Building safety ramps up with return to offices

‘People want to get back and see each other, and there’s going to be a real pent-up demand’

Building safety ramps up with return to offices

With some offices opening and starting to welcome back employees, there is some excitement in the air.

“Everyone we speak to, it’s almost like the first day of school. People want to get back and see each other, and there’s going to be a real pent-up demand,” says Gordon Wadley, COO of Dream Office REIT, in an interview with Canadian HR Reporter. “I think we’re going to see some excited people going back to kind of the day-to-day.”

But this is not the time to let our guards down as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Measures must be put in place to ensure that workers will be safe when they do go back to the office.

And for employers leasing office spaces, communicating with their landlords will be critical.

“Communication has been the most important thing throughout this whole pandemic,” says Wadley.

“One of the things we’ve seen with our clients is we’ll talk to them about their high utilization areas, areas where they do have a lot of high-level congregating, so boardrooms, game rooms, things like that… We work with them to put together a strategy from a base building perspective. You know, the landlord controls all of the HVAC and the mechanical, so we try to focus on those areas to ensure that they’re getting the right circulation.”

Canadian HR Reporter recently spoke with an expert for answers to five key questions about the return to the office.

Physical changes

Office buildings will look so different when employees come back. At Dream buildings, for example, there have been a lot of change, “from gating to controls for capacities for the elevators,” he says.

“For a lot of our elevators, we put zero-touch [technology] so when people come in, the arrival experience now is a lot of wayfinding, communication on the floors and on the walls, so people know how many people [are allowed] or what directions to go.”

Dream also used UV technology to ensure escalators are safe. They have also upped the frequency of cleaning of several areas of their buildings  and incorporated new cleaning standards along with post-work fogging.

While roughly three-quarters of U.S. workers want daily cleaning of their workplace amid the pandemic, many want an extra layer of defence these days – disinfecting, according to a previous report.

Gordon Wadley

And these measures may be fixtures in every office environment permanently, says Wadley.

“Going forward, smart and sophisticated tenants are going to want to align themselves with landlords that take health and safety very seriously… tenants are going to make sure that they're in buildings that are safe, and that their staff feel comfortable coming back.”

But returning to the office is not returning to the pre-pandemic “normal” in its entirety. Or at least not yet, he says.

“The [desire for] fun rooms and game rooms and things like that, I think that’s something that will transition a little bit later as people feel more comfortable.”


Learn more about how to improve employee health and wellbeing here.

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