Preparing Tenants and Staff For Life After a COVID-19 Shutdown

Preparing Tenants and Staff For Life After a COVID-19 Shutdown

RCM&D has designed a comprehensive Back to Business Playbook for the Real Estate Industry. This playbook aims to assist in developing a tailored plan for bringing back your full workforce and tenant population. If you would like to receive a copy of this report, please complete the form at the bottom of this page and an RCM&D advisor will contact you. The RCM&D team is available to help review your existing plan, offer enhancement and verification, or even to help you build a customized plan tailored to your operations.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were forced to alter their operations as a majority of Americans were under stay-at-home orders. As states and local jurisdictions begin relaxing these orders, the real estate industry is preparing to return to the world after coronavirus restrictions. As we return to a state of normalcy, changes will need to be made to reassure tenants, visitors, and staff that your location is a safe place to live, visit, and work. As owners and managers in the real estate industry, the steps you take over the next few months will be extremely important to reassure your tenants, guests and staff that measures have been implemented to ensure their health and safety.

Below, we offer a concise but effective overview of necessary considerations to ensure a safe return to operations for your facility. 

Key Considerations for Property Managers

Following the advice of risk control specialists can help you assess and control the risk of infection at your properties. These steps must be aligned with federal, state and local guidance. During this time, the task force should develop strategic plans to prepare for a smooth transition back to full operations. Considerations include:

  • Consider naming a “Hygiene Manager” to oversee all preventive measures.
  • Identify high-risk areas, typically those that are common to multiple employees, tenants and guests. Also, consider designating staff to clean these high-risk areas at 20-minute intervals.
  • How will you show spaces to potential tenants while accommodating social distancing and limiting person-to-person interface?

Preparing the Facility

During the COVID-19 pandemic, your building may have been completely vacant or operating with a skeleton crew and/or at limited occupancy. It is recommended to perform thorough inspections or assessments before allowing employees, tenants and guests to return. Applicable inspections and other considerations may include:

  • Inspections and maintenance of all of all major systems including mechanical and HVAC, water systems, fire and life safety, and medical equipment and devices.
  • Posting signage to promote proper handwashing techniques, respiratory etiquette (covering cough/sneeze) and avoidance of face touching.

Proper cleaning and disinfection of common areas at your facility is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Whether your building was shut down or was open for regular business, you’ll need to consider your cleaning and sanitization protocols.

Preparing Your Facility for Social Distancing

As staff, tenants and visitors return, social distancing should be employed as a control to reduce the risk of infection. Spaces that tend to get crowded may need to be rearranged, meeting spaces closed off, custodial and maintenance shops modified, and package and product delivery redesigned. In addition, clear circulation patterns for high-traffic areas will need to be identified. It’s prudent to evaluate social distancing risk for all areas of the building, utilizing building blueprints/floor plans and heat map tracking.
Consider the following elements for social distancing at your facility:

  • Rearrange work areas to account for six feet of space among staff and between visitors and staff.
  • Consider common areas such as employee time clocks and locker rooms. Place markers on the floor to encourage six feet of separation.
  • Identify circulation patterns in areas with high foot traffic such as water fountains, elevators, fitness centers, pools and pool decks, playgrounds, stairways, break rooms, locker rooms and maintenance shops.

Additionally, it is important to consider the following factors when implementing a Social Distancing plan for your facility:

  • Impact on amenities (pools & spas, fitness centers, etc.)
  • Signage promoting social distancing
  • Mandating the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Resident/Tenant Infection

If a resident tests positive for COVID-19 and notifies the property owner or manager, the owner or manager should follow the CDC’s guidance and work with local health officials. It is the responsibility of the healthcare provider, not the patient, to report cases of disease to health departments and the CDC. A notice to the community may go out in the event a resident or employee has a confirmed case and should be a business decision made with appropriate legal counsel. Extreme caution is advised if choosing to make a disclosure because of privacy laws. It is important to remember that the person’s identity or other identifying information (name, unit number, etc.) should never be disclosed.

Preparations for the Workforce and Tenants

An important aspect of a back to business plan for all industries is creating an effective communications plan for the workforce to ensure their health and wellbeing. 
Additionally, considerations should be made for the following areas:

  • Staffing (absenteeism and flexible work hours)
  • Adding to staff
  • PTO and sick policies
  • Temperature checks
  • Protocols for staff who may be ill (including a questionnaire for potentially sick employees)
  • Employee training 
  • Staff meetings
  • Vendor/contractor guidelines

Custodial Services

Policies for worker protection and training to all cleaning staff onsite should be provided prior to providing cleaning tasks. The risk of exposure and infection is low to housekeeping staff, as long as they follow provided guidelines. Training categories should include:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • OSHA standards
  • CDC guidelines
  • Disinfection standards after a confirmed positive COVID-19 case
  • Cleaning electronics
  • Laundry
  • Trash pick up

Specific Considerations for the Real Estate Industry

There are a number of unique areas for the Real Estate industry to address in a back to business plan.
These areas include:

  • Leasing Offices
    • Consider requesting that tenants avoid visiting the leasing office if at all possible and provide means for tenants to contact personnel via phone, text, email, and/or Zoom or other virtual means.
  • Lobbies
    • Remove objects in your common areas such as self-serve coffee/tea stations.
  • Showing Properties to Prospective Tenants
    • In lieu of office traffic, management may consider moving all prospect tours to virtual tours using technology like Skype or FaceTime.
  • Collecting Rent
    • To prevent continued exposure, residents and tenants should be encouraged to pay rent online if applicable at their community/building.
  • Facilities Maintenance
    • To limit exposure, you may wish to consider deferring non-essential maintenance and handle only emergency or urgent issues (as allowed by applicable law).
  • Resident/Tenant Move-In and Move-Out
    • Require that residents and tenants make appointments for these events so that elevator and exterior door use can be managed appropriately.
  • Clubhouse
    • Because occupancy for resident events should be limited to fewer than 10 people at a time, it is recommended that virtual events are held instead until these restrictions are reduced or removed at the federal and state levels.
  • Fitness Centers
    • Place markers on the floor to indicate where residents can stand to remain six feet apart to assist in reinforcing the importance of social distancing, especially if your fitness center typically experiences high traffic.
    • A contracting company should come weekly at minimum for a deep cleaning of fitness facilities. Electrostatic spraying of equipment should also be considered.
  • Pools/Spas
    • Residents could be assigned specific days to use the pool. During pool time, residents will have designated spots marked on the surrounding pool deck to sit or stand.
    • Limit the length of time residents can stay at the pool area to allow for more residents to use the pool each day.
  • Playgrounds
    • Follow local park guidelines in your area, as it is difficult to clean between resident use of this equipment. Should you allow access to playgrounds, high-touch surfaces made of plastic or metal such as grab bars and railings should be routinely cleaned.
  • Communal Grill/Outdoor Areas
    • Require residents to reserve grill and picnic spaces so that contact tracing can be performed if necessary. Request that tenants clean and disinfect communal grills, cookware, tables, and seating before and after use. 
  • Parking Garages
    • As you consider enhancements to parking garages, consider moving to contactless ticket dispensers such as replacing “touch” ticket dispensers with sensor-driven dispensers.

We’re Here to Help

RCM&D’s risk consulting team is highly experienced in developing back to business plans for the Real Estate industry. Whether you are a fully operational facility bringing back ancillary services or a fully remote workforce returning to onsite operations, we’re here to help you identify your route to reopening by: 

Developing Internal Programs

We can develop or review custom internal programs targeted for your specific facilities, employees and operations. 

Implementing Infection Control Protocols 

Ensure that you are able to not only prevent exposure but also identify, isolate and sanitize in the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case. 

Social Distance Heat Mapping 

Identify areas within your facility that may be a concern for effective social distancing measures. Using those insights, we can help you mitigate concerns through appropriate intervention techniques.