Pandemic Vacancies & Re-Occupancy Uncertainties

The road to reopening workplaces this year is rough. Building owners and managers certainly have their work cut out for them. So too their service contractors.

The odds against a smooth and rapid reopening are daunting. Consider these variables:

Whichever way re-opening ends up, it’s a good bet it will be two vaccines forward, one variant backward.

Building owners and managers will have to deal with pandemic vacancies as some tenants have shrunk space or disappeared, leaving square footage vacant or abandoned.

They will also have to deal with re-occupancy uncertainties as employees, tenants, students, staff, etc. return to work. Occupants are likely to change when and how often they go to their workplace.

A McKinsey & Company report found that more than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely 3-5 days a week and a Pew Research survey found that 54% of Americans prefer remote work all or most of the time.

Add to this mix, building owners and managers need their service contractors to change their work to match occupants’ changing schedules.

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Service Contractors Load-Leveling Work to the New Normal

Last year, services began changing to match occupants’ altered frequencies and schedules. When pandemic lockdowns torched normalcy, building owners and managers asked for help and service contractors delivered on the fly.

This altered-service raised operating costs, e.g., frequent disinfection, signage/barriers for social distancing, new closing/opening hours, etc.

However, in 2021 building owners and managers are looking to regain control of their budgets.

One path is to readjust services to the new normal of variable occupancy. This means amending contracts and/or rebidding them out, which is typically done in an RFP process.

Yet there’s a problem with pre-pandemic RFPs – they are no longer relevant. They contain service specifications from the days before COVID-19, or at best RFPs now include a couple of questions about pandemic plans.

Service specifications have not kept up with occupants’ changing use (frequencies and/or schedules) of their workplaces.

For this pandemic and future ones, building owners and managers will need to rewrite their RFPs to address the scope (what gets done?) of areas serviced (where?), the frequency (how often?), and the service schedule (when?).

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What Building Owners & Managers Really Want from Service Contractors

Putting aside the need for updated RFPs…

Building owners and managers really want a new way of specifying service that is entirely needs-based – along with the leaner costs and lower prices that go with it.

Heck of a burden for service contractors to deliver on that customer want – but let’s sketch a theoretical one anyway.

First, the primary cost in most services is the labor, and that is driven by tasks required, which are typically driven by occupant usage of their workspace.

Therefore, the ideal would be a service specification that is driven by occupant usage at seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly levels.

This would be a unique, one-off instruction set for each individual day of the year (January 26th is different from March 30), for each individual area of a building, and is calculated entirely on that building’s unique occupant usage and service need.

From that detailed hourly specification (adjusted for day of the week, week of the month, month of the year, and seasonal variations), service contractors would be able to workload and job cost a unique daily price. From there, sum up those 365 costs. Voila!

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Summary of Specification Specificity

In today’s new normal, all areas of a building are no longer used equally, nor by the typical number of people, nor at their former times. The building’s service specifications, costs, and pricing should reflect that change.

The need for this hyper-level of service specificity is real while the recognition of that need may be lagging.

While the problem is simple to explain, the solution will be complex. But building owners and managers, and their service contractors will both benefit from the advancement, such as:

  • Hyper-specific service specifications for contractors – easier training & labor replacement
  • Lean daily pricing & reduced costs that squeeze out guesstimates
  • Occupants’ trust in their workplace rebuilt – higher productivity, creativity & collaboration
  • Buildings’ healthiness (yeah, “healthiness” is a word) increases occupants’ experience & buildings’ operational performance

While the re-occupancy road ahead may be rocky and unclear, solutions that make the journey better-faster-cheaper are always worth the effort.

Pandemic Vacancies & Re-Occupancy Uncertainties first published on LinkedIn

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