Key safety tips for real estate pros returning to the office during COVID-19
Thursday, October 29, 2020
The real estate industry has embraced remote work so efficiently that a return to the office may only be necessary for socializing, and that too can be accomplished to some degree using remote tools. The health of staff and clients is paramount for the real estate industry. Here are some key safety tips for real estate professionals who may be returning to the office.
Though many real estate professionals, from attorneys to salespeople, determine their own schedules, it will be important to provide specific times that staff members can be in office to maintain social distancing and sanitizing schedules.
Consider dividing the workforce into A and B groups. For instance, the A group may work Monday/Wednesday/Friday during week one and Tuesday/Thursday during week two. Group B would work an opposite schedule. This approach allows for easier contact tracing should a case of COVID-19 occur. To encourage staff to feel comfortable in the office environment and confident in their ability to remain healthy, discussions should be had well before an actual return to office occurs.
According to Modest Money, “Schedule routine cleaning maintenance often and make sure all-encompassing disinfection is carried out. Any surfaces that are touched frequently, like doorknobs, office machinery, vending machines or small appliances in the breakroom should be sanitized after each use. Invest in spray sanitizers and place them in readily accessible locations with polite signs asking everyone to … Please spritz after using this area.”
Schedule ample time for cleaning staff to disinfect office equipment, restrooms, and frequently touched areas.
Moving is not a new concept for people in the real estate business. In this instance we are talking about rearranging office furnishings. Move desks and chairs as far away from each other as is physically possible. If there is not a great deal of distance between desks, reconsider their placement and perhaps create a back-to-back pattern to lessen the amount of shared air.
Install plexiglass dividers between workspaces so light still flows between areas but contaminates do not. In reception areas plexiglass dividers are very important to install; otherwise, consider banning visitors to the office for the duration of COVID-19.
Personal Protective Equipment
Everyone now knows that masks help protect the spread of the virus. Masks not only help us stay safer but recently have become fashion statements, well, OK, maybe just a little bit! Take mask wearing to the next level and have some printed with your company’s logo and make them available to everyone in the office.
Print out the CDC guidelines that explain how to properly wear a mask and post this information at the entrance to your offices and anywhere you would normally place legal notices. Additionally, it would prove useful for the health of all people working in the office to have disposable gloves available to use for frequently touched items, like copy machines. Face shields are inexpensive and can be custom printed on the edges, but a face shield does not take the place of a mask and should always be used in conjunction with a mask.
The control you have over the quality of the air in your office may be determined by the type of building you work in. A freestanding small office may have windows that can be opened and an HVAC system you can control.
A large office tower that is shared by many companies may not have the luxury of total atmospheric control. Find out from building management what is being done to purify the air and increase ventilation. If access to your offices requires an elevator ride you may want to find out if there are any protocols in place to reduce transmission in small spaces. A tabletop fan can help circulate air away from you when sitting at a desk and small air purifiers are available for your personal space at the office.
While most people take ample precautions, you must have protocols in place to protect office staff. Daily screenings and temperatures can alert you to possibly infectious persons; unfortunately, transmission can occur when a person is asymptomatic, meaning they have no visible sign of infection.
Be aware of unusual coughs in your fellow workers and if someone looks feverish do not delay sending that person out of the office immediately. If someone who has been working in your office tests positive, consider yourself exposed and take precautions for yourself and family members.
Testing has become more routinely available in most counties. A positive test among office staff will necessitate closing of the office for a period and professional cleaning and sanitizing should be done before anyone reenters the office.
Notify other tenants, building management and your local health department for guidelines to reopen. Health officials will want to do contact tracing to minimize further spread and recognize those that are at risk. For more information check the CDC guidelines for protocol when someone in the office has COVID-19. To avoid this type of situation, make sure all staff in your office know they are not to come to work if they feel ill.
People are already balancing work, home, commitments to elderly family members and errands, some with more anxiety than others. It is important to provide as safe an environment as possible for those who work in a shared space. Real estate companies are poised to provide their employees with the maximum amount of efficiency whether working from a home or in the company office. With flexibility and thoughtfulness, you will be able to weather this difficult time.
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