CREW NJ Members Living in a COVID-19 World

June 1, 2020

CREW NJ Members Living in a COVID-19 World

As we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has rocked the CRE industry along with the rest of the world. We decided to reach out to our members to see how they are coping with the new landscape we all find ourselves in by asking the following questions:

What restrictions is your company facing right now, and how are you making them work during the pandemic? How do you see your previous workspace/workflow changing in your company/sector when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted?

If you haven’t been contacted yet, we’d love to hear your take on this constantly changing environment too! If you’d like to join the discussion, please email Beth Burke at beth@crscostseg.com by June 12. 

Here are some of our most recent responses:


Elke Merz
Architectural Solutions Consultant, Steelcase
emerz1@steelcase.com
I work for a global manufacturer; our first challenge was mandated manufacturing shutdowns. In the meantime, we have been given go aheads in various states and countries to plan to re-open. Changes needed to be implemented for safety of course, and now our factories are back! Production is ramping up and we are navigating through what helping customers looks like under these new conditions. For my role in sales, I have moved all my meetings to “virtual” meetings. Surprisingly, we have all been very busy, leaning on Teams and Zoom.

So this is the world that I reside in. We have the top workplace researchers in the world, and they have been busy studying/watching/deciphering and learning as things progress. There will not be just one answer, but a whole wide strategy that will have a now, a near and a future game plan that will most likely be a living plan. First and foremost, everyone’s safety is the most important priority. So for the “now” - once restrictions are lifted, it is waiting to see how safe the “world” is first (how to safely commute/travel). Then the next thought is, “How do you ensure we are in safe places and how are we protecting ourselves and others?” While I think there will be some modifications to the workplace, it’s my belief that in the “near” we will still be relying heavily on virtual connections. There is a new charged energy and much collaboration between government recommendations, codes, building owners, employers, legal and manufacturers to solve for a safe return back to the office.
 

Karen Cangialosi

Senior Account Executive, Fidelity National Title Group
karen.cangialosi@fnf.com

Right now all our staff must work remotely, but closings have continued with all parties using masks and gloves. We have been passing paperwork without people in the same room . . . even in parking lots. Everything else is working out fine remotely with wire transfers, emails and conference meetings. 

The work environment will definitely change. As we go back to work, only 25% of our people will be physically working in our offices. Those who can work remotely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  A few people are currently monitoring mail and other administrative duties. Getting new business will be the most challenging . . . WE will have to navigate through social media as opposed to attending networking events in person. 
 

Donna McBarron, Esq.
Of Counsel, Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla
dmcbarron@ghclaw.com

We are working from home, but I am just as busy.  As a commercial leasing attorney, I’ve been called upon by both landlords and tenants to review the force majeure provisions in leases, and other relevant language, to see whether the lease provides for the forgiveness of rent in these circumstances. In most cases, the answer is “No.” Still, many landlords are giving tenants concessions, and I am helping to craft and memorialize those agreements.  

I’m waiting to see what happens with the open space floorplans that many “cutting edge” companies transitioned to in recent years. Partitions, cubicles and individual offices with closed doors are going to make to make a comeback.  
 

Carolynn Vineis

Vice President, North Star Signs, Inc.
carolynnv@northstarsign.com

I am currently working with my end users in all business sectors including corporate, higher education, property owners and managers on getting their spaces open. We are using a series of agenda topics to start the dialogue and determine what is needed in areas such as campus entry points and pathways; parking; in-building travel; and lounge, restroom, office and athletic spaces. 
 
We are “tweaking” our standard signage designs into a personal program based on what the client wants to say and where. I would be happy to answer anyone who may have questions or need some guidance on how to sign their facility for post-COVID return.
 

Julia Algeo

Principal, Maser Consulting P.A.
jalgeo@maserconsulting.com

As an engineering firm, we have employees working in both field and office environments. With 34 office locations nationwide, each state has different restrictions; we are adhering to a combination of guidelines mandated by the CDC, individual states, clients and our own procedures. 

Since engineering has been deemed as an essential service, they are working on as many jobs as allowable and following all safety guidelines to protect themselves during their field operations as possible. 

However, our office operations have seen the most change, since anyone who can work remotely from home is doing so. This has left minimal staff in our offices to take care of essential daily tasks, all of which is carefully monitored and controlled. 

While we already had a reliable communication system in place for employees to work remotely through applications that include Microsoft Teams, Webex, and video conferencing, our IT team has also increased our bandwidth to accommodate the escalated demand on our systems. Where our conference rooms used to be booked to capacity, we now all meet on a computer screen from our own office space, wherever that may be. And it’s working!

As we return to our offices, our workflow will immediately change. We are already concentrating on how our employees will be transitioned back into our existing office spaces while continuing to follow CDC, state and local guidelines. Since our physical environments have been designed based on social interaction, we will have to re-think how we can still achieve employee safety while embracing compliance and other upcoming changes. The new normal will affect how we interact with others for face-to-face meetings, conventions, dining, travel and client presentations - whatever it takes to continue doing business as usual. Technologies we have in place will continue to develop and play a major role in how we communicate.

The COVID crisis is far from being over and the hard facts about how our work environment will change will take a long time to fully emerge. At this time, we have positioned ourselves to keep an open mind and take a proactive approach in understanding the coming changes, whatever they may be, and are prepared to adapt our services and strategies to meet the future needs of our employees and our clients.