26 Feb Q&A with Mike Meade, VP of Operations
Today, we are sitting down with Mike Meade, Garland’s Vice President of Operations, to discuss trends in the market and how the pandemic has affected Garland Building and the industry, while looking to the future and what he expects to see will change or stay the same in 2021 & beyond.
Q: How would you describe the similarities and differences between this downturn and back in 2008/2009?
A: The main difference between 2020 and what happened in 2008/2009 was that deals were still happening, and things were still moving forward, but definitely at a reduced pace. In 2020, everything came to a standstill – there was no “work from home” back in 08/09 and you were still seeing people interacting in and outside of the office. Now, you do not see anyone and aren’t collaborating on a daily basis in-person. However, from a financial perspective, both situations were relatively similar – unemployment went way up, but we are poised for a comeback and will probably have the same rebound that we did in 2010.
Q: What do you feel is the status of the market?
A: The market is quiet, and most companies are still holding out a little longer before they make any big commitments, but I feel that we’re getting more positive news every week and that we’re poised to turn the corner.
a. When do you think it will recover and how will it change office interior market? I think the market will recover in the fall of this year – more people will be vaccinated & feel good about returning to their way of life, pre-pandemic. I do not know if the pandemic will change the office interior market in the long run but believe there will be more flexibility with WFH schedules and there might be changes to overall office layouts and configurations. However, I think businesses will still have offices where employees come to work and see colleagues and collaborate.
b. Why do you think companies are gun shy to return sooner? People want to be cautious – they do not want to jump too soon and be a part of the problem, especially bigger companies that could potentially cause surges. I think people will wait to return to their offices until everything is 100% under control.
Q: Do you think when the vaccinations are more widely available, we will see a fierce return to office workplaces? How are you preparing now for that surge?
A: I think so, I predict we will see a surge in people returning to their workplaces in late spring/summer. Garland has been preparing for this surge by keeping in touch with our clients & business owners on a regular basis to be up to date on where they are at and any future plans they might have. Ultimately, we want to best position ourselves for any future work that comes with returning to the office, and we do that by being proactive and keeping in contact.
Q: When working with an owner or tenant, what kind of new office requests/configurations are being considered due to COVID-19? Do they have staying power? Meaning, does it have future value in a post-COVID world?
A: During the pandemic, we have seen more private offices than open area workstations being designed and built, than what we were seeing prior to COVID. However, there are still open working areas being incorporated into the designs. After much of the population gets vaccinated and returns to work, I think that people will stray from private offices and go back to utilizing open and collaborative spaces. I do think that all the touchless features that have been adopted are here to stay.
Q: With relation to field operations, how best can you describe how well your team transitioned to the new protocols?
A: Very well – everyone from every facet of the job (supers, subs, couriers, office staff, etc.,) adapted seamlessly. At the end of the day, everyone wanted to work, so it was easy to follow new policies. It was also easy because the city had specific rules for all general contractors, therefore there was clarity across all jobsites in Boston that everyone was onboard with. Additionally, all our protocols are app based and everyone was able to access and use them properly. I did not see many issues at all with usability and people understanding how to use the technology to keep everyone safe.
Q: As a manager, how are you inspiring your team to stay motivated and seek out new opportunities during such uncertainty?
A: Staying positive. It is a difficult time, and it has been difficult for everyone and I try to be mindful of that. It is a slower time for us, but we still have jobs to do, clients to service, and expectations to meet. I remain upbeat and not get too down because I think all you can really do right now is stay positive and look towards the future.
Q: What new discoveries about this industry have you had? How will you apply those lessons to the future of construction?
A: How easily & quickly the field has adapted to new rules and regulations. Historically, the construction industry has been more about how its been done in the past. But learning from this experience I think new ways of doing projects, will be easier to implement than originally expected. For our office staff, I also learned how adaptable we are. We were able to use Teams to continue to meet on a regular basis, as well as have our team work remote without any issues or lack of productivity. Architects were incorporating new design features & social distancing into their plans as well which was cool to see. The whole industry has adapted in a quick and efficient way and I think some of the practices and tools we have acquired will be utilized in the future.