Home Case Studies ibm-global-real-estate Closing the workplace door on COVID-19
IBM Global Real Estate helps lead a smarter re-entry
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Like a wildfire that defies containment, COVID-19 began spreading worldwide in 2020. Virtually overnight, business strategies shifted. Workplace health and safety took on increased urgency. Organizational agility also became paramount, given constantly changing public health directives.

True to its calling, IBM sought to draw on its vast experience and technological resources to help protect not only its own employees, clients and partners but also those of other enterprises.

“IBM is great about thinking through problems like this. That’s who we are and what we do, for our company and the world,” says Cameron Potts, Vice President, Operations & Transformation, IBM Enterprise Technology & Security.

The company’s real estate and facilities management organization, IBM Global Real Estate (GRE), helped lead these efforts. In response to initial government stay-at-home orders, GRE collaborated with site executives and crisis management teams to move 95% of IBM’s global employees from the office to home. With a security-rich infrastructure and digital workplace tools already in place, the company was well prepared to support a remote workforce.

The organization also lost no time in establishing front-door processes for temperature and symptom screening for onsite essential workers. Inside buildings, it reinforced personal hygiene, social distancing and other established health guidelines with signage and other tactics.

Next, the organization looked ahead to how to safely reopen sites once governments eased restrictions. IBM employs approximately 350,000 people in 170 countries. Decision makers needed a flexible, best-practices approach that could be adapted to various business needs and regional public health directives.

Extensive reach


Helps enable safer workplace experiences for employees at 370 IBM locations

Quicker analysis


Analyzes space utilization 99% faster

We consider the GRE organization ‘client zero for Watson Works.’ By proactively using smart technologies to help protect onsite employees and other workers from COVID-19, we can reinforce their trust in us. Marianne Flores Director IBM Global Real Estate

To guide IBM and other large organizations in reopening, Marianne Flores, Director, IBM GRE, teamed with Potts and other leaders across GRE and human resources to develop the IBM Return to Workplace Playbook. The playbook provides a comprehensive decision-making framework and checklist for all phases of re-entry, including site assessment readiness, preparation and safety.

With these tasks completed, Flores and Potts began redefining IBM workplaces. They sought to facilitate onsite safety, productivity and efficiency with cutting-edge technologies.

It’s employees’ health and safety that’s on the line. GRE put itself front and center into the equation of how we safeguard IBMers as they return to work. Cameron Potts Vice President, Operations & Transformation IBM Enterprise Technology & Security
99% faster space utilization insights

By January 2021, GRE had implemented Watson Works solutions in 370 locations. By transforming its COVID-19 response and compliance processes, GRE ensured that IBM teams that need to make faster, pandemic-related decisions—including site and business unit leaders, country general managers and crisis management teams—have quicker access to key insights.

With Watson Works solutions, the GRE team reduced the time to complete space utilization analysis for a location by 99%, from 10 days to 10 minutes. In addition, with highly accurate space utilization data, GRE leaders can optimize usage and expenses across IBM’s global portfolio.

“GRE needs to make strategic real estate decisions and design the future workplace. We are able to dramatically reduce the time and effort required for data collection, data analysis and insights generation,” says Flores.

Most important, employees, clients and other people who enter IBM facilities can see, feel and experience the difference. Knowing that IBM has invested fully in protecting them from COVID-19 infection can increase their confidence and help them perform at their best.

“It’s employees’ health and safety that’s on the line,” says Potts. “GRE put itself front and center into the equation of ‘How do we safeguard IBMers as they return to work?’ GRE helped IBM pivot, almost overnight, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

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About IBM Global Real Estate

Based in Armonk, New York, US, the GRE organization manages 72 million square feet of space in 1,200 locations across the globe. Its portfolio includes IBM offices, labs, data and educational centers, and warehouses. Approximately 600 IBM employees carry out the GRE mission to deliver excellent work experiences.

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