Commercial property investors and property managers are bracing for the return of their tenants in 2021. Whether they’ll need to wait until the summer or fall is largely undetermined at this point. The major pushback to the office is dependent on how quickly the population can be vaccinated and reach herd immunity.
What is clear at this point is that our workspaces will need to look different when we return to physical offices. Commercial real estate investors and the professional property managers they employ should consider what their tenants will want and expect when they return.
1. Hand Sanitizer Stations
We’ve all walked into a grocery store or retail center and had the realization that we’ve touched a surface that hundreds or thousands might have handled only to realize there is no hand sanitizer available. While many of us today carry our own mini-bottles of hand sanitizer, property owners should be considering where they’ll be installing communal hand sanitizer and who will be responsible for maintaining the dispensers.
2. Touchless Technology
Motion-activated doors have been standard in Class A office buildings for many years now. Property owners of Class B and C buildings may need to consider how they can implement similar technology or, at a minimum, install step-and-pull doors. I believe we will begin seeing new innovative technologies throughout commercial properties to measure our temperature as we enter public spaces and alert us when a sick person has entered our buildings. Along with motion sensor products, the push toward voice-activated technology was already on its way before Covid-19. With our increased need for touchless technology, voice-activated technology will be heading into our workspaces.
3. Office Layout Redesign
While some commercial tenants will be downsizing their physical workforce and, in turn, their square footage demands, I believe others will require even more space than they did before the pandemic. Gone will be the days of creative, open-concept office spaces. We will be returning to more physical offices or, at a minimum, more cubicles. A short-term solution might be plexiglass in creative office spaces, but I believe this fad will be short-lived as employees demand more safety and security in their workplaces.
4. Germ-Free and Germ-Resistant Materials
As commercial office tenants redesign their office spaces, they can look for materials and surfaces that can be more easily cleaned and wiped down with disinfectant. Carpet flooring was already on its way out of fashion, and Covid-19 might finalize this decision for many tenants. Durability and ease of cleaning will be key differentiators in the coming months and years.
5. Outdoor Spaces
While Covid-19 could eliminate creative office spaces, I think we will be keeping the indoor-outdoor office spaces. Workers will likely want office spaces that have access to outdoor working and meeting areas. Office buildings with seating outside will be premium in the new leasing market.
6. Air Filtration
When outdoor space is unavailable, improved air filtration will likely become the norm. Advanced HVAC systems are already being installed in Class A buildings. Similarly, office investors can and should begin investigating the cost to install specialized filters such as MERV-16 in their existing HVAC systems to help stop the spread of germs.
7. Video Conference Centers
One already existing building amenity that can be improved is the standard area conference room. Existing conference space will likely need a way for in-person and virtual participants to meet seamlessly together. A growing concern for workers who will choose to stay working from home is a two-tiered employment system. Those who are willing and able to work full-time from an office may be deemed more committed or harder working than their colleagues working at home. Upgraded video conference centers will allow both segments of a company’s workforce to work together in a way that levels the playing field.
Making Adjustments For The Future
While some companies may stay virtual indefinitely, I expect that many others will return to a modified or hybrid model for their office workforce. Throughout the past year, companies have been forced to make major investments into their software, hardware and training. I expect that many employees will have similar changes in their future work environments.
Commercial property owners should begin assessing their office buildings now and develop a plan for any necessary improvements.
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Source – Forbes.com