Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Cushman & Wakefield executives knew that offices would, eventually, re-open. Business owners and property managers would have to find ways to follow social distancing requirements and mitigate the spread of germs to keep employees safe.
The commercial real estate company introduced its 6 Feet Office Concept, as well as the Safe Six plan for re-opening.
Whether you’re welcoming employees back for the first time since March or still preparing your office space for re-opening, the Safe Six steps can help you feel more in control of the process.
The Safe Six steps are:
1. Prepare the building
2. Prepare the workforce
3. Control access
4. Social distancing plan
5. Reduce touch points
6. Communicate for confidence
Cushman & Wakefield Communications Director Michael Boonshoft emphasized that there are “quick and inexpensive” steps business owners can take to make their offices safe for employees.
“I don’t think companies are looking at renovations,” he stressed. “We’re not in an economic climate where it’s conducive to incurring capital costs. I don’t think companies are at a point where they have tons of time to create a new workspace.”
Boonshoft recently sat down with ACE Workforce Technologies to share his thoughts on the simple and effective steps business owners can take right now to re-open safely.
As businesses start to re-open, what are some of the primary concerns business owners have?
Employee safety is definitely at the forefront of the short-term and immediate challenges any decisionmakers are thinking about at the moment.
The name of the game is safety. We want to make sure all employees feel safe when they enter the building. When they do set foot on property, we want to make sure they know we have their best health interests at heart and that we’re doing everything we can to create a safe environment.
Do you feel business owners understand what they need to do to keep employees safe?
This is a situation where there is no playbook. We haven’t gone through this before. I do think one of the reasons our 6 Feet Office concept was so groundbreaking was because folks were having a hard time wrapping their head around, visually, what the new office would look like.
Our 6 Feet Office Concept was supposed to help give people an idea of what an office could look like, but also give a roadmap for companies who are trying to figure out quick and inexpensive ways to make their office safe.
For someone who hasn’t heard of your 6 Feet Office Concept, how would you sum it up?
Early in the pandemic, we created a global task force made up of thought leaders and subject matter experts from across the globe. They all came together to figure out best practices for how to move forward in this new environment. That’s number one.
We’ve been able to take our experience from China, moving nearly one million workers back into 800 million square feet that we manage, to create a manual for best practices.
We also have our Safe Six checklist. Our Safe Six checklist is a placemat of areas that are going to be important. Within that Safe Six, the last one is “Communicate for confidence.”
I’ll give you an example. You used to see cleaning crews come along at 6:45 at night, and that would be your cue to leave. Now, you want to see that cleaning crew frequently throughout the day – not just once at night. You also want employees to see them, so they know that their workspace is getting cleaned so they feel safe. While that may not seem like a normal communication, it is actually communicating.
It’s not just about office design or HVAC systems. It’s about making sure your tenants or your employees are being communicated with, so they can feel safe. It has to be a partnership with state and local governments, but also between landlords and tenants, to be sure everybody is doing the right thing.
What are the first quick and inexpensive steps that business owners can take to be safe to open?
The first thing is eliminating as many touch points as possible. That could mean giving employees a pointer so they don’t have to touch elevator buttons with their hands or roping off common areas to make sure people aren’t congregating in those common areas.
Maybe you’re reducing the number of chairs in conference rooms so you can still have meetings, but people can be appropriately socially spaced. You can put arrows on the floor, so everybody walks in one direction and you don’t have people walking past each other.
You can give out mats for each workspace. You just take your mat and at the end of the day, you throw it away.
You can provide more hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, so people can wipe down their desk in the morning and when they leave at night.
These are all quick and inexpensive ways to make it safe. It’s not necessarily about construction costs and knocking down walls. There are a lot of things you can do quickly and easily to make sure you can get your employees back quickly and safely. A lot of these things are just bringing what you’re currently doing in your personal life into the workplace setting.
What about building renovations? What can landlords or business owners do to create a safer and healthier space moving forward?
I don’t think we’re at that point yet. There’s a short-term issue and there’s a long-term issue. We haven’t gotten to a point where we’re working out solutions for the long-term yet. Instead, we’re focused on getting folks back to work. What people are thinking about right now is, “How can I make my workplace safe to get employees back to work as quickly as I can?”
Do you think the remote work trend is here to stay?
I think you’re going to see a lot of folks who want to go back to the office. You’re going to see some folks who want to still work from home. Flexibility is going to be a key going forward. We hear a lot about offices going away for good and I couldn’t disagree more with that. I think offices are not going anywhere. But the natural evolution of what a workplace means will continue to change.
It’s going to become a workplace eco-system that might include your home, a satellite office, a client’s office, the main office, and even an additional space. The office can be a place where there are meetings and collaboration. But maybe it’s not the place you go every day from 9 to 5; the ability to work anywhere is here to stay.
It’s hard to pin down what we’ll see going forward, but I do think there is a need for folks to get back into the office. There is a need for face-to-face communication.