Flexibility, development, sustainability and care – for Katrin Andréasson Dicochea, these keywords are the key to successful facility management and workplace strategy
Katrin Andréasson Dicochea is a specialist in facility management and in running projects for hybrid offices and new ways of working. This choice of career is mainly due to her interest in soft values, helping customers with their needs, and cost efficiency. Service has always been a common thread throughout her career, starting in the airline- and hotel industry. We talked to Katrin about the importance of a good workplace to get people to thrive, perform and have a high level of engagement, and how facility management companies can develop their customer offerings while being cost-effective.
After graduating as a real estate agent, Katrin started working as a facility manager and with business development in what is called “hard FM services” at Dalkia. The job involved a lot of real estate technology, and after a while she began to miss the contact with customers and the soft values. This led to a role at Sodexo where she was able to combine everything from technology to customer service and sales in large and complex procurements. “I learned a lot about the needs of customers and was able to help them find cost-effective and more sustainable solutions so they could focus on their core business. For example, many customers have several different suppliers, contact persons, and many synergy effects are missed which results in unnecessary costs. Sodexo offers the whole in cleaning, conferences, food and reception etc.”, says Katrin.
Going from a traditional office to an activity-based/hybrid office environment
When Sodexo in 2015 – 2016 was moving to a new office, Katrin was involved in the project to plan an activity-based workplace, a new way of working and a new service/FM delivery. In addition to more effective spaces, employees could choose a workplace based on their needs (quiet zone, focus, or collaboration), promoting health and well-being, environments for collaboration, effective meetings at the coffee machine, socializing, and that different skills and functions were mixed to cooperate across borders. Katrin says that they also wanted to create a workplace that the employees felt proud of, and that could embrace the corporate culture. They made an in-depth analysis of the needs of the entire business, and what behaviours they wanted to drive and got many valuable insights. One example of this was that meeting people is a prerequisite for feeling good at work, but it was also important to be able to work focused on some parts of the day, and perhaps in a team in other parts of the day. “We wanted people to be mobile in the office and chose, among other things, to have the coffee machines only in one place so that it became a natural meeting place. We minimized the number of printer rooms to reduce printing for both the environment and health, and implemented a new IT support for quick help,” says Katrin.
Throughout the process, they communicated with the employees on the intranet and had breakfast meetings and working groups to create the best conditions and well-being. To succeed with a major change, it is important that the management team is on board, and the CEO Azita Shariati stood at the front of the barricades to embrace the new way of working.
Reactions to the new environment varied but were predominantly good. Katrin says that: “Some were negative, and we had to work a little extra with them, change is always difficult, but when we moved in it turned out that most things worked very well! We went from a 3,500 sqm area to 2,200 sqm and from 185 desks and employees to 116 desks and 195 employees. However, the new office had 440 workplaces in the form of conference rooms, lounges, open workplaces, and project areas, as well as several different zones, to be able to work both focused and in teams. As there are always some people who work remotely, are in client meetings, are travelling or are in internal meetings, it works. An important KPI for the project was how the employees perceived the opportunity to work efficiently and focused. We took measurements before and after the move to see if the KPI had increased, and the feeling of efficiency had increased by almost 10% and the overall feeling of “quality of life” had increased from 77% to 93%. The office, “Nordic House”, became Sodexo’s flagship office and we’ve had many visits from international colleagues, but also other companies that were interested in seeing how FM services in an activity-based environment work as many companies were facing similar changes.”
After a while, a psychosocial survey was done to see how the employees felt in the new environment. The analysis gave both positive and negative feedback, for example, they appreciated meeting colleagues they hadn’t worked with before, but some felt lonely and that they had lost their teams. By having a continuous collaboration with HR, management and a “house council for improvements”, the concept was developed and improved.
“Helping the company move from a traditional way of working to a new, more modern environment was a very exciting project. I saw many development opportunities and there was a need to help clients with these issues, there is a gap in the market in how to adapt a new way of working and FM services when you have created a new office – it is only when the office is filled with people that the big change becomes noticeable.”, says Katrin.
In order to drive this type of change, it is important to have a feasibility study to collect data and needs. Today, there are different measurement methods with both sensors and AI technology to make analyses of the number of people who are in the office, how they move, and where they stay. Therefore, it is important to include IT in this type of change project.
New challenges in the footsteps of the pandemic – how can the office compete with the home office?
Katrin believes that one of the biggest challenges for companies after the pandemic is that many employees have become accustomed to working much more flexibly. Today, many offices are not designed for the employee’s needs, and it is difficult to attract employees back to the office. For example, if you look at Leesman’s latest survey, one of the biggest reasons is still that people feel that they can work more focused at home. Katrin believes that hybrid solutions are a must in the future and important in order to attract new employees, but there must also be incentives and conditions that make employees want to come into the office.
Space In Mind – To thrive in your workplace and have a good quality of life leads to efficiency
Katrin started her own business Space In Mind in 2020 to help companies drive change within facility management, make their FM services more cost-effective, and be a requirement specifier so that clients, companies, tenants, and employees enjoy their work. It is important to think not only about the surface but also the soft values, such as quality of life, social interaction, health and well-being: “If you meet those needs and put people at the centre, the organization becomes more efficient, and the staff develops and is motivated. A high level of engagement always benefits the company and the corporate culture. I have brought this with me in all my roles, no matter what position it has been.”, says Katrin.
The first interim assignment was to sell a complete solution to Bonnier Fastigheter’s customers
In 2021, Katrin came in contact with Nordic Interim and was engaged as interim Business Area Manager at Bonnier Service AB, part of Bonnier Fastigheter AB. The company has its own service organization, and it was a new challenge to go from Sodexo with 450,000 employees to an organisation with 30 people.
The challenges of the assignment were to collaborate internally between administration and service to offer tenants their service. She says: “Since a real estate company has the initial customer contact through lease negotiations, they can identify the tenants’ needs. In this way, the internal service company can offer them a tailor-made solution with their own staff, a clear win-win for all parties. Bonnier Fastigheter Service has procured suppliers in areas such as reception, security, cleaning, coffee, conference, and waste management. With this service, tenants can focus on their core business and the real estate company can create even stronger customer relationships. For clients, this is often a cost-saving and synergy effects can be achieved since we already deliver services in all properties. The real estate industry has experienced a boom for a long time, but now it is much tougher due to the economy, inflation, high-interest rates and the aftereffects of the pandemic. Many demand flexibility in space, which means that leases are often shorter and then you have to be able to offer something else. We worked a lot with internal communication, how we could work together to create better customer offerings, more satisfaction, and a stronger “we” – and we succeeded very well! Together with the management, we led an organisational change to create even better opportunities to work across borders in the newly formed market areas – Commercial, Property Development and Service.”
Another of Katrin’s larger assignments was at Vise, where she worked with the implementation of a new outsourced FM solution for their customers Fastighetskontoret (the Public Buildings Administration) and Tekniska Nämndhuset (Technical Management). Visera handled the procurements and Katrin was the link between the Fastighetskontoret and the new FM supplier, and acted as an expert when it came to implementing a new service hub, staff takeover, and several new services. She says that it was a major adjustment to, during the pandemic and the remodelling of a new office, go from an in-house solution to a new FM supplier, and to understand how to implement the changes while the needs of all departments in Tekniska Nämndhuset had to be taken into account.
Working as an Interim Manager gives personal development and freedom
Katrin is passionate about creating new opportunities, achieving long-term strategic goals, and driving change – that is why it suits her so well to work as an Interim Manager. Being able to apply her experience and knowledge in different corporate cultures and have the opportunity to influence a company’s development and success, is exciting and developing, she says. Another advantage of Interim Management is that the freedom to decide when she works enables her to commute between Stockholm and Los Angeles where her husband lives. The only thing she lacks is long-term colleagues, so it is important for her to network and keep up to date with what is happening in the market in areas such as sustainability, new technology and AI.
When she’s not working, sports are one of her main interests, and the social interaction she gets through her training buddies is important. She has a great passion for health and quality of life, coaches others towards better health and more exercise through Bodily, and likes to cycle to work to clear her mind. The fact that she has participated in Ironman five times and competed in the World Triathlon Championships, are just some of her merits!
Of course, we wanted to take the opportunity to ask Katrin about her best tips for a visit to Los Angeles!
“You can’t miss South Bay, Downtown LA is not as exciting, it’s the beaches and the relaxing environment that are fantastic. Along the wide beaches, there are lovely cycling and walking paths and slightly smaller towns that offer everything. Los Angeles also has many great places for hiking with incredible viewpoints. A funny thing is that every Tuesday is “Taco Tuesday” when you can eat tacos and enjoy a good Margarita at special prices at most Tex-Mex restaurants.”,