What does the workforce in office properties look like today?

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    With many employers encouraging workers to return to their offices in the coming months, facility managers are preparing.

    The managers of real estate services companies CBRE and JLL also said they maintained the level of on-site real estate services throughout the pandemic – even with so many tenants having employees working remotely – so their existing on-site staffing levels remained stable smooth transition as more workers return to their offices.

    In some cases, facility management staff had to be maintained to maintain hygiene practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notes Randy Fink of Atlanta, director of the Property Asset Management Group at JLL. The Fink team is responsible for the management of 245 properties spanning 65 million square feet in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

    “We had to be ready to go even with a low building count, regardless of whether there were five or 500 people in a building,” he says. However, Fink notes that the janitorial staff were changed according to the needs of the inmates to reduce costs while the engineering and maintenance staff remained at full capacity.

    He cited a 300,000 square foot. Building near his office as an example. The building had a occupancy of 1,500 people prior to the pandemic, but its census dropped to 6 percent at the height of the pandemic, including Fink’s own employees. During this time there was less need for night cleaning and daytime janitorial staff were able to pick up some additional cleaning projects and do their normal duties.

    Neil Pendleton of Chicago, Senior Managing Director at CBRE’s Investor Services Group, oversees the management of 61 million square feet of office, industrial and retail real estate in downtown Chicago and says all CBRE executives were on duty during the pandemic.

    “We had to provide the level of service guaranteed in our management contract and promised in rental contracts,” he says. “We have not restricted the services we are required to provide, but have achieved financial results while we were understaffed.”

    Pendleton said the level of third party janitorial, security and landscaping staff maintained during the pandemic varied with instructions from individual builders.

    Both the CBRE and JLL property management teams implemented hybrid work models at the beginning of the pandemic and switched managers between working from home and on site. However, both companies quickly returned to full-time local staff. “We realized that we can be more effective on site,” says Fink. “We’re a very cooperative team and we’re always trying to come up with new ideas to build on our relationship with customers.”

    Pendleton said his team tried moving from home to office for six to eight months but eventually realized that everyone needed to be on site to know what was going on on the property.

    Today, “Nobody knows exactly when people will be back, but we need to be prepared,” adds Pendleton, noting that the CBRE-managed buildings have already been reoccupied to await the return of tenant workers.

    Meanwhile, according to Fink, JLL is not currently adding third-party employees in the markets it operates in, but has developed flexible plans with service providers that allow the buildings to staff quickly as more tenants return to the office .

    He notes that JLL has also deployed technology that automates routine business processes to free up management staff on site, build relationships with tenants, and focus more on the level of service. “People who used to do this are now working on developing and customizing services for tenants,” says Fink.

    According to Pendleton, CBRE launched a tenant app and an enhanced experience service called CBRE Host a few years ago. However, businesses have received much greater interest in this product lately as landlords try to welcome tenants back into their buildings. He notes that this app allows property managers to communicate directly with tenants to discuss key construction procedures and protocols.

    Both Fink and Pendleton note that any additional COVID-19-related facility management services did not affect the budget set as they were able to offset additional costs through cost reductions elsewhere. For example, while opening the HVAC system to more outside air to improve ventilation increased electricity costs, strategies have been implemented to reduce electricity consumption elsewhere, e.g. B. the installation of inexpensive technology that only activates the lighting when a room is occupied.

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