The past year has certainly been a challenging one. In March 2020, industries across the board were turned upside down overnight and forced to quickly answer a list of tough questions in order to keep their businesses running. Commercial real estate and companies operating in dense commercial business districts had to innovate almost immediately in order to continue operating effectively. Their agility and ability to design a new normal was put to the test.
During this time when most non-essential workers have been working from home, we’ve been reminded of just how much our working environments affect our productivity and mental health. We’ve realized how valuable the separation between work and home can be. And that the collaboration and organic connections that come with being together are invaluable.
A year later, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Business districts are “reopening” and companies are organizing their workforces to return to their offices in some capacity. In preparing to do that safely and efficiently, companies, commercial buildings and governments are asking themselves a whole new set of questions.
Let’s consider some of those questions to be asking during this upcoming period of transition.
Legal: What is required of your company in order to bring your employees back? Do you have the proper policies and procedures in place to both protect the company and your employees? For example, are your employees required to come back to the office in order to do their jobs? If so, are they required to be vaccinated in order to come back to the office? What is the company’s response if they are reluctant to come back?
HR: Apart from what is legally required, what is required on a human level? What is best for your employees from a culture perspective? Have you surveyed them on their thoughts and feelings about their future of work? How can you make them most comfortable and excited about their return to the office?
Operations: Do you have a concrete understanding of how many people will come back to the office – on which days? Will this be standard, or will it ebb and flow? Do you have a plan to monitor occupancy and to provide the appropriate supplies and procedures for the fluctuating traffic through your space? Will your employees have dedicated desks and offices or will they hot desk and do you have a technology solution to facilitate that?
Surfaces: Have you audited the number of surfaces that tenants will engage with in the building? Is there a plan to keep them clean? Or better yet, make them touchless altogether? Have you considered transitioning to touchless features like mobile keycards, in-app elevator call buttons, and digital visitor management tools?
Indoor Air Quality: Do you have a good understanding of the air quality in the shared spaces in your building? How are you monitoring for air contaminants and optimizing the air quality when pollutants rise? Have you looked at tools that solve for this?
Sustainability: Given the changes in occupancy and work schedules, have you taken a look at what that will mean for the building’s operations? Rather than run the HVAC 24/7, is there a way to ensure the air quality remains good but doesn’t overextend the energy usage of the building? How do you plan to manage the energy of the building’s operations to ensure it remains healthy and sustainable?
Data & Insights: Do you have access to the appropriate information to make educated decisions about the building’s operations in real time? What are those data points that will provide you with what you need to run your building most efficiently?
Health Guidelines: Are there specific guidelines that buildings and companies should be thinking about when it comes to bringing their employees back to the office? Are their policies that the government recommends they follow? Limits on capacity? Temperature checks upon entry? Ratios of PPE per employee?
Transportation: Are the public transportation systems in commercial business districts prepared for the influx in ridership upon employees’ return? How are public transportation systems communicating their health and safety procedures to instill confidence in the public? Are roads and bridges prepared for the likely increase in traffic that will come with many still apprehensive about taking public transportation?
There are plenty of questions that we’re all grappling with these days. At Cohesion, we are looking forward to the return to the office of our own employees, and the opportunities for collaboration and innovation this affords for our rapidly growing team.