Landlords need to continually gather input from and work closely with tenants, as well as utilize the latest technology as they implement protocols to reopen the workplace. Most importantly, as guidance from real estate and health organizations changes and new cleaning processes are introduced, building owners need to remain as transparent as possible. That was the advice of a national panel of asset and property management professionals during a webinar sponsored by Commercial Observer. 

“More and more people are returning to work on a daily basis and remote work is not becoming the new normal, and new technologies are making it easier for building owners to develop and implement protocols to help assure a safe return to the workplace,” explained Mark Rosenthal, the panel discussion’s moderator and Chief Revenue Officer at HqO. The Boston-based company offers products and services designed to elevate physical office spaces with digital experiences.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, when little research existed concerning where transmission of COVID was occurring, there was an emphasis on cleaning all surfaces,” explained Jay Scholten, Vice President, Innovation & Asset Management of The Swig Company. “Later, mitigation efforts shifted to improving the ventilation of buildings. In every instance, it is critical to utilize all communication channels to keep tenants and [their] employees informed about new policies. We started using an app where messages about building protocols and safety measures are instantly sent to the employee’s mobile devices and have found this to be the most efficient communication channel.”

“Because of the amount of time people spend in their office environment, they are especially appreciative and thankful for accurate and consistent communication from the building landlords,” stated Chris Masotto, Vice President, Property Management, Columbia Property Trust. “Partnering with your tenants builds loyalty and strengthens relationships.”

Masotto said his company installed new bipolar ionization systems into buildings’ HVAC systems which is expected to reduce airborne dust and particles by up to 99%. “We communicated this to our tenants and believe an employee that feels safe is also a more productive one.”

Pat Rippe, Managing Director, Portfolio Optimization at Pennybacker Capital, said most tenants want complete transparency and direct communication.

“In the past, landlords sent emails to the office managers to inform them of news about the buildings with the hopes that the messages were subsequently passed down to employees,” Rippe said.

Pennybacker, however, utilizes an app to disseminate messages and believes communicating directly is the most open and honest way to share information. Real estate owners used to believe that whoever had the information also had the power. This thinking has shifted to a multifamily model in which communication is sent directly to the occupants.

“These trends are transferring to the techniques used for sanitizing, cleaning and using the highest-grade of HVAC air filters and touchless systems,” he continued. “Landlords are now in the business of doing everything possible to help tenants grow and succeed. Building owners that can demonstrate this commitment, with both actions and communication, will create tenants that are increasingly sticky.”