Navigating a Safe Return to Work: Best Practices for US Office Building Owners and Tenants

Originally published by Shawn Moura, Ph.D., Director of Research at NAIOP in June 2020.

Measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak temporarily slowed economic activity and dramatically reduced occupancies at many commercial buildings. As state and local governments outline plans for a phased reopening of the economy, office building owners and employers are formulating plans that will allow employees to return safely to work.

This research brief provides an overview of best practices in improving safety against the coronavirus for building owners and employers. It focuses on immediate measures to improve building safety. A future research brief will address longer-term implications of the coronavirus outbreak for building operations. The brief draws from guidance provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cushman & Wakefield and JLL; insights provided by Gensler staff in a recent NAIOP webinar; and recent media reports.1 Readers should consider referring to individual guides and to the CDC website for additional recommendations.

Best Practices for Building Owners

Reopening Buildings

Owners of buildings that have been partially or entirely vacated during the outbreak need to complete several tasks to ensure that buildings are clean, safe and in good working order before reopening.

Equipping and Training Staff

As an initial step, building owners need to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks and hand sanitizer, for cleaning, maintenance and operations staff, as well as disinfectant and cleaning supplies in quantities that are sufficient to meet ongoing operations. All staff require training in the proper usage and disposal of PPE, the proper application of disinfectants, proper handwashing techniques and social-distancing measures that are in accordance with CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. This training is critical to ensure the health and safety of staff and building occupants.

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