Evolving our workspace for 2022 and beyond

March 7, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

If we define 2020 as the year of forced, unplanned and dramatic change in how we work and collaborate, 2021 became the year we began to adapt and evolve our future environment. Now, in 2022, we have created a unique blend of remote, hybrid and on-site workplace environments, driven by a need to become more flexible and relevant for individual work groups.

More than 150 teams have already instituted new workplace arrangements, with 50 or more groups actively reviewing office space needs for the future. These groups, ranging in size from 10 to more than 100 employees, include clinical, research and educational teams, as well as shared services departments.

According to the Flexible First team, the new environments have, or will, reduce the overall on-site  workspaces necessary to support individual teams. In addition, fewer expansions are planned, since groups have accommodated growth and new hires through remote or hybrid working arrangements.

Opportunities to reduce the footprint were presented in many Michigan Medicine leased locations, which supported the lease consolidation strategy currently underway. At more than 70% complete, the total annual savings is projected to be $4.6 million across the organization.

Listening to feedback

The 122-member Quality team relied heavily on staff feedback when determining their new flexible work environment. The team appointed a “space force” planning committee to bring employees together to discuss collaborative spaces and seating needs. They also used a survey to understand the staff preferences and the actual need for team members to have a location at the office.

“We held an all staff meeting to inform them of the survey results and it was obvious very few people wanted to return full time,” said Senior Director of Quality Linnea Chervenak. “In the end, only four people will continue to work permanently in the office.”

Leaders from the Patient Experience team also received positive feedback regarding flexible arrangements when the 115-person team adjusted from 100% on site, to 40% hybrid, with some visiting the office 50% of the time and others only 10%, depending on their role.

“What we heard from the staff is that they love the flexibility,” said Patient Experience Administrative Director Devin Lippert. “They don’t have to commute unless there’s a need to be onsite.”

“It is a job satisfier,” said Administrative Manager Darnysus Jackson. “The only concern is that we have an engaged group that is used to spending time together. To remain more accessible and sociable, we have huddles every week, followed by ‘water cooler time.’”

Making the best use of virtual time

There were also some surprise positives, according to Lippert. “We have patient family advisory councils, and more people can actually attend because they are virtual,” she said. “Access was an issue in the past since some people are struggling with illnesses or have kids at home.” 

The Physician Relations and Outreach Team, who work with referring physicians, discovered a similar advantage.

“Prior to COVID-19, our physician liaisons traveled across the state of Michigan and northern Ohio visiting referring physicians and their office staff to promote Michigan Medicine’s specialty clinics and faculty expertise. Now they communicate with them through Zoom, email, text, and conference calls. This change has allowed us to engage referring physicians even more, because we don’t have to consider our travel time,” said Josie Aguirre, administrative director for the group. 

“For now, our referring physicians prefer to interact remotely for the safety of their patients and also to focus on patient care while they are working with reduced staff,” she said, adding, “we engage our referring physicians when it is most convenient for them. Before, we were coordinating with physicians between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but now many meetings are after or before their office hours. This is easier for us without the travel time and a better work-life balance for our physician liaison team. Discovering new ways to engage referring physicians energizes and challenges the team to be more innovative.”

Deepening donor relationships 

The Development Office initiated a similar communication strategy, and according to Maria Bertram, managing director for C&W, “connecting with our donors through a variety of written and virtual channels has allowed us to keep in touch with donors, during a time where in-person visits were not allowed or limited by choice or distance.”

“We historically visited most frequently with donors through on and off-campus visits, but Zoom has allowed more frequent interactions rather than going to them or waiting until they come to campus,” she added.   

The 125-member team is moving from a 27,000 square foot space to 13,000 square feet and will become the first office to use a hoteling-oriented hybrid environment, where employees schedule workspaces such as desks, cubicles, and conference rooms, as needed.

“Our productivity and success have not suffered,” said Chief Development Officer Eric Barritt. “In fact, we had a record year when COVID hit, and have continued that record performance through the first six months of this fiscal year.”

Honoring down time 

The challenge, he said, is to not work a 12-hour day.

“You can keep working and forget what time it is. Work and family life can all blend together, so you have to make sure you are not ‘on’ 24 hours a day.”

There will continue to be challenges, even as we feel greater hope for the end of the pandemic. There continues to be uncertainty, as some groups consider hybrid or return to on-site options this year. For those still considering when, and if, their employees should return to the office, remember that all decisions should be guided by business necessity.

The Flexible First Workforce and Workplace team has many resources available and will continue to share information and guidance as needed.

For more information visit https://umhealth.sharepoint.com/sites/MMFlexFirst.