COVID-19 Series: Fireside Chat with Cushman & Wakefield

By Simon Abboud, Marcelino Diaz, MJ Cootsona & Miles Tabibian Published on May. 22, 2020

How is the current pandemic affecting the use of Real Estate, and how should companies prepare for a safe return to the office? How will virtual work shape the nature and use of office spaces in the future?

On April 30th, 2020, Plug and Play hosted a virtual Executive Fireside Chat with our Founder and CEO, Saeed Amidi, along with Rob Franch, Chief Technological Officer at Cushman & Wakefield, a leading global Real Estate services firm. Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield and the Real Estate industry, Franch was Vice President Global Unified Communications & Collaboration at Aon, and Vice President of Enterprise Architecture at Bank of America. We are proud to have Cushman & Wakefield as one of the founding partners of Plug and Play’s Real Estate Vertical. 

You can watch the full virtual event below: 

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Real Estate? 

COVID-19 has affected millions of people worldwide. In the United States, small and large businesses are experiencing seismic disruption. As of April, the unemployment rate was 16.1%. 

Government-mandated guidelines have affected Real Estate in many ways. Beyond closed stores/work offices, we are seeing many retailers adjust to curb-side and remote capabilities. Many are investing in technologies to facilitate social distancing, containment, and sanitation. There is no doubt that owners and property managers will look to implement technology to tackle the post-pandemic economy

What's Cushman & Wakefield's Take on This Situation? 

To kick off the conversation, Amidi and Franch discussed how to promote and sustain employee productivity while working from home. 

It comes as no surprise that tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco’s Webex are instrumental in allowing teams to communicate and employees to stay motivated. More importantly, these tools are used both for everyday work and helping employees feel supported and engaged. 

On this note, Franch emphasized the importance of virtual happy hours, meet and greets, and watercooler-type conversations. 

Looking ahead, Franch mentioned the importance of physical distance in the office and above all - helping employees feel safe. He noted that companies will need to generate plans for employee re-entry to the workplace and minimizing the number of people in the building. They’ll also need to make modifications to workspace layouts and implement solutions to address social distancing. 

Responding to COVID-19

As a global Real Estate services leader, Cushman & Wakefield is at the forefront of redefining the new normal and supporting their clients both on the demand and supply side of Commercial and Corporate Real Estate.

As part of their effort, this firm formed the Recovery Readiness Task Force (RRTF) in early April to lead the development of best practices, products and partnerships to prepare clients for post-COVID-19 recovery and the eventual return to the workplace. 

C&W’s 6 Steps Guide to Reopening Your Workplace

As part of their sprint and analysis of best practices for more than 53,000 of their professionals globally, the team released the “How-to Guide for Reopening your Workplace”. The recommended practices and protocols have already been implemented around the world with tremendous success. 

Among the several actions stated in the document, we list below “The Safe Six” principles coupled with relevant PropTech solutions:

Building Preparation

Two main challenges: Cleaning Optimization & Mechanical Units Monitoring

Startups that can help

  • Zan Compute: Zan Compute solution optimizes labor, productivity, as well as restroom supply costs, by monitoring traffic patterns within premises and redirecting labor to areas requiring more frequent cleaning. 
  • Augury: A successful tool in the space is the one of Augury which, among many things, allows for predictive maintenance of air handling units, chilled/hot water pumps, cooling towers and fans among the many types of equipment.

Workforce Preparation

The challenge: Considering when, why and which employees should return to the office.

Startups that can help

  • Humanyze: Humanyze’s solution helps leverage workplace analytics to understand the impacts of remote work on organizational health, and allow the management to take the most effective decisions.

Access Control

Three main challenges: Safety & Health Checks, Parcel Management and Visitor Management.

Startups that can help

  • Cobalt Robotics: An interesting startup in the space. They developed into their own security robots a built-in thermal camera that allows temperature screenings. Additional safety features utilize machine learning models to identify masks and other forms of PPE, and applies computer vision technology to monitor social distancing. 
  • My Pick Up Point (MYPUP): A company promoting hygienic, safe and intelligent parcel delivery without unnecessary contact, through the implementation of smart lockers and software for your building tenants.
  • Alice Receptionist: This solution allows remote and automatic visitor management to enter your offices, connecting them to the relevant internal employee and reducing the risks of unnecessary contacts with reception staff.

Social Distancing Plan

The challenge: De-densifying Office Spaces

A startup that can help

  • Fast Office: With the rethinking of office layouts to accommodate the 6-feet economy, Fast Office provides quick fit-outs design following “les règles de l’art”, to enable employees to interact at a safe distance from each other.

Reducing Touch Points

The challenge: Contactless Movement.

A startup that can help

  • Ninja Solution: They focus on reducing contact with high-risk surfaces such as elevators and doors. Ninja Solution provides a platform that centralizes all building accesses, and controls them automatically and biometrically, thus eliminating the need to ever touch anything else than your smartphone to reach your destination in the building.

Communicate for Confidence

The challenge: Establishing a Two-Way Communication

A startup that can help

  • HqO: Going back to the office can be scary for employees. That’s why transparent communication and effective listening is important and should be conducted regularly. The HqO platform offers a great tenant app for Corporate Real Estate teams to stay connected.

6 Golden Rules to Follow In the Office

A second notable initiative coming out of Cushman & Wakefield is the “Six Feet Office”. This set of guidelines is an attempt to visualize life after COVID-19, and apprehending how a six feet society will look like and function effectively. 

Our partner is actively supporting its corporate clients and their employees in adopting some of the new golden rules as they return to premises. 

  1. Always act responsibly.
  2. Read the signs and follow the rules.
  3. Remain 6 feet away from each other.
  4. When walking in the office, do it clockwise.
  5. Enter and leave meeting rooms as indicated.
  6. Replace your desk pad daily and leave a clean desk.

Response and recovery from this pandemic will be an unprecedented journey, that will require collaborative attention from all corners of the Real Estate industry. 

Will office spaces ever look the same? Is remote work the new standard for certain industries? How will lease agreements be formed in the future? What value will physical space have for a company that discovered the efficiency of remote work?

The questions are many. More than ever, we need to embrace innovation and an open mindset to pave the path for a brighter future. We are proud to partner with Cushman & Wakefield as they take the lead in providing guidance and solutions for workplaces across the world, and we're excited to help fuel their innovation efforts with the best startups and emerging technologies.

We have launched a global COVID-19 accelerator dedicated to scaling the world’s most promising startups who can help address the coronavirus pandemic. Join the platform today.