We do not know for who and what it might look like, but MAPP has started thinking about what it might mean for the 850 or so office buildings, retail and leisure schemes and industrial/logistics estates we manage on the first Monday after the existing measures are relaxed.
We do not have the all of the answers, but here are ten things we are thinking about and ten assumptions we are working on;
Let’s start with the assumptions:
- The 8th May will not herald a free for all. Restrictions will be lifted slowly, possibly regionally, by age or function. Public transport will remain a real concern for the Government and the population as a whole and will act as a brake.
- Some shops may be allowed to reopen and shoppers, who have not come to rely on Amazon, will shop but in reduced numbers.
- Office workers will return but gradually. Some businesses may never reopen and some will keep large numbers on furlough until the end of June. We may see larger numbers return outside London where crowded public transport is less of a factor.
- Cinemas, bars, restaurants and other leisure based venues will remain closed for the foreseeable future. That trampoline party is just going to have to wait until next year.
- Organisations will want their employees to return to the workplace to help with presenteeism, to check-in and establish a sense of normality. They will however implement an array of social distancing measures in their own space and will want us to do the same in the reception and common areas.
- Employees will also get fed up with their four walls and will want to return, but they will be cautious and will value some house rules. Do not forget the British love standing in a queue.
- Widespread antibody testing will not be available until Q3 2020.
- A vaccine will not be available until well into 2021.
- Some schools will reopen or partially reopen on or before the 1st June, which will trigger a further increase in numbers returning to the workplace.
- More people will drive, walk, cycle or use e-scooters to get to work than previously.
And then ten of the questions (there are many, many more) we have started to think about along with some tentative answers:
- Do owners have a responsibility to put in place social distancing measures in common areas?
In short yes. There is an obligation to provide a safe environment, to provide a degree of control and most importantly to provide a welcoming and reassuring place for the occupiers.
- Who will provide guidance?
The Health and Safety Executive are unlikely to be able to deliver anything that is detailed enough to be fit for purpose. Public Health England has enough to do, so it will be down to us. On the weekly Heads of Property Management last week, we agreed to work together and to invite some of the larger Landlords to come up with a joint plan, so that there are some common protocols in most buildings to build up levels of expectation and compliance.
- Do we relax signing in and security protocols?
Possibly, but more thought needed as to how we maintain something that is robust enough.
- Should we provide cursory health screening as people enter a shopping centre or office building?
Common in Asia, and it would provide some reassurance, but probably too intrusive, full of GDPR and other challenges and we almost certainly do not have the legal authority to turn people away. Probably one for individual occupiers to deal with, although one client has asked us to procure masks and thermometers.
- What to do with lifts?
Some form of restriction will be required. Not great for occupiers on the 28th floor and will need careful management.
- Can we increase facilities for cyclists and drivers?
Increased storage and security will be easier than providing additional shower facilities for cyclists, but we will try. We will be reversing years of encouraging people not to drive. Careful management and sourcing overflow space should be sufficient.
- When to bring back furloughed site teams?
With an extension in place until the end of June we will need to balance the savings to service charges with the need for operational readiness and resilience.
- How to ease overcrowding in retail malls?
Possibly aspirational, but with stores limiting the numbers of customers, managing queues and installing one way systems will be required, especially where a small scheme anchored by a supermarket.
- How to manage air conditioning systems?
More work and advice required as conflicting views on their ability to transmit the virus. Operating hours are likely to be extended as occupiers come in earlier or leave later to avoid rush hours and we will need to work with consulting teams to ensure operational efficiency given the staggered return. Occupiers are likely to be opening a lot more windows.
- How do we handle service charges and the provision of services?
By being reactive, nimble, dialling up, dialling down and above all communicating.
Hope that helps – more thoughts and ideas will evolve over the next 10 days.