When all the best practices webinars are over, your clients will ultimately define the landscape in the reopened office environment. After speaking to facility managers from around the country, the short-term prognosis for operators is far from promising.
Striking a balance
“There is no pandemic playbook,” said Andrew Barrett-Weiss, a workplace experience manager who has implemented some lavish employee amenity programs at companies like Edmunds.com and his current company, GoodRx. “The biggest challenge right now is trying to decide how to react but not overreact — to build systems that will keep employees safe and work on a temporary basis that will not negate the corporate culture.”
The underlying issue
Beyond keeping their employees safe, businesses are deeply concerned about liability. They are likely to continue encouraging employees to work from home. “Liability is a huge issue, which is why business groups are lobbying for protection from liability pertaining to COVID-19,” said Andrew Valdivia, area president at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. “At the same time, insurance companies are interested in excluding virus-related liability. For businesses, it is a potentially scary situation.”
A slow return to the office
Barrett-Weiss can name a long list of tech companies that will not be returning to the office in 2020. “I completely understand why they're making that choice — because of the absence of clear direction from any authority, the liability we have, and the risk mitigation challenge we have, our liability is huge,” he said.
The changing model
Lisa Turco, a long-time facility professional who has served TrueCar, Belkin and several other tech companies, points out that employers are starting to realize that you don’t have to be in the same room to collaborate. “Our old work model is based on going to work in a factory [and] going to your work bench. Tech companies have known for a long time that you don’t travel to China every time you need to have a meeting with someone in that office,” said Turco.
Dion Brain, a global facility manager who has served major tech firms, most recently, Keysight Technologies and OpenX, said that beyond the safety and liability issue, employers are starting to see the cost savings associated with having people work at home. “In 2020, I think people who can work at home will work at home,” he said.
Lisa Marquis, president at Marquis Project Management, who serves some of the nation’s largest tech and media companies, said the pandemic has been an eye opener for management that was typically opposed to offering a work from home option. “An employer is paying three to four times more to have that person sitting in an office as opposed to working at home,” said Marquis. “The cost savings has been a real awakening for many.”
Marquis added that some studies are projecting a permanent occupancy drop in offices that could reach 50%.
Challenging service procedures
Operators can expect to see block scheduling, a seven-day workweek and strict building access requirements. Marquis said the way a delivery driver enters a workspace is going to change. “First, they have to log in at security. Then they will have to go through a set path, and when they get to the tenant space, there is going to be a vendor area to drop off their product, do their sanitizing and leave,” said Marquis.
About that sanitizing
Brian Stark, general manager at Momar, a national industrial supply company that acquired AIS Specialty Products, has three suggestions for operators when it comes to sanitizing.
- Order large quantities well in advance. Product shortages are common. Expect to wait at least two weeks for supplies. “I try not to overpromise,” said Stark.
- Be cautious about what you buy. Look for EPA approved products and hand sanitizers with at least a 65% alcohol content.
- Rely on your supplier for training on product use. “We have several instructional videos for our clients on how to properly sanitize different surfaces,” said Stark. “Sanitizing goes way beyond spray and wipe.”
Maintaining a presence
Above all, operators need to maintain their break room presence. Touch free solutions are in demand and are a guaranteed success for operators. Our industry’s equipment manufacturers need to step up and provide the technology that operators need. Touch free coffee? Consider Steeped Coffee, a fast-growing product that is getting rave reviews and will meet the immediate requirement of a touch free coffee solution. Ron Scadina II, the company’s vice president of sales, said interest in Steeped Coffee among operators has soared to an all-time high.
Hopefully by next month we will have numerous touch free solutions to explore.
Some good news
Every facility professional that I spoke to would like nothing more than to wave a magic wand and get back to the way things were. The value provided by the convenience services industry is not lost among forward-thinking administrators. Unfortunately, many are hearing advice from property management companies who have advised tenants to remove their coffee makers. Fortunately, facility managers generally agree on one thing: one way or another, there will be coffee in the break room.
Industry consultant Bob Tullio (www.tullioB2B.com) is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up. As he is a recognized industry expert in business development and sales, NAMA hired him to write and narrate the new online course, “Selling Convenience Services,” which is now available. Use discount code B2B10 for an instant discount and for free access to upcoming Q & A Webinars from Tullio in the coming months. Here is a free sample of the course.