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Office Owners Are In No Hurry For Tenants To Return

Clockwise from top left: Avison Young's David Fahey, Rubenstein Partners' Eric Schiela and Parkway Corp.'s Brian Berson.

Owners of office buildings that have stood mainly vacant since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March say they aren't in a rush to see their tenants return when they are permitted to do so by government officials.

If every worker returns to the office at once, many may wind up feeling overwhelmed by the changes in a once-familiar environment and could quit safety precautions like wearing masks, according to Parkway Corp. Senior Vice President Brian Berson.

"There is this pent-up energy to get back into an office," he said on the May 28 Bisnow webinar Philly Office Update: What to Expect When You Return To The Office. "People want to get back to it, a synergistic environment where you are feeding off each other, where you are coming up with good ideas, where creativity is happening instead of being home and everyone [is] just getting work done. If we all go back at the same time, I think it fails."

Among the changes that workers may find are restrictions on elevator usage. Separate stairways will be designated to travel up or down. More staff will be hired to make sure tenants are following safety precautions. Cleaning of common areas will also be intensified.

Office managers will need to figure out how to accommodate workers who are worried about catching the coronavirus, and those who think the pandemic threat is overblown, said David Fahey, a principal at Avison Young. They also will need to convince companies that working from home isn't for everyone.