The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a tidal wave of change in terms of how we move through our day-to-day lives. While many of us are now well accustomed to the adoption of CDC guidelines that mitigate transmission of the virus, what’s less clear is what long-term changes await us on the other side of the pandemic.
For commercial landlords and property owners, welcoming tenants back to their buildings will require more than mask mandates and social distancing markers. Eden Health’s CEO, Matt McCambridge, recently participated in a Commercial Observer panel that discussed the evolution of modern high-rise office buildings and the new must-haves landlords will need to offer when returning to work.
Also on the panel were Jessica Brown, Director of Leasing at Sterling Bay, Thais Galli, Managing Director at Tishman Speyer, and Clinton Robinson, CEO and Founder of Lane. Moderated by Fred Berk of Friedman LLP, the panelists outlined what measures landlords will need to take to restore tenant confidence and encourage their workforce to return to their office building.
One important consideration each panelist underscored was that the scope of competition has fundamentally shifted — instead of competing against other landlords for the latest amenities and attractive building features, property owners will now be competing with the comfort and safety of each individual’s home.
How can landlords provide both a sense of community and a new level of security that will make tenants eager to leave their makeshift home offices?
Here’s what the panelists had to say:
Implement the safety features that will become the new standard in a post-pandemic world.
The most important measures to consider when reconfiguring office space for the return of employees will be indoor air quality, a touchless experience, moving toward a consciery mindset and delivery for the tenants, and, perhaps most importantly, access to information.
Office buildings may eventually adopt a system similar to that of the restaurant rating system in New York City — a building decal will display their Well Health and Safety Rating for tenants entering the space. Each panelist also stressed the importance of access to real-time information (think: viewing the air quality in the same way you would check the weather via an app). In addition to air quality, tenants will benefit from sensors that will tell them how many people are currently occupying any given space or when the last time a common area was cleaned. A no-contact experience will become the new norm from the moment a tenant enters the building until the moment they sit down at their desk, aided by automatic doors and touchless elevators, all operated via mobile phones.
“Special” amenities will become baseline expectations.
As McCambridge noted during the panel, psychological safety in the workplace will be the most important consideration for landlords in the near future. Figuring out how to strip down the fear component for tenants will be, in part, a large responsibility shouldered by property owners as people return to work. Identifying the big obstacles that exist for returning employees and smoothing the pathways for them will help to assuage the fears of even the least willing-to-return employee.
Landlords will want to prove that they care deeply about the health and wellbeing of every tenant in their building. They should anticipate necessities like onsite healthcare services that can provide routine COVID-19 testing and primary care, daycare centers, and wellness spaces. Access to healthcare will be top of mind for everyone for years to come and capabilities like vaccination tracking and providing COVID-19 booster shots onsite will become extremely valuable tools for landlords.
This new post-pandemic era will force changes that ultimately enhance the physical, mental, and emotional health of everyone returning to work — a place they’ll look forward to being each day if landlords can meet the moment. If you want to know how Eden Health can partner with you on your return-to-work plan, you can learn more here.