Practical Advice for Heading Back To Work and Commercial Environments
Savills is one of the world’s leading real estate advisors and manage thousands of commercial buildings and offices around the world. Experts from across the Middle East shared their best practice guidelines for returning to the office, including steps they are taking within their own workplaces.
Rachael Kennerley, Dubai:
Having a clear and rigorous sanitisation schedule will provide reassurance for teams that are operating in the office. Our team in Dubai has implemented temperature testing upon arrival, which can assist in potentially identifying individuals who may pose a health risk. Following local social distancing rules, with signage across the building and in car-parks, can also mitigate risk, as well as controlling the number of people in any one area at the same time. It is also mandatory that pantries and common eating areas are closed and employees/visitors should be provided with secure places to dispose of masks and gloves, along with enhanced hygiene measures. Facility managers should also increase the amount of soap and disinfectant supplies, as highly increased usage should be anticipated. For longer-term investment, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) should potentially be upgraded, along with water/bathroom access and lift technology to ensure the number of people in the elevator at the same time is minimized.
Suzanne Eveleigh, Sharjah:
Practically, it may take time for things like lift technology to be upgraded, so individuals should take responsibility. On a simple level, potentially don’t get into the lift if there are too many people. That will require judgement based on the size of the elevator. It’s also easy to slip back into a comfort zone when with people you know – it’s important to maintain social distancing, even if the opportunity to catch-up with colleagues is tempting. Use tape to keep a distance between employees/customers and map out the floorplan to keep people as far apart as possible. In our Sharjah office, we have also put up instructions and notices to employees and customers, and we’re investigating Perspex barriers for customer service/cashier desks.
For people sharing equipment, such as phones, desks and keyboards, we’ve implemented additional sterilization procedures to reduce potential contact transmission.
With pantries/office kitchens closed, it is recommended to bring food and drink from home. Food deliveries can create congestion in lift-zones, as well as bring your office team into contact with many external third-party visitors. If somebody gets sick in the office, it is essential to have an isolation room, where someone can wait for medics. Similarly, every person in the office should be made aware of potential virus exposure and, where contact has occurred, be instructed to isolate/work from home as well.
James Bailey, Egypt:
In addition to the above measures, one of the most simple, but effective ways to keep hygiene levels in the office as robust as possible, is to keep floor space and desks as clear as possible. This can help housekeeping teams to make sure their cleaning is thorough and rigorous. Dependent on the office environment, reducing the amount of cash handling and adopting digital payment measures instead, can minimize the need for physical contact with clients/suppliers.
Stuart Williamson, Oman:
We have increased the frequency of office deep cleans, demonstrating an enhanced focus on maintaining a healthy environment. The housekeeping teams are also being given extra time at evenings and weekends to spend on cleaning and giving each area extra attention. Within the office teams, all health and safety communications must be shared via internal systems and via email, as well as physical signage in high volume areas, such as receptions and bathrooms. Within reception areas, the installation of hand sanitizers is highly recommended. It is also essential to register and capture all third-party visitor details – this helps in terms of sharing knowledge about any potential exposure risk. Imposing additional restrictions on couriers, water delivery, food delivery drivers and other similar third parties can limit external traffic throughout the building/property.
Global property agents Savills provide an extensive range of residential and commercial services across the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Established in the Middle East over 44 years ago, expertise includes everything from financial and investment advice to valuation, planning, and property management. Originally founded in the UK in 1855, Savills has a long-standing history and over 600 offices across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East.