Preparing clients for their return to work: 5 tips from JLL and Colliers

Preparing clients for their return to work: 5 tips from JLL and Colliers

As we’re starting to hear more discussion around the return to work, we chatted with thought leaders Jim Wenk, Vice Chairman at JLL and Michaela Lalanne, Associate at Colliers International to get a sense of how brokers are preparing their clients for re-entry — especially in major cities like NYC and San Francisco. Wenk and Lalanne share five ways brokers can stay on top of the return-to-work conversation and be an informed advisor to clients during these uncertain times. Read on for highlights from the webinar or watch the full recording.

1. Be a central resource and conduit of information

Wenk and Lalanne’s top advice is to put the traditional broker role on the back burner and be a source of knowledge and support to clients during this time.

Wenk: Clients are looking at you as this conduit to just being a great central resource for them. Whether you’re putting out the latest workplace studies that your own company is developing or you’re getting this information from other sources. And it’s not only that you have some really good concrete information, it’s also that you’re human about it. You could share emotion. We’re all in this together. We all are going to persevere.

Lalanne: Our team has always taken the approach of being an advisor to our clients and immersing ourselves in their business so we really understand the whole picture. But I think that right now the biggest thing and the most valuable asset that you can provide your clients is information and communication. There’s so much going on. And there still is not a right or wrong. And so what we’ve been doing is trying to provide our clients with as much data as possible that we’re seeing in the market and then sharing with them our insights … It’s also been really cool to see how much the different brokerage shops are collaborating. We’re sharing information and it’s just been a big conversation because everyone is working through this challenging time.

2. Keep a pulse on local government timelines

While things are still uncertain, it goes without saying that staying on top of local government timelines will provide insight into when clients might feel ready to return to the office. Wenk and Lalanne shared their predictions:

Wenk: I think as far as getting employees back to work safely and with the confidence they need, it’s going to be in lockstep with the government’s three-stage approach. I see that being over a 90 or 120 day period. So if May 15th holds true [for NYC], hopefully we’re going to have a percentage of the workforce back, over the first 30 to 60 days, and then hopefully a majority back in that 60 to 120 day period.

Lalanne: [San Francisco] was one of the first cities to activate shelter in place, and I have a feeling, based on governor Newsom’s updates thus far, that we’ll probably be one of the last to [fully] open. I think we’ll see more companies maintain this hybrid work from home and go to the office if needed, until the longer-term transition to when we have a vaccine, which may be 12 to 24 months out.

3. Understand your clients top concerns

What’s top of mind for clients as they plan for their safe return to work? Wenks says the three main components include employee commute, building safety, and what companies can do within the space for their own people.

Wenk: One is getting people from their homes into the office building, so there’s all the logistics and transit. That’s pretty much out of their control since it’s run by the municipalities and the local transit authorities. Two, there’s the operator of the building. What can they be doing to make people safe? Whether that’s supplying additional masks and gloves, staggering elevator times, elevator reservations, and maybe there’s traffic flows within the stairwells. Then there’s the actual occupier/tenant, and what they are doing for their workforce. Distancing in the layout, de-densification of the space, extra cleaning, staggered work times. There’s a lot of different things that are being discussed, and I think some policies will be implemented broadly and other ones are going to be very specific to each company, based on their culture and the way they actually work.

4. Back up lease concession requests with data

If clients need to request lease concessions to help ensure financial viability post-crisis, Wenk and Lalanne advise making it an open conversation with the landlord and back up any requests with data.

Lalanne: Two important things are to go through the lease with your clients to make sure they understand it, and what’s going to be the landlord’s perspective. Make this a conversation because the landlords are being impacted as well. What’s important to them is very different than what’s important to you. One of the ways that we’ve been doing that is by backing up your request with data.

Wenk: Most landlords want to know how your business has been impacted from January to March. What’s the decline in sales and what actions have you taken to tighten the belt for your business? Did you apply for loans? They want to know that you did everything in your power to conserve cash, keep your company financially viable, and then then you’re having an open, transparent conversation about what can be done.

5. Embrace flexible solutions

As they’re speaking with clients on their return to work plans, Wenk and Lalanne said that everything is up for consideration — from staggering employee shifts and closing communal spaces to shutting down permanent locations for flexible office space.

Wenk: I was on the phone with a client last week and they said everything was on the table. They were talking about enhancing a couple of their regional offices, making them larger and with the same population. They were considering actually shutting down a couple of their permanent offices and going to flex.

Lalanne: I think that there’s been a lot of conversation about productivity and efficiency that goes in line with this. I was talking to a client about hypothetically splitting up your company into two teams. And within each team you have half of each business line. So those teams are fully functional and it’s essentially a smaller, full business unit within the company…The other thing is obviously the physical floor plans — the traffic in the office. How are you going to manage the common space? And then I think it’s also about considering new modalities [like 4-day work weeks]. I think that’s why having a task force or dedicated team to gather all this information is super critical in order to really put a roadmap in place.

Breather provides frictionless access to a network of private, productive meeting and office spaces available by the hour, day, month, or year. Our flexible terms give you the freedom to only pay for the space you need, as long as you need it. From WiFi to whiteboards to modern furnishings and plenty of natural light, every space is equipped with everything you need to do your best work.

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