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Commercial Property – A Trend Towards Agile Small Office Space

July 2020 – Cracks are starting to emerge in the work-from-home scenario that has been brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown. Besides many workers complaining that they feel disconnected, projects are being drawn out; on-site training is challenging, the lack of on-site mentoring is hindering personal development, and even recruitment and onboarding is proving to be more problematical. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that, with the resurfacing of a second wave of the virus in Europe and Asia, the majority of workers will not be going back to “business as usual”.

According to a McKinsey Consumer Pulse Survey carried out in March 2020, more than 80 percent of survey respondents were already looking at reducing their spending habits. This, together with decreased spending, cutbacks and other business disruptions during the lockdown, impacted on an already vulnerable economy and indicated a sharp decline in company profitability.

In this new normal, businesses are looking for innovative and flexible ways in which to reduce their costs and increase their profitability, while still ensuring the health and safety of their employees. Once the pandemic has been brought under control, employees may end up alternating between working remotely from home on some days, and in the office on other days to reduce the health risks brought on by congested office spaces. This translates to savings for businesses that may not now require as much office space as they did pre-COVID-19

The Trend Towards Sharing Office Space – Safely

This provides a strong case for an increased demand in the renting of co space or shared office space, where companies only pay for the workspace that they use and share certain business services and facilities, resulting in an overall cost saving.

There are plenty of office spaces to rent in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, as well as throughout the rest of South Africa, which can help mitigate the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. Tenants can leverage the latest technology provided by these commercial property landlords, such as;

  • access to high-speed fibre optic internet
  • access to high internet bandwidth
  • video conferencing facilities

Coworking Office Space Is Not Affected By Geographical Location

Coworking office spaces also allow the tenants to focus on their operational efficiencies and drive innovation. Geographical restrictions for employees are no longer a constraint when searching for a small office space to rent, because the employee can choose from one of many shared office spaces across the country. It also means that recruiting highly-skilled candidates from all over the country becomes easier, in that they are not always bound to geographical locations.

The trend towards the uptake of coworking space also means that employers can provide their employees with, not only a reduced commute time but also, safe and hygienic places to work in – without necessarily increasing their costs by implementing the rigorous COVID-19 sanitising procedures. Providers who rent out commercial office spaces, are required by law to ensure that their premises are regularly sanitised and to adhere to all the latest health and safety regulations on containing the spread of the virus.

Is Your Office Workspace Regularly Sanitised?

When searching for commercial property to rent, the following protocols should be present to support minimising the impact of the virus on tenants within the building;

  • Sanitising stations should be present at all entrances of the building, and throughout the workspaces.
  • Thermal screening should be used at all entrances of the building.
  • Compulsory wearing of masks on the premises.
  • Regular disinfecting and sanitising of workstations and deep cleaning of high-traffic areas.
  • COVID-19 awareness material on display.
  • Use of HVAC air conditioning filtration systems to ensure a constant flow of fresh air throughout the offices.
  • Social distancing implemented in open plan areas, canteens and coffee stations.

The Business Exchange is a provider of commercial office space to rent in Johannesburg, with offices in Sandton, Rosebank and Morningside. They also have offices in Mauritius. The Business Exchange adheres to stringent COVID-19 regulations to ensure that although things may look a little different when employees return to work, they will still be highly functional and most importantly, safe.

Lockdown advice for entrepreneurs 1: Get to rational quickly

The quicker entrepreneurs can navigate themselves through the anger, denial and blame that the COVID-19 pandemic wrought, the quicker they can they can bring themselves to operating rationally in a “new normal”. Allon Raiz, CEO of Raizcorp, provides some valuable tips on how to do this.

Covid-19 to forever change the face of offices, says Business Exchange

Covid-19 and the South African lockdown have forced companies across the board to embrace strategies that allow their employees to continue working, but from home. And while this has been a relief for many, who no longer have to face the daily traffic grind and can work in their pyjamas if they choose, for others the work-from-home alternative has proven to be difficult and stressful, serviced and flexible office provider the Business Exchange notes.

However, founder and CEO David Seinker believes there will be no return to “normal” work processes any time soon, if ever.

“The traditional office space as we once knew is now dead. There are a number of reasons why this is so. Rather than a return to normal once this is over, corporates are going to have to entirely overhaul their thinking about offices to accommodate a number of factors.”

Unfortunately, the human workforce is going to be a big casualty of the Covid-19 lockdown. With so many businesses making a lot less revenue than before, there have already been large-scale retrenchments across the board, and many companies will look to take up less space at their respective head offices, the company says.

“Businesses will find themselves in a big office space with an expensive lease, and not enough people to fill the desks,” Seinker predicts.

Large companies will now seek to diversify and reduce risk, while also looking for smaller or serviced office spaces with flexible leases as opposed to five- to ten-year agreements. They will want spaces that offer other “nice-to-have” services such as cleaning services, information technology support and more, built into the lease agreement.

HIGHER EXPECTATIONS

“Going forward, employees will expect cleaner offices and better measures to ensure their safety. They will also be apprehensive about touching surfaces that others have touched before them,” says Seinker.

Those who can afford it will look into automatic doors and elevators that do not require users to even press a button. Those who are unable to accommodate this will need to provide hand sanitiser at all public touchpoints as peoples’ concerns about possible contamination will remain for a long time following lockdown.

“At The Business Exchange, we have implemented several safety protocols that will continue once lockdown has been lifted. These include all guests being required to sanitise before entering our properties, outsourced deep-cleaning by professional companies, social distancing through spacing standards, and the use of non-contact thermometers to measure temperatures of all guests entering any of our premises,” Seinker notes.

COST SAVINGS

“Businesses will have lost a lot of money during the lockdown, and will have to look at how to trim their budgets once employees return to work,” cautions Seinker.

Larger companies will try to better use their office space by reducing the overall size of their workspaces, so reducing rental costs, while others may adopt more of a hybrid model which sees most staff work from the office while the remainder work remotely.

Managing long-term risk will also become more important, therefore, corporate companies can be expected to seek more flexibility in their lease terms. They may even look to decentralise their head offices and possibly locate different departments at different addresses. Businesses of all sizes can be expected to reduce lease investment and overall property costs, including fit-out and furnishings going forward, posits the company.

NO MORE OPEN PLAN

The trend of the last few years for many businesses has been to put their employees in an open plan office space. While this may have looked good and been a clever use of floor space, it has meant that employees sit closer together and so are more exposed to the spread of germs.

“Before Covid-19 we already had a number of companies enquire about private offices as opposed to open plan and flexible space. Now, with Covid-19 and the heightened awareness around how easily germs spread, many companies are going to have to rethink their open plan spaces and find ways to keep staff more separated from one another in order to lower the risk of the spread of infection.

“The traditional office space as we know it today is no longer viable. Employees are going to be much more demanding of their bosses in terms of taking care of their health needs, while companies’ financial security is going to require smarter thinking about how money is spent.

“While it will never again be ‘business as usual’, we can certainly adapt to the new normal through a combination of innovative thinking and clever team management as businesses scramble in order to accommodate the rapid change in office space requirements.”

How we are tackling Covid-19 in our Workspaces

Girl with mask to protect her from Coronavirus

COVID-19 Health & Safety Policy

Table of Contents

1. Introduction to H&S Policy – COVID19
2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Hygiene in the Workplace
3. Access into TBE Premises and Building Rules
4. Cleaning Protocol and Disinfectant Equipment
5. Professional Distancing in the Offices and Use of Common Areas
6. General Rules and Guidelines
7. Support and Contact

 

1. Introduction to H&S Policy – COVID19

The Business Exchange would like to reassure our tenants and staff that our main priority is to uphold TBE as a safe place in which to work. This means that we will take every possible measure to reduce the risk of you becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus at our locations, through various preventative measures and systems. We want to provide a safe working environment for all who enter our doors, and we will do our utmost to ensure that the rules and regulations, to be outlined further in this document, are adhered to at all times.

The policies below summarise the various health and safety protocols that we are incorporating at all our locations, to help combat the spread of the virus and to ensure adherence to strict workplace hygiene standards.

To further safeguard and assist our members, we will be selling masks and other protective equipment at cost to our tenants, which will be available for purchase at all of our locations. These measures will be reinforced with a thorough daily cleaning routine in line with World Health Standards, as part of our new offering to our tenants. This will allow everyone working at our premises to focus on their company while we take care of the vital health and safety protocols.

If we all cooperate and follow the rules and regulations as set out by the government, we will significantly reduce the risk of being infected and spreading the virus, whilst allowing us to continue to attend the workplace and ultimately, we will ensure the sustainability of all of our companies.

2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Hygiene in the Workplace

2.1. Wearing of face masks outside the home is now a mandatory requirement by the government, and all people entering TBE will be required to wear one.

2.2. Reusable fabric masks will be available for purchase at cost from TBE locations. Directions for use will be included.

2.3. Reception, cleaning and coffee shop staff are required to wear face shields during working hours.

2.4. Cleaning staff will use protective gloves in addition to following all health and safety standards.

2.5. All occupants at TBE should practice respiratory etiquette by covering their coughs and sneezes and by turning away from others when doing so.

2.6. Staff, members and guests will be required to practice the necessary hygiene principles as advised by the government, including frequent hand washing and sanitising.

3. Access into TBE Premises and Building Rules

3.1. Property Managers at all TBE buildings will ensure that all safety standards and measures are implemented to safeguard anyone visiting one of our locations. These measures will include, but not be limited to; the use of touchpoints such as lift buttons, bathroom door handles, biometric access, and the completion of registration documents at security checkpoints. Every building will have a visible set of clear guidelines for anyone entering the premises.

3.2. Hand sanitisers will be made available before entering the offices. All visitors, tenants, and staff are required to sanitise before entering TBE premises.

3.3. Fever Scan thermometers issued at all TBE premises will be used to test the temperatures of all persons entering the building, visitors and tenants who enter the offices.

3.4. Biometric fingerprint access will be temporarily disabled. The Receptionist will assist with opening doors, and other systems will be implemented, such as foot door openers.

3.5. Signage with instructions on TBE’s Health and Safety policy will be clearly visible in key central areas at all TBE locations.

4. Cleaning Protocol and Disinfectant Equipment

4.1. Mobile or fixed hand sanitisers will be located at reception, in all meeting rooms, coffee shops, printer areas, kitchens, and other communal spaces.

4.2. Regular cleaning will be conducted with particular attention paid to all frequently-used touchpoint areas such as; printers, boardroom tables, door handles, light switches, desks, bathrooms, kitchens, and other shared facilities.

4.3. The required training and induction for cleaning staff will be conducted before the reopening of any centre to ensure workplace safety and readiness.

4.4. Cleaning staff will follow a strict daily roster and hygiene practices, which will be closely monitored by management.

4.5. All cleaning chemicals and disinfectants will conform to SABS standards. Waste disposal will be conducted at more regular intervals.

4.6. All goods delivered to the offices will be sanitised before they are handed over to tenants.

5. Professional Distancing in the Offices and Use of Common Areas

5.1. Meeting room capacity will be reduced to 50% with certain spaces such as the whiskey and travel rooms being made temporarily unavailable.

5.2. Open-plan work areas will now only allow for an “every other” desk work policy.

5.3. TBE staff will assist occupiers of private offices to adjust their workstations to allow for a layout that is more conducive to health and safety standards.

5.4. Coffee shops will trade as usual, and food and beverages will be served as per government guidelines.

5.5. Coffee shop suppliers will be closely monitored to ensure that they adhere to the requisite safety standards.

5.6. Gym facilities will be temporarily closed.

6. General Rules and Guidelines

6.1. TBE tenants and their guests are required to wear face masks at all times. Face masks will be available for purchase at all TBE locations.

6.2. Wearing of face masks when travelling to and from work is mandatory.

6.3. Signage incorporating the critical points of our policies will be displayed in strategic places at all TBE locations.

6.4. Various personal protective equipment (PPE) will be available for purchase at all TBE locations to ensure the safety of our tenants and their guests.

6.5. If anyone working at TBE has been in contact with anyone known to have the virus, they should refrain from coming to the office.

6.6. If anyone suspects that they may have come into contact with a person infected by the virus, they should refrain from coming to the office for at least 14 days.

6.7. Adherence to strict hygiene practices in both the home and workplace is advised to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

6.8. People should stay away from the office or leave the TBE premises immediately if they feel ill or start experiencing any flu-like symptoms.

6.9. If someone suspects they may be sick with flu-like symptoms, they should leave the premises immediately and inform TBE staff of their suspicions via email or digital message.

6.10. Everyone is required to adhere to all government guidelines and laws.

6.11. If someone at the workplace is found to test positive for the virus, the premises will immediately be evacuated by all and a thorough deep-clean of the entire workplace will be conducted.

6.12. Offices will only reopen after a thorough deep-clean and once approved by the necessary authorities.

7. Support and Contact

For any further information or questions, please contact the following people handling our Health and Safety procedures:

Marjorie Ndesi
Marjorien@thebusinessexchange.co.za
0729282127
011-5899020

David Seinker
davids@tbeafrica.com
0827403865
011-5899020

 
For more government updates on the Coronavirus click here.
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