With a new Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and more approvals on the way, will commercial real estate regain its footing in 2021? Most experts believe that once employees feel safe from the virus they will start returning to work, but that “workplace” will be different from what it was just a year ago
There are several areas corporate real estate professionals will need to focus on to create an environment where workers want to return to the physical spaces they occupied before the pandemic. Here are a few requirements management will need to implement to provide the kind of work environment employees will demand:
- Office Space Requirements. It is likely that a smaller, more targeted workforce will return to the office. Corporate owners who should return to the office and what protocols they need to put in place to safeguard those returning. They will identify which activities are critical to be conducted in-person in the office compared to what activities can still be performed from home. This will reduce the amount of office space required.
- Safety Requirements. Corporate professionals will develop screening protocols for the workforce and will provide separate entrances for visitors. Sanitation requirements will increase the frequency of cleaning schedules especially for common area and meeting room spaces. Some companies may choose to have workers come in shifts. There will be heightened safety protocols.
- Physical Distancing Requirements. Physical distancing practices will remain prevalent which will affect not only the usage of space but things like furniture configurations and choice of finishes. Larger meeting rooms will be used for smaller-sized gatherings. There will be more safe distancing required in foyers, waiting rooms, and cubicles. Because of social distancing requirements, gathering spaces will become more open and less cluttered.
- Employee Requirements. In the current environment, employees will value how they are treated by their employers. It will be important for management to continue to be flexible and patient when it comes to demanding that workers return. It will be important to enable remote work where appropriate and to establish policies that are conducive to maintain a good work experience. Companies will focus more on employee wellness and will redesign the workspace to improve and implement wellness-related building standards and solutions.
- Digital and Smart Building Requirements. Companies will improve their digital infrastructure with collaborative technologies and hardware that support increased connectivity with in-person and remote teams. Smart building maintenance solutions will focus on air quality sensors, UV cleaning, infrared temperature cameras and HEPA air filters. Smart building technology will require facilities management personnel to provide a safe and healthy environment.
So, even though new COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, employers occupying commercial real estate buildings are not out of the woods yet. For employees to feel safe returning to work in a collaborative environment, employers will need to focus on those requirements that will enhance the work experience and make their employees feel safe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ken has been in the real estate business for over 40 years and has personally overseen the development and management of over $350 million worth of assets. Ken holds a B.S. degree in Accounting from Brigham Young University, a MBA from the University of Utah. Licensed real estate broker since 1976. He holds the following designations: CCIM, CPM, CRS,CCA. Served as the president of the Utah Apartment Association.