by Brianna Crandall — May 27, 2020 — Most large companies included in a workplace reentry analysis by global real estate services provider CBRE plan to take a gradual, cautious approach to bringing employees back to their workplaces as governments begin to lift restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roughly half of the 203 company operations that CBRE studied across the globe are implementing touchless technology to enhance cleanliness. Most are following social-distancing standards. And most will provide their employees with face coverings, though less than a third will require the covering be worn at all times in any company facility unless mandated by local authorities.
CBRE gathered its findings by surveying account leaders in its Global Workplace Solutions business, which manages facilities and real estate projects for large companies. The surveyed account leaders oversee client relationships spanning 4.2 billion square feet of workspace in offices, industrial and logistics real estate, tech space, data centers, retail and healthcare used by more than 38 million workers. The analysis includes data collected as of May 4.
Karen Ellzey, executive managing director of Consulting and global lead for CBRE’s COVID-19 response for occupier clients, remarked:
Our analysis of our clients’ return-to-work strategies shows that virtually all are engaged in detailed planning to ensure a careful and reasoned approach. Most of these companies have established their own criteria for when to return to the workplace beyond local and state government requirements. And nearly three quarters plan to bring employees back in phases rather than all at once.
Among the key findings in CBRE’s analysis:
- Social distancing: 45% of the companies will follow guidance from local governments and health agencies on social distancing in the workplace. Another 34% have set their own global standard that may exceed local guidance, most typically requiring at least six feet or two meters of separation.
- Face Coverings: 59% of companies will provide face coverings for their employees. 28% of companies plan to require face coverings at all times at any company property. A larger portion — 42% — will require masks only at company facilities where mandated by local government or health-agency guidelines.
- Visitors: Only 21% of companies will allow visitors to the workplace in the early phases of reopening.
- Health screening: 45% will require off-site self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms by employees before they arrive at the workplace, while 13% will conduct screening of employees on-site at every facility. Of those allowing visitors, 35% will screen visitors on-site.
- Reopening timeline: Only 20% of companies intend to reopen as soon as government restrictions are lifted. A larger portion — 42% – will do so after their internal standards are met.
- Reopening approach: 72%% of companies will conduct a phased reopening with defined percentages or groups of employees admitted over weeks or months. Meanwhile, 52% expect to give employees the option to work from home for the foreseeable future — although this will vary widely by industry sector and type of operation.
- Space preparation: Among the most common steps companies have taken to prepare their workplaces include installing signage (82%), establishing space-use policies and guidelines for social distancing (78%), outlining social-distancing zones with floor decals and other reminders (74%), and reconfiguring furniture layouts (61%).
With so many essential workers already performing their jobs at commercial properties, there is much that the industry is learning and adapting. At the same time, companies must continually monitor local health conditions as they undertake further reopening efforts. Across the board, we see evidence that companies are taking a thoughtful, measured approach to reopening their work environments in a safe and methodical manner.
CBRE offers a disclaimer at the end of its survey announcement that the firm’s materials may not be suitable for application to all facilities or situations.
Workplace reentry guide
The new Landlord Briefing Guide presented by CBRE Property Management offers building landlords, asset managers, facilities managers (FM) and others responsible for workplace reentry, guidelines and resources to help them prepare to reopen the workplace.
The guide addresses three key areas:
- Planning for Reentry
- Welcoming Tenants Back
- Ongoing Building Management and Evolution
The guide is available for free download from the CBRE website.
Additional coronavirus resources
CBRE also offers a webpage titled Insights and Implications of COVID-19 Pandemic: Adapting together through this uncertain time, which provides roundtables, podcasts and other audio and video offerings as well as articles, research and links to other sources, all related to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, shutdowns, and reentry on commercial real estate.