We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle this month’s question.
Here’s what they had to say.
Michael Bergman, CEO and president, Bergman Real Estate Group (Woodbridge)
Now that our Bergman Cares safety program is up and running, we’ve had time to reflect —understand the positives and where there’s room for improvement. For us, it all comes down to the guiding principle for the entire program — listening. Hearing what our tenants want. Even pre-pandemic, we’ve always had an open line of communication. That’s how we have maintained a strong bond with our tenants — listening to their requests so we can develop the right solution.
Aside, from the safety practicalities, we are also taking into account our tenants’ emotional state. What can we do to not just provide peace of mind but lift spirits as well? Yoga classes. Outdoor lounge areas. Amenities that add a smile to our tenants’ day while falling within the state safety guidelines. Living by this tenant-driven philosophy will help us not only weather this storm today but achieve a bright tomorrow.
Christina Jordan, director of marketing & leasing, Denholtz Properties (Red Bank)
While there is much that is still uncertain about how and when workers will return en masse to workplaces, it is becoming increasingly clear that landlords must begin to think beyond HVAC systems and cleaning protocols when it comes to what building wellness means. By better understanding how their spaces can have a positive impact on people’s health and well-being, landlords can recognize opportunities to help their tenants lead healthier lives. This can be as simple as informing tenants about resources to manage mental health and access support services within the local community. Looking at more substantive steps, landlords can look to add on-site support services, fitness- and wellness-focused programming or new spaces for employees to unwind. Through these steps, landlords can help foster improved mental and physical health for their tenants while creating buildings that are deeply focused on the wellness of all those within their walls.
Matt McDonough, managing director, Transwestern (Florham Park)
The big concern ahead on everyone’s minds is how we are going to use office space in our post-COVID workplace climate. Many companies will likely still include a certain amount of remote work for their employees but relying on this too heavily can make it extremely difficult to effectively recruit talent and to form new initiatives that impact the organization as a whole. There’s also the issue of corporate culture — if a strong corporate culture is already established, the best way to reinforce that is through in-person office activities that bring together both new and current employees. Companies will need to determine how to balance this with the flexibility of remote work.
Leo Paytas, senior managing director, Newmark Knight Frank (Rutherford)
It’s an interesting question as there could be a lot of unseen challenges we face in a post-COVID workplace, especially given everyone’s individual risk tolerance level. Or, if a vaccine is here earlier than expected, we may face fewer challenges than expected. It continues to be a very fluid environment. However, one of those concerns may circle around innovation and problem-solving. How do we maintain social distancing and continue to collaborate on issues? Innovation is something that happens organically and can’t be scheduled. It happens when we bump into each other in the hall or in the kitchen, and something sparks a conversation that leads to innovations.
Judy Troiano, senior associate, NAI James E. Hanson (Teterboro)
There are countless studies speaking to how plants and nature can have a soothing and calming impact on people, particularly in a corporate setting. As people begin to return to the workplace after a long hiatus, I think it is important for landlords to find ways to bring nature into their spaces or make the nature surrounding their spaces more accessible. This can be something as simple and cost-effective as adding more natural light, green walls or additional plants, each of which have proven positive impacts on air quality and noise reduction, as well as stress levels and employee creativity. Finally, landlords should also try to add nature trails and more natural landscaping to the outside of their buildings to provide tenants with spaces to unwind amidst what could be a stressful transition back to the office.