Lockdown. It’s been a crazy time, hasn’t it? No evictions, no moving in or out, no new leases signed, no going into the office or meeting clients, and no technology to really assist. Not to mention the frantic scrambling to help reduce rental payments or allow rentals to be paid from deposits. Madness. And that’s just the real estate industry alone.
Thankfully from Monday 1 June as we transition into Alert Level 3, we can also start to move back to a more normal routine — or at least whatever ‘normal’ has come to mean these days. But with a new lockdown level come new guidelines, and if you’re going to be opening up shop come Monday morning, you need to be fully aware of them, and ensure that your workplace is as COVID-19 ready as it can possibly be.
So what measures do you need to have in place in order to operate safely and responsibly? Let’s take a look at the questions you need to be asking before you turn that ‘Closed’ sign to an ‘Open’ one.
Are you allowed to operate?
Let’s just put a tick next this point right away. According to the regulations that apply to Alert Level 3, most businesses are allowed to open their doors again (with some exceptions), provided that they adhere to strict health and safety guidelines, and that any employees travelling to and from work have the necessary permits allowing them to do so. As a real estate professional, you fall into the category cleared to return to work, so you’ve got this one covered.
Do you have a plan in place?
More specifically, a COVID-19 plan that allows for the phased-in return of your employees, considers which employees should be on-site and which should be working from home, and provides details of the health protocols you have in place to keep your employees, and members of the public safe. If you don’t have a COVID-19 plan in place, you’ll need to start working on one in order to make sure you’re fully compliant with government regulations.
Is your business fully compliant?
Good question. In case you weren’t aware, clauses 46 and 47 of the Disaster Management Act require all businesses to have a COVID-19 compliance officer in place — someone tasked with ensuring that the workplace adheres fully to all hygiene and health protocols, and that staff are aware of what these entail. Education and communication are always important, and never more so than in a COVID-19 context. All of which means that before you can welcome your staff back to the office, you’ll need to have them prepped and ready first.
Have you prepared your physical workplace?
This is the big one — and it’s going to take a little more than dusting surfaces and watering plants. Instead, making sure your workspace complies with health and safety protocols means:
- Making disinfectant hand soap and sanitiser freely available throughout the office
- Cleaning and disinfecting the workspace regularly, particularly shared spaces and items
- Ensuring all work stations are at least 1.5m away from each other in accordance with social distancing regulations
- Providing staff with two fabric face masks each, with one to be worn at all times during working hours
- Replacing fabric towels with paper towels in the kitchen and bathroom
- Sanitising hands upon entry and exit
- Screening staff temperatures before they enter the office every day, and sending home those with a temperature of 38˚C and higher
- Ensuring that all staff have submitted COVID-19 declarations, so that you are aware of those who can work from home, those over 60 years of age, and those with comorbidities
It might seem like a long list and a lot of changes, but you’ll get used to a new (and more hygienic) way of working before you know it. The office vibe will still be there — it’ll just be more sanitised than usual.
Are you ready for the public?
Of course for your business to thrive, you’ll need customers — and they’ll need to be protected by your COVID-19 measures too. This should involve:
- Screening all members of the public upon entry
- Ensuring all visitors sanitise their hands on entry and exit
- Installing a Perspex screen at reception
- Limiting the number of customers in your office at any one time
- Ensuring that all staff and customers on the premises keep a 1.5m distance between each other at all times
- Meeting clients on properties by appointment only, whilst adhering to social distancing rules and guidelines
- Conducting virtual viewings where possible
- Conducting meetings via phone or video call where possible
- Recording legal rental agreements electronically
Less physical contact, but the same emphasis on customer service and relationship-building. Will it mean a different way of doing business? Absolutely. Will it mean a better way of doing business? Very possibly.
Do you have the right technology in place?
Finally, in order to survive in a COVID-19 world, you’ll need to ensure that your administrative and technology systems are up to speed. And what that looks like in today’s climate is a shift to cloud-based rental management software to help make your life easier and your business more efficient. Not only will the high level of automation give you more time to focus on your business, investing in the right software will enable more of your staff to work from home, and allow you to do business more affordably as well, all with the peace of mind of stringent data protection and security controls. It’s not how you should be doing business in the future — it’s how you should be doing business right now.
While it’s true that COVID-19 means big changes, it also means big opportunities as well, with the potential for us to review our processes and practices, and become more efficient and more streamlined as an industry. Out with the old, in with the new, and hopefully a more positive, more rewarding way of doing business at the same time. And that’s something every workplace should be ready for.
TIPS & TRICKS, COVID19