Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) wanted to freshen things up.
The public health nonprofit has worked in the Greater Philadelphia region since 1972, providing education, resources and primary care to the community. PHMC has over 350 programs serving 350,000 people in the public health sector.
But the organization’s old offices at 260 S. Broad St. just weren’t cutting it.
“Space like this encourages young, interested, committed people to come to work in public health,” CEO Richard Cohen said of PHMC’s new digs at 1500 Market St.
The new space allows for more collaboration — think fewer cubicles, wireless internet and flexible work environments.
We recently toured the new offices and sat down with Cohen (who’s been with the organization since 1980) and PHMC Chief Information Officer Mike McCain to see how the move has affected the company so far.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
How has the company changed since it started?
Richard Cohen: I came here in 1980 and we were about $1.5 million in annual revenue. We are now well over $200 million in annual revenue serving 350,000 people. We’re increasingly understanding that to improve the public health of the community, you need to do things that begin at birth and end at death and everything in the middle is really public health.
How does the new office help productivity?
RC: We went out and looked at spaces and understood what we needed to do to open space up, to bring people together and to do things in a green way that allowed people to work closer together, to understand each other, to talk to each other — instead of about each other.
The traditional office with closed walls created silos. Essentially, opening up pushes people to collaborate and work, to know each other, to know each other’s programs and to commit to a common goal of working together.
Can you talk about the new technology in the office?
Mike McCain: A lot of our programs and a lot of our locations are built so that we can use less paper and be more digital, while still giving people in the community the ability to input data without creating more paper. In the internal processes of PHMC we are really pushing to make all of our systems unified. Unifying systems reduces costs, it also requires less to manage. That was very important to us.
You stated that there’s been not just a physical change but also a cultural change, how has the culture changed at PHMC?
RC: If you look around and compare the way people came to work — the simple physical appearance of people — people dress better, are happy with each other, are happier to be here working. In addition, by forcing people to talk to each other, people are able to learn from each other.
Why invest in all this new technology now?
MM: We want to be able to promote public health in ways that people may have not thought of, by reducing the number of things we need to manage and leveraging the technology to do it. We are really creating a perfect world for change. We want to push the technology so that people can collaborate more.
RC: Space like this encourages young, interested, committed people to come to work in public health. It’s in part a recruitment technique across age cohorts, it brings people who are interested in change that are excited to do things into a workplace where they can work together to get things done.
What has the public response been like?
RC: It’s been enormous. People have come and have been supportive of the cause and we are really proud of that, and happy about it. We feel very fortunate that we’ve gotten that kind of support. We’re in this space, at a per square foot cost that is no more than the old space that we were in. And that money has not come from the programs that we serve, so we are not using the money from programs to build any of this office.
Where do you see PHMC going in the future?
RC: We are talking about potential community sites where we might bring a variety of our community programs and brother and sister agencies together. We want to do that in communities and then go further in providing that. It’s a real community process to get to where we are and that’s true of all of our programs in the community. The people that really deserve our respect are the people delivering the services in our community. They are incredibly committed people in the communities — and they serve them very well.
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