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COVID-19 implications for corporate real estate

Five areas corporate real estate leaders should be thinking about today

The COVID-19 crisis is a pivotal point in time. While organizations are taking steps to keep their employees safe and operations running, a new normal will likely emerge that may be nothing like it is today. How people work may change. How people interact with one another may change. How corporate real estate teams plan for and manage workplaces will likely be different. To begin planning a recovery response, we have identified five areas that corporate real estate leaders should be thinking about today.

1. Reentry planning

As reentry begins, it is expected that employees will go to the office for intentional purposes. The routine work activities that can be handled remotely will continue as such. It is likely that a smaller, more targeted workforce will come back in a meaningful way. Some of the things corporate real estate leaders should consider include:

  • Develop criteria to determine who should come into the office, to what extent, how often, and when it will be appropriate to bring targeted employees back to the offices.
  • Identify the functions and roles that should return to the office.
  • Identify which activities are critical to be conducted in-person in the office and understand what activities can’t be performed at home today.
  • Deploy change management and communications cascades to drive confidence and motivation for the returning workforce.

2. Safety, resilience, and operations

The health and safety of employees and the cleanliness of facilities will be top of mind for the operations team. The following items should be considered:

  • Develop screening protocols for the workforce and visitors at entrances.
  • Revise sanitation procedures and update SLAs to increase frequency of cleaning schedules, especially of common areas and meeting spaces.
  • Consider introducing and/or increasing work shifts to reduce density in the office and allowing for facilities staff to sanitize spaces throughout the day.
  • Establish safety protocols for isolation and control of sick workers.
  • Source and provide for PPE and safety supplies (such as N-95 masks and gloves), as needed.

3. Workspaces and materials

Physical distancing practices could remain prevalent and may affect usage of spaces, furniture configurations, and choice of finishes. Corporate real estate leaders should consider the following:

  • Promote safe space density by alternate seat usage, using large meeting rooms for smaller-size meetings.
  • Repurpose small enclosed spaces for individual usage only.
  • Review seat-sharing policies and prepare a structured shared program (for example, use for the day).
  • Identify high-touch surfaces (door handles, elevator buttons, and switches) and consider replacement with self-cleaning materials.
  • For common areas, block or remove seats and identify odd and even seats to maintain physical distancing.

4. Employee experience

In the current environment, employees may value how employers treat them even more so than in the past. As such, it will be important to maintain focus on their experience and engagement, no matter where they work from. In that regards, the following items should be considered:

  • Enable remote work through appropriate infrastructure, flexible policies, and trainings to make WFH effective for managers and contributors.
  • Establish feedback channels and listen to the workforce to understand concerns as conditions change, leveraging analog and automated processes.
  • Provide whole-health benefits and a wellness concierge; consider an on-site doctor and supporting spaces.
  • Assess opportunities to improve and implement wellness-related building standards and solutions.

5. Digital workplace and smart building

Smart technologies can help prevent the spread of illness, monitor wellness, and make employees more productive. Key considerations include:

  • Partner with the IT team to improve digital infrastructure, collaborative technologies, and hardware to support increased connectivity with remote teams.
  • Evaluate smart building management capabilities across leased and owned facilities, such as predictive maintenance solutions, air quality sensors, UV cleaning, infrared temperature cameras, and HEPA air filters.
  • Evaluate digital twin technology for managing and operating building facilities.
  • Utilize reservation systems to provide adequate time for sanitation between bookings.

Download the digital workplace and smart building PDF for specifics around how smart building technology can enable more efficient facilities management and help support a safe and healthy environment.

Corporate real estate-focused horizons (a timeline view)

The actions needed from corporate real estate organizations will evolve across the entire life cycle of the COVID-19 crisis—from enabling productive home offices in order to progress businesses through uncertain times to creating strategies and implementation plans for the next normal.

Five areas that corporate real estate leaders should be thinking about today

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