Office landlords urged to prepare for the great return despite Omicron surge

While the presence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant is seen to  delay the back to the office (BTO) plans of many companies, office landlords are urged to prepare for the eventual return to the office during this temporary downtime.

“We have seen disruption in the office leasing market due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19, but we believe that office landlords should always be on the lookout for opportunities now and beyond 2022,”Colliers Philippines Director of Office Services – Landlord Representation Maricris Sarino-Joson said.

“The Omicron variant should not hinder the property market’s recovery and the much-anticipated rebound of the Philippines’ office market. While the country battles a Covid-19 surge and new restrictions are imposed, landlords must now take action to prepare their properties for the eventual and inevitable return to work,”she added.

Among the recommendations of Colliers to office landlords is the use of technology to minimize the spread of viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms in the workplace.

“There are many ways office landlords can retrofit their properties to make them safer for users and occupants, one of which is introducing touchless access in ingress/egress points, restrooms, elevators, and common areas,”Joson said.

“This strategy, which includes hands-free door unlock mechanisms, virtual guest passes, and automatic door openers, helps safeguard against the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses on surfaces,”she added.

Colliers said other technological innovations that landlords can implement include disinfection and sanitation equipment at the entry to the property; improving air quality by upgrading air-conditioning systems and introducing filtered fresh air into the building; treating surfaces with antiviral coating to prevent transmission from high touch surfaces; and the use of negative air ionization systems to suppress airborne viruses and microbes.

Landlords should also consider assisting occupiers to implement adjustments on design and fit-outs to accommodate new social distancing norms and health features.

“This may mean coming up with recommended designs which promote health and wellness of office workers and offering flexible fit-out periods for occupiers to implement these much-needed changes,”Joson said.

Colliers said some landlords may also consider converting spaces within their buildings into fully fitted swing spaces or temporary office spaces, which existing tenants can use while they wait for their permanent office to be built or renovated.

Joson also suggested that landlords improve the marketability of their vacant spaces by staging them properly.

“Just as homebuyers will not be able to imagine themselves in an empty house, when you show an empty office, occupiers will not appreciate its best features. Providing them with a photo of a well-designed office will give them the chance to love the place and see their business set up in this nice working environment,”she said.

Moreover, Colliers said landlords may consider short-term leases to at least cover the cost of running and maintaining the property, given the current market situation.

Joson said accepting short-term leases may also open doors to new and previously untapped clients, such as start-ups. She added that landlords who are able to find occupiers willing to sign long-term leases, should consider sweetening deals by providing better commercial terms and offering concessions, such as flexible lease terms, partial termination options, and delayed escalation, among others.

Colliers encourages landlords to be proactive in offering add-ons to their commercial terms in order to make them more attractive to prospective tenants.

“We also urge them to work amicably with occupiers as we all survive and thrive during this pandemic,”Colliers said.