By Tracy Lewis, Managing Director
Another month has passed, and another famous movie quote comes to mind. This time, however, it is one that I hope will not resonate with us months down the line!
As children return to school and the Government encourages staff to go back to the workplace, we find ourselves confused as to how safe it is to do so.
Fears of a second wave in winter against the economic pressures make decision making for business owners and individuals feel like a game of Russian roulette. I find myself flicking from TV channels to websites to newspapers just to see if I can find a consistent message anywhere. On the rare occasion that happens, I find that parity lasted for all but a fleeting moment and I am back to the middle of the COVID-19 maze trying to find the nearest exit!
So, with such a backdrop, attention has clearly been on keeping everyone safe in their work environments; whether that is to still encourage working from home, or to increase cleaning regimes, improve ventilation and all the other advice that we have previously set out in our Building and Workplace Re-entry Guide. Our work with clients over the last few months has highlighted that some M&E regimes may no longer be appropriate and therefore new building optimisation strategies will need to be implemented.
The reality is that the changes we have made and continue to make, based on what we believed would be short term measures, are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future and beyond. Services in buildings will require tuning to account for lower occupancy levels and part occupancy of floors, which may affect tenant recharges. Budgets and out-of-hour methodologies will need to be reviewed and the key to success will be how this is communicated to landlords and occupiers. This, alongside the challenges of the current supply market with protracted credit negotiations and volume tolerances once again appearing in supply contracts, I have no doubt, will make for a perfect storm in tenant discussions. It will lead to a greater desire for service charge audits and, therefore, it is vital that agents and landlords are seen to be pro-active in their approach.
That said, early engagement around the procurement strategies, monitoring and targeting, and recharge and budget methodologies, will allay the concerns of occupiers and mitigate the inevitable disputes that will present themselves if landlords and agents fail to communicate.
But it is not all doom and gloom. I for one am happy to be thinking about returning our team to the office. We have all missed the comradery, but we have also learned some valuable lessons about what we as individuals can achieve from the relative peace of working from home. There is a perfect balance to be struck between thinking time and collaboration time but, for now, I will just remain excited about welcoming the team back in the coming months. Moreover, I look forward to the day that we can meet with you, our clients, and look back on this time together safe in the knowledge that we got it right. I guess only time will tell as to whether the communication has struck the right cord, but a failure to communicate can only have one consequence, and for that, I say – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat…”
Stay safe and stay well!