Will Martin – HMS
The global COVID-19 pandemic has been eye-opening for industries across the globe, from entertainment and sports to food, beverage and hospitality. Will Martin, the vice president of real estate and facilities for HMS, says the pandemic has been eye-opening for his company, too, but in a good way.
“We already had pandemic plans, and like most people, we never really expected anything like this to happen, but our transition [to working from home in March] was very seamless,” Martin tells Blueprint in July.
HMS, based in Irving, Texas, offers healthcare technology, analytics and engagement solutions that reduce costs, improve health outcomes and help consumers lead healthier lives.
“Ultimately, my goal is to get people to realize their day-to-day impacts on the environment and the world,” he says of his emphasis on facility design that is both supportive of employees and sustainable. “I’m getting people excited about what they can do to make positive change, especially in the challenging times we’re living in.”
Prior to managing the company’s physical response to the pandemic, including helping set up employees for remote work, Martin was focused on making the traditional office space more flexible and collaborative. The pandemic, however, is forcing him to reevaluate his vision for the HMS office.
Office space in a post-COVID world
To begin with, Martin says he’s been toying with the layout of current offices, so when employees return to work, they’ll be safe.
This could mean the death of the traditional open concept office, which he says he never embraced, anyway. Before the pandemic, he was developing a flexible office concept with glass front offices in the interior of the building and flexible workstations and collaboration space in an open area near the windows—the open area can be adjusted as needed.
After the pandemic, he says the flexible space will be even more important to be able to adjust to new distancing requirements as needed.
Prior to the pandemic, Martin had been experimenting with that arrangement, so that workstations and movable furniture would be situated near the windows. He was also helping HMS transition from traditional conference rooms—closed spaces with eight to 12 seats—in favor of an open space with configurable furniture and walls to create multiple smaller meetings or one large meeting area.
“To date, I’ve only converted about 5 percent of the space to the new standard, but I feel it will give us the flexibility we need to respond to situations like we’re facing now, where the desks need to be further apart,” Martin says.
In all, he says it’s impossible to know what offices of the future will look like—that was even true before the pandemic. He has used an experimental process to develop the flexible office standard. COVID-19 just adds a layer of uncertainty.
The future of the industry
Leading up to the pandemic, Martin had led the redesign of a collaborative space on the building’s second floor. There, a combined break space can be used for casual meetings like a coffee shop or for events. It’s surrounded by several breakout spaces that can be opened to create one larger area for company-wide gatherings.
The space was created based on requests for a more flexible layout that wasn’t possible in the previous design. For years, the company had to adjust their meetings to the layout and space available. Now, events will be planned without that constraint, and might include large team meetings and celebrations, press conferences and cross-functional team meetings.
Another pilot project was the renovation of the marketing team’s third-floor space from a traditional layout to the new, flexible design. Marketing is the first department to use the flexible office design and is an example of how the space can be customized to a department’s needs.
Martin’s goal is to take the concepts piloted in these redesigns and apply them to a full remodel of the building. He envisions a fully flexible, highly collaborative workspace—each floor will have interior offices, consistent meeting rooms, customized collaboration spaces and a casual meeting space at each end of the floor.
“Even with the pandemic and the constraints it’s placing on us, I think this design is flexible enough to be adjusted to provide what we need well into the future,” he says.
Learning tools of the trade
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy with a degree in civil engineering, Martin developed his leadership and problem-solving skills as a platoon leader for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
At Fort Stewart, his unit was a part of a rapid deployment force that, at times, had to be ready to go within 30 minutes. That environment and training required a high-intensity, life-and-death focus.
When he transitioned from the Army and got his first job at an electric motor manufacturing plant in Mississippi, things were much different.
“Civilian life moved at a much slower pace,” Martin says with a chuckle. “It really allowed me to put things in perspective.”
Martin honed his craft in roles like his current position for HMS, including at Procter & Gamble, Jones Lang LaSalle, and Dean Foods. One of the things he’s learned from working in different companies and industries is that facility design affects culture.
“There are consistencies across industries, yet each company has their own culture,” he says. “My goal is to understand the culture and use the facility design to support and drive the culture that we want.”
While he hasn’t done any civil engineering since getting out of college, what that field taught him is problem-solving, and solving problems, whether it’s where to put a set of desks and chairs within an office or how high to build an effective collaboration space, is what Martin does every day.
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