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

         Hey there, folks. Welcome to the show. It's episode 123 of the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I am your host, Mike Petrusky. And I am glad you're here. As always, thank you for joining us. I am honored to count you among our Workplace Innovator community. And I'm thrilled to introduce you this week to a longtime friend of the show, Vik Bangia of Verum Consulting.

         He is a business strategist, a corporate real estate outsourcing expert, a keynote speaker and a great writer who has shared a lot on social media. In fact, that's what prompted my invitation to Vik to join us for the second time on the Workplace Innovator Interactive Livestream. We have been doing these weekly chats every Wednesday at noon Eastern time.

         Vik recently wrote an article on LinkedIn that caught my attention. He called it Workplace 2021: Get Ahead of the New Normal. And he offered up a lot of interesting and practical advice on return to office strategies, and the importance of keeping in mind the mental health, and wellbeing and perspectives of our employees as we make these plans during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.

         I was talking about it with my cohost Madison Dujka and we agreed that we wanted to hear more from Vik, so we extended the invitation and I'm thrilled to welcome him back to the show. Here we go. Hey.

Madison Dujka (02:48):

Hey.

Mike Petrusky (02:49):

Hey. Ho. We're here.

Madison Dujka (02:51):

It's Wednesday. Yes, our favorite day of the week. Our favorite time of the day.

Mike Petrusky (02:55):

And I never know how I'm going to start. You should probably script this out, Maddie. But, hey. Ho. Lets go.

Madison Dujka (03:01):

No.

Mike Petrusky (03:02):

It's the Ramones. Is John McKay out there yet? Is he listening? Big Ramones fan. I think of you, and I think of the Ramones and Blitzkrieg Bop, which is fantastic. So, hey. Ho. Let's go, everybody. Welcome to the Workplace Innovator Interactive Livestream. This is not just another webinar, it's a livestream. It's an interactive conversation, Maddie.

Madison Dujka (03:02):

It is.

Mike Petrusky (03:23):

And that's what we want to do with our community of workplace leaders and workplace innovators. We want to help you be just that. We've got a special guest returning to the livestream this week.

Madison Dujka (03:23):

We do.

Mike Petrusky (03:37):

And so, I'm not even going to be going to wait, Maddie.

Madison Dujka (03:37):

Don't wait any longer. [crosstalk 00:03:42].

Mike Petrusky (03:40):

I'm not going to delay the inevitable. Let's just bring him in. Here he is, folks. And I hope he's there. There he is.

Vik Bangia (03:40):

I am.

Mike Petrusky (03:48):

Vik Bangia, everybody, from Minneapolis. How are you, sir?

Vik Bangia (03:51):

I'm doing well. How about yourself?

Mike Petrusky (03:53):

We are holding together well. And it's been a strange and interesting journey, these last several months. And Vik, you've been busy. What have you been up to?

Vik Bangia (04:03):

Well, obviously, still working for clients on a couple of large global outsourcing projects on which I'm advising these clients. And then, working with other organizations, some smaller organizations to kind of help them reposition through this pandemic. Just staying active and staying busy, but doing most of my work here from the comfort of my own home and often without wearing pants.

Madison Dujka (04:28):

Nice.

Mike Petrusky (04:29):

That's fantastic.

Vik Bangia (04:30):

And by the way, I am wearing pants right now.

Madison Dujka (04:30):

That's okay. We believe you.

Mike Petrusky (04:35):

That's a great David Letterman joke. Remember David Letterman in the eighties would yell out his office window from New York City, "Hello? I am..." Whatever, he did something crazy and said, "And I'm not wearing pants." That's fantastic.

         Well, Vik, you got your Tiger Woods' red shirt, final round, going for the win. I see that you're ready and psyched. Or Maddie, to give you a reference that you might understand, maybe the Ron Swanson after date night shirt, he always wears red.

Madison Dujka (05:05):

Yes.

Mike Petrusky (05:05):

Were you thinking of that?

Madison Dujka (05:05):

Yes.

Mike Petrusky (05:06):

I bet you were.

Madison Dujka (05:07):

As soon as you said Tiger Woods, that's exactly what I thought of.

Mike Petrusky (05:12):

So, Parks and Rec references are welcome here. And I just stole this title straight from one of your articles on LinkedIn, Vik. Workplace 2021: Get Ahead of the New Normal is what we're going to talk about today. And just to kick things off and set the stage for those who have not seen it, I'm going to read just the opening paragraph here. I'm going to wear my glasses because I'm an old guy.

         But, Vik, this is something you said that really spoke to me and it really prompted me to bring you back to the livestream to talk more about it. To start by quoting "that these are changing times and that employees' fears, both rational and irrational, will be evident upon returning to the workplace." That's our headline quote.

         And then, you say, "Much of 2020 has seen corporate real estate and facilities departments grappling with reopening strategies to their office locations, a determination on work from home policies and a longer-term view on what the real estate portfolio will look like as the future unfolds. While planning is taking place, some companies seem to be making decisions on relatively poor-quality data. And it is this data that will drive future decision making." And then, you go on to say, "Without good data, how are we going to communicate to our employees?"

         So, tell me what motivated you to kind of go down this path. I have a little idea because I've been stalking you on LinkedIn. And anybody out there who's not following Vik Bangia on LinkedIn, now's your chance. While you're watching us today, go follow him. But, Vik, what were you thinking, and what kind of drove this article and the things you've been talking about?

Vik Bangia (06:42):

Sure. Well, I appreciate that lead-in. So, I've spent a lot of this lockdown period trying to educate myself on what's going on in the industry. Stay abreast of changes in trends. And obviously, one of the things that's part of that is understanding what's going on with companies who are planning their reopening strategies for sort of a post-COVID office environment.

         And as I've been doing that, I've been realizing that there's a pretty big gap that exists today between what the popular press is saying, what a lot of service providers and other consultants are saying, and what I'm sensing is important, but is being left out. And that is what is the employees' frame of mind and state of mind as they're coming back to the office.

         All of us have been experiencing this pandemic in different ways. And so, everybody has sort of a little bit of a modified PTSD, if you will, because this is unprecedented. We haven't ever experienced this, so we don't really know how to behave and what to expect when we come back into the office.

         The other thing I've noticed is if you look at the headlines of articles on LinkedIn, almost all of them have to do with the buildings and the facilities themselves. Not a lot of articles about people and the impact that this pandemic has had on them to both their emotional state, their mental state, and really their fears, and concerns and biases as they come back into the office.

         So, what I wanted to do was write about those things, but then identify those areas where I think people should focus their efforts as they go forward. In addition to the typical things that people should be focused on with respect to safety, and hygiene and operational considerations.

         But, if you look at the headlines, the interesting thing is what the headlines are saying. So, I pulled several of them from LinkedIn prior to coming onto this conversation here.

Mike Petrusky (08:36):

Oh, really?

Vik Bangia (08:37):

Yeah. So, you see headlines like Post-COVID Environment Will Drive Demand For Flexible Office Space, The Hotelification of Workspaces, Business Continuity During COVID-19, the Future of Work in Uncertain Times, and The Major Impact of COVID-19 on Business Operating Expenses and Cleaning Services.

         So, as you can see, all these headlines have to do with the buildings themselves, and the operational efficiencies, and how it's going to impact the way buildings are cleaned and how people enter buildings, whether there's going to be some technology associated with how people stay safe while they're in the building.

         What they don't talk about is people themselves and that's why I was bringing that up in the article that you were just talking about, called Workplace 2021: Get Ahead of the New Normal. It's what is normal and how do we deal with that?

Mike Petrusky (09:29):

Excellent. And I think you're right. And I see the same trend in the big publications, but we also see... And I'm glad, Maddie, you and I have done a pretty good job here, I think, of bringing in a diverse group of guests over these last 20 weeks or so. With people with expertise in the area of not just change management, and facility management and workplace, but also health and wellbeing. We've had guests on that really do have that psychological safety in mind and things like that.

         And I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this, Vik, because your article goes into some of this. And I was going to ask you for an inspirational quote. Give me something. I hate to put you on the spot, but do you have something inspirational to kind of set the stage for today?

Vik Bangia (10:08):

Well, I mean, over the last several months, I think the inspirational quote that keeps coming back to me is "to be the change you want to see in the world." And I think that's kind of the most inspirational thing I've heard, and felt and been trying to do over the last several months because we're undergoing a very big transformation in our society in general. And I think it's a great thing, but I think in order to actually affect change, you have to kind of live it.

Mike Petrusky (10:36):

Yeah. And it's something that we have to continue to strive for because it's an ongoing journey we're in too. This is not a short-term fix. It's a long-term experiment we're living through.

Vik Bangia (10:48):

Yeah. Exactly. And as you say long-term, I guess my second inspirational quote comes from Jon Bon Jovi and it's "oh, we're halfway there, living on a prayer."

Mike Petrusky (11:02):

That one, we can absolutely attribute to the great Sir Jon Bon Jovi. More popularly known as Bon Jovi, but his friends and family in New Jersey, where I'm from, call him Bongiovi, which is the family name. That's fantastic. And I won't even try to sing that, Maddie, because I know it'll drive the audience completely away.

         I'm just sharing my screen here, folks. So, this is Vik's LinkedIn. And going back, it look like about a month ago, you started sharing a series of quotes about truth and data, and how absolutely necessary it is to instill confidence in decision-making, and to affect the safety and wellbeing of employees. You were quoting over and over again, the importance of data and truth. So, why is that so important to you in your consulting business?

Vik Bangia (11:53):

Yeah. Well, certainly, it is the name of my company. Verum means truth in Latin. Data is going to be truth for people when they come back to the workplace and the companies that are able to capture that truth, in whatever format or fashion that they're going to be able to bring that in and report that, those are the companies that are going to be most successful in their reopening strategies.

         And then, that goes right in and dovetails into the conversation we're having now, that sort of uses that truth and data to give people a comfort level from a psychological standpoint, with respect to their emotional wellbeing, and dealing with some of the things that they're bringing back to the office. Which are being emotional, potentially being irrational, and then having some confirmation bias issues, which sort of cloud or get in the way of what to do and how to behave.

Mike Petrusky (12:44):

Yeah. So, tell me how. How does that happen? Because you talked about this in your article where this idea of truth and data... And here's my favorite quote in the media today, or in arguments on social media, is "we're following the science." As if the science is capital T, capital S, that we know all there is to know and this is the truth.

         And certainly, we all can agree that during a novel virus spreading throughout our world and a global pandemic, no one has the ultimate truth, at least not yet. We will look back on this era and know things based on the scientific method, which I'm a big fan of, because we can measure, and repeat and prove things.

         But, when you talk about data and useful data today for benchmarking, we don't necessarily have to wait for the ultimate truth to be known. There are things that we can do along the way to help people have peace of mind.

Vik Bangia (13:32):

Yeah. Absolutely. And this goes to the topic that's in that article and in some of my earlier presentations about confirmation bias. So, all of us walk around with a set of biases that we believe to be true, whether or not they're grounded in truth or not. So, any type of external information that I take in, goes through my own internal filter and I make up my mind based on what my filter is as to what's actually true.

         So, now you've got people that are going to come back into the workplace, and your data is going to tell them something and they're either going to believe it, or they're not going to believe it, or they're going to reject it out of hand, or they might have a bias that says this whole thing is a hoax.

         So, you have people with all different perceptions. I think the more data that you can collect, the more that you can show your employees that these things are happening and these things are in place. And it can be proven that this is happening, I think you start to flatten that confirmation bias curve as well.

         People start to understand this is something that we've worked hard to make sure that we can nip in the bud. If somebody is coming in and may have a fever, if you have a kiosk at the entry way to your facility, if they don't pass that test, they go to a secondary testing kiosk. And they can be asked a number of questions to see if they pass that test and can go in the building or if they have to go back home because they don't.

         The more often you can show that that's actually working and that's helping keep the environment safe, the more you can sort of mitigate those employee fears and concerns, and actually take away some of that confirmation bias. I think that's a really important benefit of using that benchmarking data and that reporting data.

Mike Petrusky (15:16):

Yeah. And this isn't new. You've always kind of gone into an organization and looked at their current operations, their current strategy and how they communicate to their employees. Of course, communication is essential these days. We've talked about it in recent weeks with our change management experts and so forth.

         We are wired for a default setting of kind of worry, and negativity and keeping ourselves safe. So, any thoughts that come to mind when it comes to practical ways for workplace leaders to overcome some of those fears?

Vik Bangia (15:47):

Well, certainly, communication is probably the most important way to mitigate any concerns. As long as there's an open environment for communication, I think that's relatively important.

         One of the things that I do when I work with clients, at the beginning of every process, when I'm talking to a client about coming on board, even if it's for an outsourcing engagement or if it's for some strategy or operations type consulting engagement, I do a discovery process because I want to see what the internal communication flow looks like, what the cultural capacity is for change and how people address those types of situations within their workplace. In order to determine whether I want to actually work with them and try to consult with them because there has to be a spirit of openness and transparency to begin with.

         If it's a very closed off environment, or if it's a very political environment or a very fearful environment, I may not be able to make the kind of change I want to make, especially in an outsourcing arrangement.

         But, what I'm seeing right now is that most companies that I work with have a third-party service provider that provides outsourcing services. And those companies are bringing in ideas for how to deal with a post-COVID workplace environment. I think everybody on the service provider side really gets the fact that it does need to be a lot of communication. There needs to be a communication plan put in place. There needs to be transparency. And they're all advocating for all of those things.

         But, again, most of the tools and techniques that they're talking about are what's happening with the building facility themselves. I think a lot more has to be talked about when it comes to wellness and when it comes to employee wellbeing because those things are important to address along with the technology.

         So, I think one way to put a strategy in place for this is to bring all of that into your reopening plan. How are we going to address employees' state of mind? How are we going to address issues of conflict? What if somebody is willfully unmasked? What if somebody is creating an intimidating or hostile work environment, or intimidating somebody personally?

         Those are things that need to be addressed. And I find that a lot of times when I bring that subject up to corporate real estate and facilities managers, they want to kick that up to the human resources department. They want to say it's an HR issue to deal with all of those types of conflicts and challenges.

         And my pushback on that is I always believe that HR is a compliance organization, not an enforcement organization. When you're talking about enforcement, it's really about the facilities, maybe about security teams within the facilities organization. But, there has to be an immediate response to any kind of bad behavior that's taking place in a workplace environment around safety and around a post-COVID workplace environment to keep everybody safe.

Mike Petrusky (18:33):

There you have it, everyone. Just a few highlights of Vik Bangia in his return appearance on the Workplace Innovator Interactive Livestream. For more from this hour long conversation, I encourage you to check the show notes for this week's episode of the podcast. I have offered a link to download the full recording with Vik, Maddie and myself.

         And of course, I want to encourage you to check the links, and follow Vik on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. He is always out there sharing his insight, and his inspiration and, of course, occasional guitar playing. We went on to discuss that on the livestream and I hope you'll check it out because Vik shares photos of his guitar collection, which is awesome. A left-handed guitarist, a Southpaw, if you will, he can certainly rock and roll.

         And I look forward to seeing him again at CoreNet, and IFMA and future events, where he gets on stage and shares those talents with us. Until then, I do appreciate your continued support of this podcast and our livestreams.

         If you're not currently joining us, I hope you'll check out www.workplaceinnovator.com for a link to the livestream, as well as other resources that may become helpful to you. As we continue to gather each week to encourage and inspire each other to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

         You've been listening to the Workplace Innovator Podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOFFICE can help you create an employee-centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.