How Monday Properties Is Helping Tenants Get Back to the Office
Now that we’ve reached Labor Day weekend, many office tenants in Washington, D.C., are planning to transition back to the in-person office environment, having set the “end-of-summer” holiday as its return date from the pandemic.
Though the summer’s delta surge upset some of those plans, others are still sticking to a post-Labor Day return.
Landlord Monday Properties has been working with its tenants on the best course of action as they make their return to the office, knowing that each tenant has specific needs.
The company has been collecting information on tenant behavior, pulling soft data on such things as gym usage, traffic in the lobby, parking lot occupancy, and how often the roof is rented.
It has also implemented solutions like the KasteSafeSpaces platform, which allows for numerous touchless opportunities throughout the office environment, and achieved Fitwel Certification to make sure tenants are safe and comfortable when they return.
Jennifer Burns, senior vice president of property management and operations at Monday Properties, spoke with Commercial Observer about the company’s strategy for getting people back to the office safely.
Commercial Observer: How would you characterize what we’re seeing in the D.C. region with people going back to the office environment?
Jennifer Burns: Over the last couple months, we have seen a natural shift of more people returning to the office — specifically an increased usage of hybrid amenities like our rooftops, conference rooms and larger lounge areas. While some D.C. area businesses went back to the office this summer, others were waiting until Labor Day to bring everyone back on a more consistent basis.
How is this new delta strain impacting the transition back to the office?
What we are hearing and seeing now is that the delta variant of COVID-19 has impacted that timeline. One of my responsibilities is to work with our tenants individually and to help them strategize what makes the most sense for them. Despite the emergence of the delta variant, the overall sentiment remains that our tenants are looking forward to returning to the office.
When we speak with tenants, their main concern is making the best choices for their employees, even as that decision becomes more complex. We support tenants throughout this process by providing guidance as they monitor employees’ needs and developments in vaccination rates. As a landlord, we have been closely monitoring updates from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and local authorities, and have updated signage throughout our Northern Virginia portfolio to reflect the latest guidelines on mask mandates.
Overall, we have seen that the delta strain is primarily causing more uncertainty for our tenants that did not have concrete plans to transition back to the office. Over the summer, there was a great deal of anticipation for the Labor Day return-to-office date; however, some employers are re-evaluating their plans since the delta strain has escalated.
What is your strategy for dealing with tenants as they make their return-to-work plans?
As our tenants make their return-to-office plans, we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
A large part of my job right now is hopping on Zoom calls with tenants and sitting down face-to-face with company leaders to ensure they feel comfortable in their return-to-work plans, particularly as they evolve. Because the Monday Properties team has fully returned to the office, we are able to provide concrete advice based on our own experience.
Can you talk about some of the key worries that tenants are talking about?
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were two main concerns that tenants had expressed: cleanliness of air quality and surface areas, and gathering of large groups. In response to these concerns, we increased our communication to keep them informed regarding our evolving plans and protocol.
Lately, tenants seem very concerned with maintaining their desired company culture, with many employees still working remotely. We are having a lot of discussions about what the hybrid work model can entail (remote work doesn’t necessarily mean the person is working from home) and how we can help them accommodate flexible options for their teams.
We believe that many of the building amenities (both planned and executed) we have implemented across our portfolio provide unique spaces for employees and visitors to connect and collaborate, while still taking safety concerns into consideration. These flexible options allow for various hybrid collaboration sessions between in-office employees with their remote team members, and open areas that can be easily configured for ad-hoc team collaboration and employee socialization.
Detail the company’s Fitwel Certification and why this is important for a time like now.
Monday Properties recently achieved Fitwel’s Viral Response Certification for our portfolio of office buildings in Northern Virginia.
Our Northern Virginia portfolio has been certified with distinction, which is ranked as the highest certification level within the Fitwel Viral Response Module by the Center for Architecture and Design. Additionally, we are proud to share that our entire Northern Virginia operations team have been certified as Fitwel Ambassadors. As the team that connects with tenants on a daily basis, they are equipped with the knowledge and resources to support health and wellness in our buildings.
How are fitness facilities being transformed for safety?
We were able to reopen our fitness centers in March, provided that users followed the safety measures we put in place. For example, fitness center users must wear masks and wipe down equipment following each use. Monday Properties has made sure to block off equipment that does not comply with social distancing guidelines, and we clean and disinfect the center at frequent intervals throughout the day.
What about big-traffic areas like lobbies and elevators? What is being done in buildings?
Monday Properties was the first commercial real estate landlord in the Washington, D.C., area to commit to the KasteSafeSpaces platform, which we have since implemented across our entire portfolio. This platform has capabilities, such as touchless entry, touchless elevator access, touchless visitor access, thermal cameras and contact tracing. Monday Properties also utilizes electrostatic cleaning technology with Clorox 360 machines to disinfect high touchpoint locations.
We have signage throughout our buildings advising people on how to use the elevators and adhering to mask mandates that comply with CDC guidelines.
Can you talk about some of your specific properties and the steps they’ve made to provide some examples of the above?
The use of our rooftop terrace at 1100 Wilson Boulevard has continued to evolve throughout the pandemic as we have met the changing needs of our tenants.
For example, last summer, we partnered with our tenant, Sfoglina restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Fabio Trabocchi, to provide additional outdoor seating for the restaurant’s guests. More recently, we have seen a large increase of tenants utilizing the rooftop for company events, meetings, and more.
Since our indoor/outdoor rooftop deck is complete with a fireplace, catering kitchen, bar and abundant seating, we believe this has been an excellent investment in outdoor spaces, and we are proud to offer our tenants a valuable resource for collaboration, work flexibility, and a place to get fresh air and stunning views.
Additionally, the conference center at 1812 North Moore has been a highly sought-after location throughout the pandemic, due to the flexibility we have been able to provide as well as the excellent views of D.C. The conference center can host more than 200 people and can support many different configurations. The conference center has also been updated with the latest in technology, not to mention full-catering kitchen and bar, to provide flexible meeting and event spaces for our tenants.
Keith Loria can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.