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In Focus: Is Your Workplace Ready for the “Next Normal?”

Safety concerns must be balanced with the benefits of a vibrant workplace culture.

Q3 2020
A return to normalcy won’t cut it in the post-COVID workplace. How real estate leaders approach this all-new landscape will have lasting implications on our communities’ health, employee safety and well-being, and organizational performance alike.

If it sounds like a tall order, that’s because it is. Yet, tumultuous times have historically inspired innovation. Now is another such moment, as workplace leaders around the globe prepare and initiate plans for a safe and effective return to the office.

Whether you’ve already begun reopening or are still in planning stages, there are a few larger forces to bear in mind as you proceed.
First and foremost, the pandemic has made people rethink physical proximity to others. More than before, employees will prize workplaces that offer some privacy as anxiety about potential disease spread is likely to persist. This new concern will inform how many organizations approach workplace layouts and density.

Employees and employers alike have seen the many benefits of flexible work schedules and locations. According to our global survey, more than three-quarters of organizations reported that 80 percent or more of their personnel worked from home in April and May. Notably, only 34.5 percent of employees today expect to go back into the office full-time, without at least some portion of their work taking place at home.

But trimming workplace density alone won’t be the answer for most organizations. With economic uncertainty looming, opportunities to collaborate, concentrate, and innovate will all be critical to stimulating business performance. Plus, isolation has left many people craving interaction.

As you navigate re-entry, it will be key to balance profound safety concerns with the vital benefits of a vibrant workplace culture.

Key Considerations in the Quest for Safe, Effective Re-entry
Re-entry will look different for every organization, but there are common areas to explore as you plot your course:

Employees and employers alike have seen the many benefits of flexible work schedules and locations. Plan for safe, effective space reactivation. How and when should people return to the workplace? Will a staggered or rotational approach be in order? How can you create socially distant floor plans? As you weigh these questions, consider both objective measures, like government mandates, as well as knowledge of your unique workplace culture and needs. For many organizations, this will involve an ongoing conversation with landlords to understand what their role is in determining workplace capacity, as well as what they will provide in terms of cleaning, security, and safe access to shared amenities.

Support workplace safety, security, and health for all employees and visitors. From implementing temperature scans and providing face masks, to stepping up visitor screenings and designating “experience ambassadors,” there are a few concrete ways to reduce the chances of disease transmission at work. No matter which safeguards you put in place, clear communication of your risk mitigation efforts will be critical.

Revitalize real estate operations. How can you keep properties and workplaces safe and productive through and beyond the pandemic? Take a range of proactive steps now to help keep in motion the many moving parts. For example, now is the time to ensure proper HVAC functionality and step up janitorial standards and identify low or no-cost energy savings opportunities.

As real estate professionals, we are bound to help our organizations balance health, safety, and financial priorities. But how we help meet those objectives will depend on a range of re-entry factors and best practices.

It’s going to take fresh ideas, data-driven insights, and a measured approach to deliver workspaces that help companies — and the people who bring them to life — thrive in a post-COVID reality. Is your organization prepared for the next normal?

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