Most Romanian employees (70 percent) want to continue to work mostly from home even after easing the measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and after the state of emergency ends, according to Colliers International. Out of these, 60 percent believe that working remotely would be useful at least 1-2 days a week, and 10 percent would like to work even 3-4 days from home in the next period.
Office buildings in the portfolio managed by Colliers International continued to be operational during the state of emergency, with no projects under conservation, so it is expected that activity will be resumed gradually starting May 18th.
A quarter of employees expect to return to the office in May, but their work in office buildings will resume gradually, depending on the evolution of the coronavirus epidemic and further measures announced by the authorities. At the same time, it is expected that some companies will continue to apply remote working policies for a longer period, at least for employees who have children, in the context of suspending the activity of schools until fall.
“Social distancing could be maintained for longer periods, which can mean a larger-scale mix of work in the office and from home. Adaptation and rapid action are the key words these days, but concern for people’s health and business is also essential. From the beginning of the pandemic, at Colliers we started this process with a clear thing in mind, that we must act immediately, with innovative solutions, taking into account that the owners and tenants of office buildings need to recalibrate services during this period, but also further,” says Andrei Voica, Director Project Management and Workplace Consultancy, Office Advisory at Colliers International.
To ensure employees’ social distance within the office, employers need to consider some changes in the set-up of the space and furniture, especially in the case of open space offices. It is necessary to ensure a recommended distance of two linear meters between employees, which means that it will be necessary to increase the space allocated per employee from 8 square meters, which is currently the average in class A office buildings, at over 15 square meters per employee. In this context, some companies will have to allow a percentage of employees to continue working from home, so that the rules on social distance and rotation can be respected.
New security measures in office buildings
Measures that can be implemented by companies to prepare their offices for the return of employees include rotating offices from open spaces so that they do not face each other and directing the team to alternative office work areas. At the same time, temporary transparent plastic barriers can be installed in the reception areas to separate visitors from the reception desk, and high partitions can be installed in the offices between facing desks. Last but not least, in conference rooms, after removing a number of chairs, floor markings can be applied to indicate a safe 2 meters distance between seats, Colliers International consultants recommend.
To reduce touching door handles, the doors of offices and conference rooms should be left open, unless there is an absolute need for privacy. There should also be signs in office buildings informing visitors about the distance rules, hand washing and sanitizing or wearing masks in public areas. Using signage, unique clockwise paths can be created through the space, and by adding arrow tape on the office floor, the recommended direction can be indicated.
”Once back at the office, employees will have to get used to all these new hygiene and safety rules, which will most likely stay in place for longer periods. We estimate that all medium and large buildings will have to implement a rigorous set of measures that we recommend during this period. These are new traffic rules with lifts and stairs, as well as access to designated lunch areas or the minimum level of protective equipment required to access the building. Depending on the risk criteria, tenants can be greeted by disinfection gates, thermal imaging cameras for temperature measurement or mats impregnated with disinfectant solution for each access path,” says Alexandru Atanasiu, Associate Director, Real Estate Management Services at Colliers International.
At the same time, building owners will have to regularly ensure complete sanitation of heating and cooling systems and air treatment plants, according to Colliers International consultants, as well as actions aimed to ensure periodic disinfection with an increased frequency and special solutions for sanitary and common areas. To align with the new hygiene rules, owners of office buildings will have an additional minimum cost of EUR 2,000 per month for a medium-sized building.