A safe return to the office - what does that really mean?
“We’re now seeing the figures that we need to increase going up and those that need to fall are coming down”. Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge was recently sounding positive about the increase in the number of people vaccinated and the decline in Covid-related hospital admissions. Optimism is growing across society and many companies are preparing to significantly increase the options for working at the office, including in the form of 'hybrid working'. We must continue to be optimistic. However, we also need to be realistic: COVID-19 is here to stay and an awareness of the ways in which the virus is transmitted will continue to be important. As the property manager for hundreds of office buildings in the Netherlands, we are making an important contribution to developing working environments that are as safe as possible and/or providing roadmaps to make that happen. So, what does this mean in concrete terms?
High-quality property management means that ‘HSE’ (health, safety & environment) is firmly embedded as a basis. In practice, this involves regular preventive maintenance on systems and installations that can affect office users’ well-being (air-conditioning systems, for example). Essential factors in this include proper observance of laws and regulations and ensuring that any certification is updated in good time. A focus on this ‘basis’ will lay firm foundations for the healthy use of buildings while also helping to conserve energy.
Communication & Communities
Proactive communication about everything associated with safe office use ensures that users know where they stand from the outset and do not face any unpleasant surprises. In addition to personal contact, we also use other forms of media, such as information consoles in building lobbies, digital newsletters and we have recently launched Host Building in the Netherlands. Host Building is a combination of technology (an app for mobile devices) and services, focusing on creating communities of office users and optimising these groups’ experiences.
Providing pure indoor air
As the pandemic has developed, the important role that aerosols can and do play in the transition of COVID-19 has gradually become clear. Since we rarely have offices in the open air, a property manager has an important role to play in ensuring a healthy indoor climate. In concrete terms, this means not recirculating ‘dirty’ indoor air, but ventilating as much as possible using 100% fresh outdoor air. We also ensure that checks are made to ensure ventilation systems in lifts and sanitary facilities are operating effectively. One key innovation now being applied within our portfolio involves the suction removal and filtering of air in lift cabins. A great idea if you are about to enter a lift in which several people were just standing!
Hygiene supported by technology
Obviously, hygiene standards have been raised. Banisters, door handles and other touchable surfaces are being disinfected more frequently. Moving to the next level will focus on the avoidance of physical contact in gaining access. Host Building technology supports the use of QR codes in providing targeted access for staff or visitors to certain rooms, possibly programmed for a specific time slot. This has the added advantage of ensuring that both employees’ and visitors’ customer journeys become more user-friendly and more convenient. Better hygiene and convenience go hand in hand!