The national lockdown forced the vast majority of businesses in South Africa to close its doors in an effort to “flatten the curve”. With the indication by the President that a downgrade to Alert Level 3 is on the cards, many businesses will once again be allowed to open their doors for trading. Whilst this is no doubt necessary for the economy to recover, this reopening brings with it a new tide of worries for many.

 

The ‘new normal’ is a key phrase in Covid-19 phrasebook that we have all adopted post-pandemic, but what does it actually mean. To be honest, there can be no clearer definition other than, “it won’t be the same as before”, and this is because “the new normal” will have different implications for different people. You may no longer have a 5 day work week as your company tries to reduce costs in a depressed economy. You may no longer need to drive to the office everyday as you are allowed to work remotely. You you may no longer be able to wear open-toed as the sale of such footware have been banned during the lockdown. One thing is certain though, until a vaccine is found and mass produced, we will all have to alter our habits to accommodate for the effects of the virus. As we wait for further government regulations on the relaxation of the current restrictions, here are five practical ideas that businesses should be thinking about in anticipation of “business as usual”.

 

 

1. Building Maintenance

 The lockdown would have forced the closure of many buildings for almost two months. During that time, there would have been little to no ventilation, a build-up of dust and perhaps even infestations to contend with. Ensure that before your tenants/employees return, allow the building to be ventilated and professionally cleaned to protect the health of those entering your premises. This must be done BEFORE the re-entry of your tenants/employees. This leads us to the next point.

2. Collaboration between landlords and tenants

As a landlord, you should ensure that you know which of your tenants will be re-opening and the measures they will be putting in place. There is little benefit to the tenant sanitising their own area, but the rest of the building takes no effort to do the same making the precautions taken render non-effective. We need team effort to ensure the successful re-opening of the economy. We banded together during the lockdown to ensure the survival of the most vunerable to COVID-19, lets band together now to ensure the survival of the country as a whole.

3. Common Areas

Entering a mall, I noticed that whilst individual shops are sanitising upon entry, the entry to the mall was left unattended. These leaves hundreds of potential contact areas before reaching my chosen store. Whilst it’s good that sanitisation and social distance measure have been or are being put in place, it is important for landlords and tenants to implement these initiatives collaboratively to limit ‘touch points’. Common areas are the sections of your building/office, most trafficked. This means there is a higher likelihood of this area being exposed to the virus simply due to volume of users.

 

4. Health and Safety

As a business owner/operator, you will need to manage your own clients, customers and employees. There are many different models to consider and you will need to find and implement one that will work for you and your business needs. Perhaps staggered work times or allowing more staff to work from home or simply reconfiguring the office to ensure better social distancing between staff. Also ensure that all staff have been given the correct PPE for the enviroment they work in. It is an employers duty to ensure that their staff are as protected as they can be during this pandemic. With many office parks having communal breakrooms or pause areas, each employer should consider the risk and perhaps limiting or banning the use of these areas.

5. Covid-19 Office Plan

Finally, ensure that you have a set of systems in place that are tailored to your needs. Each Covid19 reopening place needs to take into consideration the number of staff you employ, the frequency of external visitors, the size of your office as a whole, the division of your office space, the proximity of staff from each other and the level of ventilation an area receives. This means that a reopening plan which may be useful to one office is inadequate in another. You should also monitor your system during the opening weeks in order to identify flaws and inadequacies and adjust accordingly. 

 

Due to the ever-changing regulations, as well as the risk-based approach employed by our Government, we are often left with more questions than answers. For the first time in a long time, we may have “too much” information and due to the sheer volume cannot find what we are looking for. Our advice, pick a few resource guides which suit your style and speaks to your needs and stick to them. While the Government choosing to ease restrictions can only be seen as positive for the country’s economy, we must be mindful that this Pandemic has forced us in uncharted waters. In other words, anything can happen and we must be mindful to remain flexible so that we can be prepared for whatever is thrown our way.