Companies are getting ready for their employees to return to the office. In this episode, Jenna Geigerman and Sabine Ehm explore the aspects of managing a return-to-office strategy.
Our expert guest for successful return-to-office strategies
Jenna Geigerman is the director of real estate and strategy at Citrix. She is responsible for large sites in the Americas and has been running the global return-to-work initiative. In addition, she leads a team developing an app to aid workplace management.
Jenna has always been involved in the real estate industry, even though this is her first position in corporate real estate. With an undergraduate degree in architecture, Jennifer has been involved in affordable housing projects, working with a real estate investment trust, and doing consulting work. She jokes that she has done every real estate job except being an attorney. ‘I’m the Jill of all trades.’
Creating a return-to-office strategy that supports CRE goals
Listen to the following clips to learn more about Jenna’s return-to-office strategy.
“It’s been very effective to make sure that what we’re doing on the real estate team not only supports our employees but also supports our corporate vision, our products, and our go-to-market actions for the marketing and sales teams.” – Jenna Geigerman
Aligning goals across large companies can sometimes be difficult. A few years ago, Jenna solved this problem at Citrix by creating a Workplace Design Strategy Council. Jenna called on leadership from many departments to join the board, leading to efficient communication. For example, when the IT team was experimenting with a new system, the real estate team was made aware and was able to support it.
Employee-focused return-to-office planning
In this clip, Sabine asked Jenna what business goals were influencing her CRE strategy. Jenna quickly responded by saying they are employee-focused. With this mindset, Jenna focuses much time on understanding what the gaps are and how to deliver solutions when building a return-to-office strategy. In collaboration with HR and IT, she can create an effective workplace environment through a holistic CRE approach.
“When we’re looking at [creating] the right portfolio strategy going forward, we’re trying to figure out user behavior in a new way. [This is] because you can’t assume that user behavior from the past is [going to be the same] in the future.” – Jenna Geigerman
Although Citrix provides products that enable remote working, it has not always been flexible in practice. Before the pandemic, most large office spaces had 75-100% assigned seating. Like many companies, this is changing. The company is moving towards agile workplace styles.
Return-to-office planning after the pandemic
Over the past year, the real estate team has surveyed their employees, asking questions like: how often will you come into the office? What will you use the space for? As most people are still working from home, these responses are just estimates. Post-covid, Jenna is interested to see what actually happens. Especially, Jenna wants to see if employees end up coming in more often than they predicted. This will be an indicator of success for the real estate team, as it means they’ve created a space that is more compelling than employees envisioned.
“A lot of people are [saying things like] I need to be able to tie into that desktop below my desk. And I [respond with], well, what have you been doing for the last year? You haven’t been doing that, have you?” – Jenna Geigerman
The office of the future will be a flexible environment. However, not all employees are enthusiastic about this change. The biggest challenge comes from IT and engineering teams, who are tied to technology at their desks. However, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can find new ways of working.
The positive aspects of previous workstyles need to be seen in a new light. Previously, when employees came to their desks, they would find their computer, mouse, and knickknacks the way they left them the day before. They didn’t need to bring a backpack or have an on-site locker. Jenna is advocating that employees can gain a lot by giving up a little. For example, a staff member will now be able to spend more time with their family since they are more in control of when and how they work. However, Jenna also understands that “a lot of people won’t embrace it until they live it.”
Conclusion for return-to-office strategy
Across the industry, companies are discussing the return-to-office planning conundrum. Employees are slowly starting to return to the office, but some may still prefer to work from home. Jenna and her team are performing surveys to gather useful data on workforce movement. Hopefully, when employees have settled into post-pandemic routines, they’ll be in-office more than they anticipated. This will be an indication of successful return-to-work strategies for the real estate team.
Listen to this (episode No. 25) and other podcast episodes.
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