As we all look forward to the end of the COVID-19 lockdown, companies across the country will be evaluating how their office can safely accommodate staff and retain an element of social distancing if required.
But what does this look like and how can landlords and occupiers create a safe but productive environment? We look at some of the most important areas for consideration.
Establish a frequent and effective dialogue with tenants and develop an agreed protocol
There has never been a more important time for landlords, building managers and tenants to work together and a regular dialogue between each party will be needed to address issues such as how communal space in multi-occupancy buildings might need to be changed or lifts shared, in the near future. It will be important to understand the likely number of individuals returning to work and how working patterns may need to be adapted to allow for social distancing. Protocols to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all those using the building should consider the use of PPE – the type required, availability and where this will need to be used, signage, timelines and building communication.
Ensure the building is work-ready
A thorough clean of the building is recommended ahead of the opening of the property. It is advised that cleaners follow disinfecting guidelines and use government approved cleaning products. Particular attention should be paid to high-usage parts of the building, including canteens, kitchens, lifts, reception and entrance areas. For those buildings that have been shut down during the lockdown, we recommend conducting an inspection of the core infrastructure, including mechanical and water systems. It is advisable that the building is allowed to fully operate whilst still empty ahead of a re-opening to ensure the building is operating correctly.
Re-evaluate and update company working policies and practices
Company guidelines and working practices of occupiers may need to be updated for a post-lockdown environment. Occupiers might wish to consider how the current climate might change working from home practices, working patterns and timings, hot desking, visitor policies, use of kitchen areas, staff travel and events.
Best practice communication for occupiers
Again, for the workforce of occupiers, returning to work may feel like a daunting experience and many maybe concerned about their health and that of loved ones. Managing and communicating this return is critical and will need to be sensitive. Occupiers might want to consider developing and implementing a change management strategy that communicates the transition and updated company policies. This strategy should consider, frequent communication to keep all updated on any changes in practices and procedures, the use of a number of different channels to get your message across such as employee portals, emails and visual displays in the workplace and explaining the ‘why’ to any policy changes.
Contingency planning in a post-pandemic world
The spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of a business contingency plan to address pandemics, including the recovery of the existing virus, future proofing against any second waves or peaks and any future pandemics. This should include an operational emergency protocol that can swiftly be put in place and the identification of an emergency team that covers essential functions of the business. It should also consider business stakeholders, required communication and a response plan for pre-crisis, during and recovery. Notably, contingency planning should include business modelling and an assessment of the financial implications to the business for a number of different scenarios and the funding needed to address each scenario.
In the wake of COVID-19 many businesses across the country have been adapting and implementing contingency plans for a scenario few thought would take place. In a post-pandemic world, businesses will seek to become better prepared and flexible to protect both their staff and business.