With companies making significant efforts to get back to normal after they’ve dealt with the impact of COVID-19, the next step for them is to set up a plan for their employees to return to the office. But as experts say and companies confirm, this return will be a gradual one, as the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic is still unpredictable. The main focus now for both landlords and their corporate clients is to ensure a safe working environment by implementing measures and clear protocols for how everything in the office operates while managing health and safety risks for employees. BR sat down with landlords and companies and found out how they were preparing for their employees’ return to the office.
By Anda Sebesi
The reopening of commercial spaces and the return to offices following the lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions involves a considerable administrative effort for companies, who must meet the criteria and implement the measures that will provide the green light to resuming business. Given the diversity of issues and the complexity of the current context generated by the pandemic, from epidemiological considerations and health and work safety to topics related to authorisations, approvals, and management liability, Reff & Associates – Deloitte Legal Romania and Waltmann A.B., Architecture and Consulting Design Office have launched an integrated solution for the assessment of office buildings and shopping centres and the preparation of a coherent set of measures and actions, verified from a technical, medical, and legal perspective, in order to guarantee a safe return of employees and customers inside these premises.
A three-stage reopening
Furthermore, according to Colliers International consultants, after the transformations companies are currently carrying out to ensure a safe return to the office, the office market will have to continue to redefine itself in the next period, to provide spaces that promote innovation and collaboration in the new context. The office will remain the central element for companies, given that the need for intense collaboration and social interaction in the professional sphere is difficult to meet in a virtual environment, but the effects of this period are expected to impact working habits and the setup of workspaces.
“The office of the future will focus on promoting social interaction and collaboration. We expect a new way of working, which will involve a mix between working from the office and from a distance, from home or other spaces. Employees will most likely prefer to carry out activities that involve focused work remotely and will go to the office for collaborative work – customer meetings, brainstorming sessions, project meetings, and so on. In this context, we believe that the office will go through a process of redefinition, and the emphasis will be on space quality and employee experience, promoting the identity and culture of the space,” said Daniela Popescu, Associate Director Office Advisory at Colliers International Romania.
With an eye on retail…
So far, total investments made by large shopping centres in all equipment, supplies, and staff needed to implement the measures meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus exceeded EUR 500,000, according to Colliers International consultants.
“For the safety of shoppers, malls and shopping centres have taken all the necessary safety measures during this period and have established clear procedures for disinfecting common areas and ensuring social distancing, and many retailers have also come up with additional measures in their own spaces,” says Simina Niculita, Partner & Head of Retail Agency at Colliers International.
Among the measures taken by large shopping centres are gates or special rooms to measure visitors’ body temperature or systems that monitor the total number of visitors inside the centre at any given time, so as to limit access to others when the maximum limit set by the authorities is reached. At the same time, shopping centres are ready to constantly disinfect common areas and escalators with specialised substances or UV lamps and provide visitors dispensers with disinfectants, and as an additional measure opt for the introduction of fresh air from outside instead of relying on previous procedures for recirculating air inside the centre.
For example, Mega Mall became the first shopping centre in Romania to obtain the COVID-19 Certificate of Conformity. This means that Mega Mall meets all the international sanitary standards and is able to provide a safe shopping experience to its customers. The certificate is issued by the independent Swedish company Safe Shopping Centres (SSC) specialised in the accreditation of the safety of shopping centres worldwide. The measures taken by Mega Mall in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus focus on two major pillars: ensuring a minimum of 2 meters social distancing and constantly disinfecting the commercial centre. Since the mall reopened on June 15, the safety measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus have been promoted on LED displays within the mall.