We have written how COVID-19 online shopping has impacted the warehouse space market in the New York Metro area, but that is not the only impact of the pandemic on this market. The spaciousness and adaptability of warehouse real estate is highly valued now, as organization grapple with social distancing at work.
The COVID-19 guidance for businesses from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) covers policies and procedures for testing, disinfecting, and covering faces, however the big challenge for property owners is center of social distancing. Current pandemic space reconfiguration recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revolve around using distance and barriers to keep employees safely apart.
Three Ways to Think about Space
Space is what warehouse real estate has in great quantities, but also the ability to flexibly change layouts and accommodate the use of barriers. Experts suggest thinking about social distance in three ways:
1. Density Reduction: Cut down on the number of people occupying a given area.
2. Geometry: Laying out furnishings and fixtures to minimize face-to-face orientations.
3. Division: Putting screens, plexiglass sneeze guards, and other barriers between people.
Other Ways to Enhance Safety in Your Space
Some of the ways warehousing space use has changed due to COVID-19 goes beyond these basic space and barrier upgrades to include:
- Adding more access points to eliminate choke points where crowds of people gather
- Marking floors with 6-feet-apart decals and arrows indicating one-way traffic flow so that employees can move efficiently through the space
- Implementing touchless systems to eliminate surfaces that can spread disease, including door opening, restroom sinks and toilets, paper towel dispensers and more
- Changing device usage procedures to limit the number of different people touching any one device and to accommodate disinfection between users
- Adding sanitizer stations with signage that reminds employees to frequently wash their hands and sanitize surfaces
- Adding anti-microbial films to high-touch areas, such as elevator buttons, door handles, and hand rails
- Removing seating areas to discourage congregating in certain areas
- Spacing out seating and tables in break rooms and lunch rooms
- Upgrading HVAC systems to improve ventilation and reduce recirculated air
Operational Changes Enhance Disease Prevention
Additional warehouse operational responses include changes in operations, as well:
- Staggered shift starts and ends so that crowds of people are not moving through crowded spaces at the same time
- Changing the way staff meetings are conducted, including brief standing meetings, spread out over larger areas, often using voice amplifiers
- Moving some functions from cubicles to permanent work-from-home status
- Use of a screening program to detect fevers and using questionnaires to query employees about their health, the health of those around them, and their travel to or through infected areas
Warehouse Space Not Just for Warehousing
The flexibility of warehouse space and warehouse operations is a benefit to commerce, without a doubt. The benefits of warehouse space, isn’t just for shipping today. Warehouse space is being eyed as an alternative to traditional office space in some areas. Ample parking, now crowding into elevators, and room to space out cubes is making companies seeking an alternative to office space take notice. We can expect to see an acceleration of warehouse-to-office conversions.
It all adds up steadily increasing demand that will likely last beyond the immediate impacts of COVID-19.