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New language, new rules: Welcome to the age of ‘de-densification’

The new normal of working following COVID-19 is serving up new dilemma for employers and property owners, according to real estate services company JLL.

May 29, 2020, updated May 29, 2020
Confidence levels fell sharply in the property sector

Confidence levels fell sharply in the property sector

Social distancing could be “always on” and workers and governments will require employers to provide safe spaces and new terms like de-densification, re-close, mobility ambassadors and quick-close have sprung up to describe what will be needed. Companies may also need to revert to shifts.

“When we return to normalcy, our anxiety about invisible contagions will persist, resulting in a new definition of personal space and a change in our comfort level with physical closeness,” JLL said.

Its roadmap for re-entering buildings also said employers and building owners should consider restricted or limited access for amenity centres, conference centres, gyms, bike rooms, showers, and locker rooms.

Post-COVID-19 will probably still mean the 1.5-metre distancing, not gathering in groups, avoiding crowded places or mass gathering and a limit on any desk-sharing in the near term as well as ensuring there are clear cleaning and transition protocols between any shared spaces.

“De-densification is necessary to ensure the safety of the occupants and instill confidence in the measures taken,” JLL said in its report on reactivating buildings.

Employers would also have to evaluate the entire employee workday journey to identify congregation points or areas where social distancing measures should be implemented. Rotational schedules may be required to accommodate employees who need to physically be on-site.

“Physical spaces will need to be re-thought to allow for a type of always-on social distancing that will become our new way of life.

“Returning to work will be a lengthy and extensive process.

Companies would need to identify who would return to the office in the near-term and whether some employees may need extended remote work due to underlying personal factors, transit challenges and/or school closures.

At a practical level, JLL said companies may need to redraw floor plans and reconfigure furniture. More touchless technologies for restrooms and rubbish bins may be needed and consideration should be made for  new products in areas such as support for remote work, health screening, robotics, or touchless technology.

Clear guidelines would be needed on on-site meetings and videoconferencing and other virtual meeting technologies could be implemented.

Even the humble kitchen microwave and other equipment could need better cleaning and it may be more practical to encourage workers to bring food to the office or have lunch delivered in prepackaged containers to eliminate trips outside the office.

Companies should also limit congregation in any communal spaces, such as cafeterias, lounges and fitness centres.

There would also be a need for companies to prepare protocols for a “re-closing” and “quick close” if another wave of the virus hits.

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