The COVID-19 pandemic has single-handedly brought the world to a standstill forcing a number of industries into a complete shut down in a matter of weeks. One such industry which has been hit particularly hard is the Commercial Real Estate industry. With the increase in government restrictions and a rapid transition of the workforce to home offices, building owners witnessed their buildings transform from thriving business hubs to deserted ghost towns almost overnight.
While this shutdown has had a significant impact on the bottom line, one of the major challenges building owners are currently facing is rebuilding confidence in their occupants as the world begins to return to offices. What steps can leaders in this industry take to respond the COVID-19 pandemic and inspire confidence in staff and occupants?
Recently, Willow CEO and Co-Founder, Joshua Ridley sat down with Michael Turner, President of Oxford Properties to discuss how he is leading the organisation through this challenging season. Below are some of the key lessons learned from one of the largest and most established leaders in Commercial Real Estate:
Acknowledge the sense of fear and take action
Although we are experiencing a gradual ease in restrictions around the world, the pandemic has greatly influenced our psychology and opinions regarding whether it is safe to return to office buildings. A similar scenario was experienced in the period following the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Society was hesitant to return to high-rise buildings, however, over time the perceived risk became more residual as the government and private sector put in place new protocols to manage the risk of terrorism.
Learning from this scenario, it is up to the leaders of Commercial Real Estate organisations to acknowledge the inherent sense of fear and take proactive actions to ensure their buildings are safe and the fears of occupants are alleviated. In practice, this would involve putting in place appropriate cleaning protocols, providing sanitisation stations, improving air flow, enforcing social distancing, adopting new technologies for health and safety, and educating occupants so they can better manage their premises.
Lead from the front
One of the simplest steps leaders in the Real Estate industry can take in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is to ‘walk the talk” and lead from the front. As Michael highlights, if leaders are expecting their staff and occupants to return to the office, they must themselves be willing to do the same. Leaders demonstrating their own belief in the safety protocols implemented to mitigate risk is key to instilling the same confidence in occupants.
Invest in technology now
As Michael points out, adopting technology across buildings has the potential to greatly improve the experience delivered to occupants. Whilst the Real Estate industry has been slow to adopt technology, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a renewed focus on technology. With a range of technologies in market, from occupancy tracking solutions to access and air quality solutions, there has never been a more appropriate time to invest in smart building technology. Although there are many solutions available, it is critical to ensure organisations take a unified and integrated approach with technology. Integrated data that is analysed in context gives building owners access to quality information that can be used to better understand occupant needs and make good decisions to improve occupant experience.
It’s time to rethink
One of the key steps leaders in the Real Estate industry can take to respond to the pandemic is to use this season as an opportunity to rethink and spark organisational change.
Willow, Oxford, Microsoft and Brookfield have come together to this end, forming an alliance who work together with the interest of propelling the industry forward. The alliance, known as the “Digital Twin Initiative” allows these leaders in the Real Estate industry to come together to share their insights and experience in smart building innovation with a focus on project delivery, technology trends, Digital Twin best practices and lessons learned. Together, the initiative believe that technology has the power to transform the Real Estate industry and ensure buildings are best prepared to respond to future challenges.