Real Estate News Exchange (RENX)
c/o Squall Inc.
P.O. Box 1484, Stn. B
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5P6
Canada: 1-855-569-6300

"CRE Matters" Columnists

Synthia Kloot Senior Vice President, Operations, Colliers International
Oliver Tighe Executive Managing Director, Commercial Appraisal Group, Colliers
Tanya Nicholson Director, Marketing, Landlord and Investment Sales, Colliers International
Madeleine Nicholls Managing Director, GTA, Colliers
David Bowden Vice Chairman, Head of Strategy and Consulting, Colliers Canada
Scott Bowden Head of Valuation & Advisory Services, Colliers Canada
Sarah Bramley and Amy Vuong Colliers International
Brendan Neeson Executive Director of Property Tax Services, Alberta, Colliers International
Lex Perry Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Research, Colliers Canada
Colliers National Multifamily Team, East, Colliers Colliers National Multifamily Team, East
Karl Innannen Managing Director, Broker, Colliers, Kitchener
Shiri Rosenberg Director of Asset Strategy, Innovation and Community Spaces, Colliers
Colin Alves & Jean-Marc Dube Colliers Toronto & Montreal
Janina Franceschutti Executive V-P, National Investment Services, Colliers Canada
Eric Horvath, CCIM Senior Vice President & Partner, Colliers
Adam Grisack Director, Valuation & Advisory Services, Colliers Canada
Eliezer Timolien Senior Research Analyst, Colliers
Robyn Baxter Senior Vice President & Co-Managing Director, Workplace Advisory, Colliers Canada
Arnold Fox Senior Vice President, Real Estate Broker, Montreal, Colliers
Alam Pirani Executive Managing Director, Colliers Hotels
Sarah Bramley Associate Vice President, Workplace Strategy & Innovation, Colliers
Bill Hennessey Managing Director, Moncton Brokerage, Colliers
Greg Taylor Managing Director, Halifax Brokerage, Colliers
Dayma Itamunoala Associate Vice President, Sales Representative, Toronto Brokerage, Colliers
Grant Evans Senior Vice President, Victoria Brokerage, Colliers
Lilian Kan Director, Development Management, Colliers Strategy & Consulting, Vancouver
Bonita Craig & Robyn Baxter Colliers Canada
Daniel Holmes President, Brokerage Services | Canada, Colliers
Sehaj Gill Associate Director, Property Tax Services, Colliers
Jane Domenico Senior Vice-President & National Lead, Retail Services
Robin McLuskie Managing Director, Canadian Hotel Brokerage, Colliers
Douglas Pulver Executive Managing Director, Colliers Vancouver
Tonya Lagrasta Head of ESG, Colliers Real Estate Management Services Canada
Pat Phillips Senior Vice President, Colliers Vancouver Brokerage
Rob Newman Senior Director of Property Tax Services, Colliers
Adam Jacobs Senior National Director, Research, Colliers Canada
Darrell Hurst Darrell Hurst, Senior Managing Director, Brokerage, Colliers
Jean-Marc Dubé and Arnold Fox Colliers Montreal
Robert Brazzell Managing Director, Ontario Property Tax Services, Colliers Canada
Damian Bernacik Director, Legal Services, Property Tax Services
Susan Thompson Associate Director of Research, Colliers Vancouver
Peter Garrigan, SIOR Executive Managing Director, Greater Toronto Area | Colliers Brokerage
Rob Purdy Executive Director, Colliers Canada’s Valuation and Advisory Services
Ryan McIver Senior Vice-President and Broker, Colliers Toronto


Top-6 ways the workplace is changing post-COVID-19: Part II

It will likely be over a year from the time most companies shifted to remote working, before a CO...

It will likely be over a year from the time most companies shifted to remote working, before a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in Canada. By then, the positive and negative aspects of working from both the office and home will have been well tested.

Studies indicate that post-COVID, most employees will prefer to adopt a hybrid working environment. Most employers will try to accommodate this preference, particularly if they have seen improvements in employee productivity and engagement as a result of remote working.

But even after an effective vaccine and anti-viral medication are developed and made available, the effects of the virus will linger for some time post-pandemic, three of which are addressed in this column.

Buildings will focus more on health and wellness

While building systems were constantly improving pre-COVID with regards to airflow, sustainability, and cost and energy efficiency, occupants are now paying more attention to health and wellness. This will accelerate implementation of initiatives focused on these aspects, according to John Duda, president, real estate management services with Colliers Canada.

“Going beyond building systems, health and wellness programs could be amenity-driven, focusing on how buildings use outside space, for example,” Duda says. “Case in point: Colliers Canada’s Real Estate Management Services Team, in partnership with building owner Desjardins Life Assurance Company, put in a street-level urban garden at 95 St. Clair in Toronto, spanning the building’s entrance all the way onto the street.

“Tenants participate in this initiative, and vegetation grown in the garden is donated to a local shelter. Tenants and community members alike are highly engaged with the program, demonstrating the positive, lasting impact of maximizing a property’s space and amenities for health and wellness purposes.”

95 St. Clair, an International TOBY (The Outstanding Building of the Year) Award winner, also has energy efficiency methods and leading environmental practices in place, benefiting occupants with its efforts to promote sustainability and well-being.

“WELL and Fitwell Building certifications have been increasingly adopted over the past decade, turning owners’ and occupiers’ attention from sustainability alone to a more wholesome view of the built environment and how people behave within it,” says Robyn Baxter, vice president, workplace strategy and innovation with Colliers Canada. “We can expect to see additional dimensions to these, reflecting post-COVID concerns and preparing for potential future pandemics.

“BOMA, ASHRAE, LEED and other building systems standards are already being updated to reflect raised expectations on how building systems are designed and operated.”

Hygiene and sanitation will also remain paramount post-pandemic.

“In the short-term, there has been an increase in both surface and systems cleaning, which will continue for the foreseeable future,” Duda says.

Antimicrobial materials and surfaces will become a necessity. Touchless technology will become the expectation, both in building common areas and offices.

Synthia Kloot, Colliers Canada’s senior vice president of brokerage operations, comments: “Colliers’ Toronto offices are now equipped with Bluetooth-enabled coffee machines that dispense beverages without employees having to touch the buttons on the screen. I foresee increased use in buildings of touchless doors and washroom flushes, voice-activated or foot-operated elevators – even voice-print automation.”

Just as important as the improvements buildings owners make to their properties is the need to take the technical specifications of such improvements, and communicate them directly, simply and meaningfully to tenants’ employees. Silence will raise questions and concerns and may even create unease and mistrust.

The workplace itself is likely to change dramatically

Thirty years of workplace densification is likely to reverse course, to some degree.

According to Colliers Canada’s Work from Home Survey Results, almost 60 per cent of respondents claimed individual, focused work is better performed at home. As I mentioned in Part I of this column, employee belief that having a private, dedicated space aids in increased productivity will lead to a growing demand for private or quiet space in their workplace to allow for greater concentration.

However, a balance must be struck between employees’ desire for a private workspace and employers’ need for cost – and space – efficiency.

Today, most companies offer either a dedicated (assigned offices/workstations) or agile (unassigned seating) environment.

We may very well see the introduction of “semi-assigned” seating that will have small groups with compatible hybrid work schedules sharing private offices with colleagues with whom they are comfortable. This solution could be the balance of cost-efficiency and the productivity benefits of a dedicated, private workspace.

While there will be a greater demand for individual workspaces and potential shifts in workplace accommodation, the role of collaborative spaces in the office environment will not only stay intact but become more integral.

“A side effect of remote working is that people miss collaborating, having ‘water cooler’ conversations and bumping into one another – all important interactions for relationship-building,” says Kerris Hougardy, Colliers’ vice president of people services for North America. “For days employees are in the office, collaborative and social spaces with functional technology, where people can have coffee or meetings, or ‘bump into’ coworkers and build connections, will be critical.”

“Creating a sense of community will be more challenging – and more essential – as people embrace staggered workdays,” Kloot says. “There will need to be a deliberate creation of spaces where people can physically come together, with the ability to ‘broadcast’ events so those working from home can participate.”

Continued remote working will certainly demand more from workplace technology.

With organizations adopting hybrid work structures, seamless interaction among team members, whether in the office or elsewhere, is important to ensure all employees feel included and are inclusive, and companies are authentic, truly supportive of employees working from the office or home, and not sending an unconscious bias message that they actually want all staff to work from the office full-time.

Meeting rooms and desks will need to be equipped with technology allowing for ubiquitous meetings among employees wherever they may be working.

Kloot, co-lead for Colliers’ diversity and inclusion program, adds: “As people continue to work from home and don’t experience face-to-face connections, it’s especially important to focus on inclusion of the work scenarios and be more mindful of holding inclusive events that foster relationships and culture, and make employees feel part of the team. As circumstances differ, we need to maintain the momentum we have set.”

Finally, with the formed habits of social distancing and minimal contact enduring post-pandemic, efficient access and egress will be more important for employers and their staff, shifting – quite literally – building pricing models. Lower floors may start to attract premium pricing because accessible entry and exit points will become a higher priority for occupants.

Amenities within buildings will also likely change

The importance of quality, accessible and affordable childcare solutions has been reinforced during the pandemic. Indeed, a reason many businesses have not been able to resume operations is the difficulty employees are facing in securing childcare.

Employers and landlords looking to attract a millennial workforce are likely to make this element a higher priority in their building selection criteria or base of amenities.

As well, according to Hougardy, “There will be a move towards more expansive areas in buildings where people can safely and comfortably sit, chat and eat. We see such spaces in buildings now, but employees’ desire to socialize and connect with others – in areas thoughtfully designed to accommodate post-pandemic expectations – will lead to the creation of more.”

The pandemic has also made door-to-door delivery more prevalent, and employees will want access to this service in the workplace. Buildings will need a robust solution enabling occupants to receive, return and hold packages on-site.

Existing amenity areas could potentially be converted to “package depots”; otherwise, reception areas within tenant spaces will be overrun.

Part-time work in the office will likewise influence the operational models for certain amenities.

Current daily/hourly parking rates are excessive in most CBDs for workers driving to the office only a couple of days a week, and monthly parking passes will go underutilized. New-generation parking models that affordably meet the needs of building occupants will need to be created.

The same philosophy will apply to building fitness facilities and other similar types of services.

In closing

Navigating the future of work will call for thoughtful, strategic advice.

It is critical for us as industry experts to determine best practices rooted in fact rather than historical bias, which will help businesses optimize office operations in this new landscape, and employees feel safe and supported. Asking the right questions, be it via actual conversations or pulse surveys, is as imperative as giving the right answers.

Staying ahead of trends is as necessary as responding to the current situation.

Industry Events