the Connection

Back to the Workplace: Connecting While Distancing

With Sara Maffey

As companies prepare to welcome employees back to their workplaces, they inevitably are considering how organizational culture, workplace layout, tenant amenities, capital investments and daily operations will change in the “new normal.” Sara Maffey, who serves on Transwestern’s Back-to-the-Workplace taskforce, has spoken to real estate experts both inside and outside the company to understand what is influencing priorities and driving decisions.

TW: What will be landlords’ biggest priorities as tenants and visitors return to their buildings?

Sara: Landlords’ immediate focus as we return to the workplace are the property management protocols being put in place to protect the health of tenants and visitors – cleaning of high-touch, high-traffic common areas, changes to air handling and social distancing. The Asset Services experts on our taskforce have provided general guidance as well as customized, comprehensive plans to clients on those operational changes.

I would caution landlords against making any major investments right now in response to COVID-19. There are many low- and no-cost ways that landlords can prepare their assets in the short term to prepare for tenants to return to the workplace. Common areas and amenities should be reconsidered, rearranged and repurposed – just as occupiers are doing within their own office spaces. Any investment should be on touchless technologies and on improvements that focus on health and wellness.

TW: What occupier trends will lose their appeal, at least in the short term?

Sara: In the short term, as occupiers create staggered plans to return to the workplace, the purpose for being in the office will change. The trend of coming together in high densities must necessarily be put on hold as we practice social distancing within existing spaces. Collaboration on specific tasks or kicking off a project may be considered an essential function to be completed in person. 

At the same time, the past two months of working from home have been enough time for new habits to be formed or enforced. The desire for choice and flexibility in the places we work will continue to accelerate. The need for building amenities to provide spaces for individual health and wellness will grow in ways many secondary markets have not yet seen. The past decade’s race to amenitization both in building common areas and within tenants’ spaces will shift to respond to the current reality, and I am excited for the changes this will bring to our assets and to the tenant experience.

TW: How does Placemaking fit in?

Sara: In my role, I work with agency leasing and asset services teams across the country to curate ecosystems of tenants, amenities, programming and design around researched, contextual themes within our assets. When we started to see the impacts of COVID-19, we realized our approach would need to shift, so I created a video series, “Social Connectivity X Social Distancing” to start the conversation about what comes next. You can view the video series here

Sara Maffey
Managing Director, Placemaking
Atlanta, GA

Phone: 404.842.6542

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