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Notable Chicago experts and business leaders gathered in mid-January to discuss the complex issue of balancing workspaces and the importance of trust in reconnecting our employees, consumers, and local communities into in-person, office building experiences.

Frank Pasquesi (Managing Partner, Foley & Lardner LLP) moderated the discussion with an esteemed panel, including Derrick Johnson (SVP, Zeller and President, Board of Directors, BOMA/Chicago); Gary A. Noskin, M.D. (SVP, Quality, Northwestern Memorial Healthcare; Chief Medical Officer, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine); and Gitte Schjøtz (EVP & Chief Technical and Operations Officer, UL).

“The panel was outstanding, providing practical guidance and answering questions posed during the event,” said Frank Pasquesi. “Generally, the panel’s overall view is to remain flexible and focused on the ever-changing needs, concerns, and best practices as we continue to see circumstances change, adapt and evolve in the coming weeks and months.”

Here are a few tidbits shared during the interactive event, which included a live question-and-answer session with attendees.

The most frequent questions Dr. Noskin reported to be asked are “When will this pandemic end?” or “When will my life go back to normal?” His estimate is when we achieve what’s called herd immunity. “The concept that once we get a certain population vaccinated or protected because of natural infection, that the virus can no longer propagate.”

Gitte Schjøtz, EVP & Chief Technical and Operations Officer, UL, has a great perspective on the application of pandemic related concerns. Joining us from quarantine in a Singapore hotel room, Gitte talked about UL’s work and expertise in researching, publishing, and applying safety protocols. While there are many practical applications, she shared that just as important is the role science and trust plays in building a sense of safety. “This is about trust, how you feel about your coworker or customers visiting, how you trust in a building; the performance, and the health of the building.” Gitte went on to describe how UL has been helping their customers quickly and safely respond to the crisis and established protocols for the UL offices and field staff around the world to safely remain open for business. “We developed a start safe playbook which outlines all the protocols and processes our staff and offices must follow, to enable employees to perform essential services on-site, as expected of a global leader in safety. And obviously, with science in our genes, we happily make this playbook available publicly, including checklists on key recommendations so other organizations can leverage our approach as well.” Gitte encourages anyone interested to download the information on the UL website at:

Derrick Johnson leads the management of Zeller properties in Illinois and Indiana and serves as board president for BOMA/Chicago (Building Owners and Managers Association). In other words, he thinks of office buildings more often than not. Derrick’s advice to the group is to find ways to begin a return to the office, if only for a couple of days. “It is important for everyone who hasn’t been in the office to just start coming back, see that it’s safe, and find ways to feel and be comfortable.” Again, flexibility is key here, expecting we’ll see in the coming months a new semblance of balance, with remote and in-office work options.

Dr. Noskin closed by sharing that he and others in the medical field are seeing a marked decrease in common colds this year because of the protocols we have in place. “The best way to prevent spread is to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution.”



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