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As the White House and some states begin lifting restrictions that have shut down all but non-essential businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19, real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield has released a 34-page guide to real estate tenants and landlords on how to safely reopen.

The guide is the product of Cushman & Wakefield’s recovery readiness task force, which was established in early April to develop a list of best practices for businesses embarking on a post-COVID recovery that will facilitate employees’ and customers’ return to their workplaces.

The firm developed the guide and the best practices list based on its experience in helping restart China’s economy where it partnered in a joint venture with Vanke Service to move 10,000 companies and nearly a million workers back into 800 million square feet of buildings. Vanke Service is a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Vanke Co., one of that nation’s largest residential real estate developers and property managers.

In announcing the advent of the new guide, Cushman & Wakefield President John Forrester, the recovery task force’s executive chairman, said, “It is extremely important to the health and safety of people around the world that organizations take well-thought-through precautions when introducing their employees back to the workplace.”

Forrester called the migration of workers from home where they have sheltered in place back to work a “monumental” task. He said the company’s workplace experts, created the guide to make that migration “more approachable – with quick and customizable solutions that are cost-effective to implement.”

The firm’s new recovery guide outlines six workplace readiness how-tos, including:

  • Preparing the building by implementing cleaning plans, pre-return inspections, and HVAC and mechanicals checks;
  • Preparing the workforce by creating policies for deciding who returns, shift/schedule management and employee communications;
  • Controlling building access by enforcing protocols for safety and health checks, building reception, shipping/receiving, elevators and visitor policies;
  • Creating a social distancing plan, including guidelines for decreasing density, schedule management and office traffic patterns;
  • Reducing touch points & increasing cleaning, including implementing open doors, clean-desk policies, food plans and regular cleaning of common areas;
  • Communicating confidence by acknowledging potential employee fears employees fear in returning by transparent communications.

The guide stresses relationships between building owners and tenants as having never been more important,” advising that the business viability of building tenants as “key to stable occupancy of properties and long-term rental.”

It suggests that health and safety plans should be the shared responsibility of building owners, managers, and tenants and that those policies address the issuance of personal protective equipment, social distancing measures, elevator capacity, and sneeze guards in public areas.

The guide also suggests that all buildings shut down by the declared emergencies be inspected for damages and provides a detailed check list for inspecting and thoroughly cleaning HVAC and mechanical systems. It also provides advice on developing new policies for guests and visitors, essential and non-essential workers, temporary help, travel, and employee health and wellness screening.

The guide also advices on consultations involving risk management, insurance and the potential risks of returning to work, notifying vendors, handling mail and deliveries, and supporting pandemic-related activities.

The guide includes an extensive list of prechecks associated with space use, circulation and publicly shared spaces, individual seating, frequently touched surfaces, and contaminant control.

It also suggests new guidelines for controlling building entry and egress, cleaning, and disposal of discarded PPE.

The guide also advises companies to “get ready for permanent hybrid ways of working. “We are already hearing from companies that had little to no remote work up to now, realizing that business can actually be done with some percentage of employees working entirely remotely,” the guide advises.

“Many companies are coming to the realization that some percentage of their workforce will never come back to an office environment — they will be permanent remote workers.”

That shift will have “significant impact on how companies think about office space, the real-estate footprint, infrastructure, and the technology that is going to have to be in place long term to support the new work paradigm.”

“The migration back to places of business will look different for every organization, but the principles outlined in this guide are applicable to nearly every real estate owner and occupier,” said Despina Katsikakis, head of Workplace Business Performance at Cushman & Wakefield. “As we navigate the complexity of this unprecedented situation together, our experts will continue to provide general guidance as well as bespoke solutions to our clients at every step of the way.”