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Remaking the Association Workplace
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How Trading Spaces Made a Hybrid Workplace Work Better

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The pandemic coincided with the Advanced Medical Technology Association’s hunt for new office space. Realizing that workplaces were changing radically, AdvaMed moved to a space designed to meet the needs of its hybrid workforce—today and tomorrow.

Sometimes, timing is everything. Just look at the Advanced Medical Technology Association. In early 2020, with a lease set to expire in 2022, AdvaMed was scouting new space for its Washington, DC, headquarters. With prices high and amenities low, CEO Scott Whitaker decided to pause the search and look again in a few months.

Then the pandemic hit. With staff working from home, Whitaker had the first inkling that going back to the office would not look the same.

That’s when Whitaker decided to go a new direction. He and his leadership team talked to employees about how they wanted to work and began to apply those principles to the spaces they were considering. When they identified a suitable building, they set about “building out the space consistent with what we heard from our employees about what they wanted to be, where they wanted to work, and how they wanted to work once the pandemic passed,” Whitaker said. “That led us to redesign the way we thought about the workplace for our folks going forward.”

The high vacancy rates during the pandemic allowed AdvaMed to lease space that was more conducive to their needs but stay in the same price range. The new building has better air circulation (with fresh air intake and no air shared with other floors), lots of natural light, dedicated offices as well as space that can be reserved, and space to host members.

AdvaMed went from two office buildings with a combined 31,000 square feet of space to one with 26,500 square feet of more usable, open space that better meets its needs.

“Hoteling allows me to walk around and see people a little more than I would naturally do. And that's been a good thing.” — Scott Whitaker, Advanced Medical Technology Association

New Work, New Language

Figuring out a new way to work and then implementing it in all the real-world details required a good deal of forethought, said Jennifer Brearey, AdvaMed’s chief financial and operating officer.

“We were really careful with our telework policy,” Brearey said. “We did a lot of benchmarking at the very beginning. We brought in a consultant to help us.”

The telework policy changes have evolved the language the organization uses to talk about work. For example, AdvaMed has “resident workers,” who work three days a week or more in the office, and teleworkers, who come in at least one day a week. Realizing that leaving employee designations to managers might create inequities among staff, AdvaMed classified positions as teleworkers or resident workers, based on whether a job required more or less in-office time.

About 75 percent of the DC-based staff are teleworkers. Work teams choose a day they would prefer to have in-office meetings to maximize team connectivity. Brearey says some teleworkers choose to come in additional days. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are AdvaMed’s most popular in-office days—early weekdays are popular as team meeting days, and AdvaMed provides lunch on Thursdays.

Because staff aren’t in all the time, AdvaMed doesn’t have dedicated offices for each staff member. Rather, it uses a hoteling model, where employees reserve offices when needed (see sidebar). This means people are rarely in the same space when working at headquarters, which Whitaker has actually found useful.

“I don’t know where people are most of the time, so I end up walking three or four laps to find somebody that I might have known exactly where their office was before,” Whitaker said. “The good thing about that is I see 15 or 20 people that I wouldn’t have seen had I just made a beeline to the office [I needed]. So, it allows me to walk around and see people a little more than I would naturally do. And that’s been a good thing.”

Staying Connected

With employees coming and going from the office on different schedules, Whitaker and his leadership team knew that it would be important to help staff stay connected, wherever they were working.

“You’re effective when you’re connected,” Whitaker said. “If you’re not connected, you become less effective. So, I think it’s on us, as senior leaders of the organization, to make sure that we’re driving a culture that is inclusive, connected, and also flexible.”

The new space has hit all those marks, he says.

“People are really happy with the space, the way it turned out. They’ve adapted very well to the new work environment. They still appreciate the flexibility,” Whitaker said. “Some of us who are on the older side of the workforce are sort of longing for the days when more people were here, but that’s part of the reality that we deal with.”

And if dealing with reality is proving to be a challenge for some leaders, Whitaker’s advice is to not fight it.

“The world has changed; accept the reality of that. I think that’s the most important thing for leaders,” he said. “The second thing is, listen to your employees. What is it that they’re looking for, given the fact that the world has changed? How do you keep them fully engaged and keep morale high? If you’re looking for new space, be thoughtful and creative about what you’re doing. Think five or 10 years from now, not the last five years.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a senior editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips.

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