Having a physical location to operate your business is the norm in today’s business environment.Speaking from a historical perspective, it was the only way to get your services or products to the customers. 100 years ago, farmers would attend farmer’s markets, lawyers had high profile office space and dentists had clinics to see patients. Fast forward into current times and people have not changed much, however, the social climate we live in is dramatically different that 100 years ago.
To move forward from COVID-19, we need to accept and implement changes to how we operate our business. Your lease ties you to a physical space that is likely outdated given the current social norms we find ourselves in today. The rules of conduct for both landlords and tenants should change to reflect this and the only way to achieve this is through your lease.It documents what each party is supposed to be responsible for.
Here are some thoughts about how COVID-19 social distancing and contemporary technology will influence your business model, leased space, and the landlords building, and some solutions.
Social Distancing & Your Premises:
❖ Waiting rooms, lobbies, elevators, locker rooms,gyms, stairwells, hallways, washrooms, and office/desk sharing space will be difficult to navigate and may bottle neck your customers and employees – how do you return to pre-Covid sales?
❖ Buildings, common areas (including public washrooms) and leasehold improvements that are easily sanitized or create compartmentalization will become the standard – who pays for the upgrades?The Effects of COVID-19 on Your Premises Lease -- Vol #4 Technology, Social Distancing, & The Space You Rent “Your lease ties you to a physical space that is likely outdated given the current social norms we find ourselves in today.” “The need to have a physical space has not changed, the way we use our physical space has.”
❖ Strong covenants in your lease as to how the landlord controls the common elements of the property/building may affect the way you are able to operate your business; would or could the landlord be liable for an infection?
❖ Social distancing conventions suggest that you have fewer people in your premises at a time if a physical meeting/appointment is necessary – how do you return to pre-Covid sales?
❖ Stigmatization of certain industries (example dental and optometric doctor clinics) that are at higher risk of contamination will have to design their space/choose their building and location to conform to expected norms and help clients/customers feel safe
❖ People will be less apt to visit your physical space if they are able to use technology – learn to use contemporary technology to keep connected clients and customers
❖ Tele-commuting has proven to work well, and businesses will need less space as employees work from home – how will this change affect your patient population?
Is, can, or will your landlord do enough to keep your building common areas in good order? Common areas need to be modernized to meet new social guidelines to keep your customers and staff safe while creating an environment that is pleasant and efficient.
❖ People can browse services and products from the palm of their hand. This is not new but is evolving rapidly in the social distancing shutdown. Is your website smartphone friendly?
❖ Demand for merchandising space is lesser, so less leased space is needed by retailers – Are you considering a move or new clinic location?
❖ Changing layouts and floor plans will increase efficiency and save costs because the premises area is reduced
❖ Technology driven leasehold improvements will become the norm, and buildings outfitted for modern technology (such as broadband internet)with be in demand
❖ Online presence will be the most important and effective way to market your business, geographical location will become more of convenience for customers rather than profile
❖ Less physical space will be needed to service customer traffic as we have meetings online
❖ Face to face contact is still very important to build relationships and the expectation of professional shaving offices won’t change for certain industries such as dental clinics
❖ Service businesses will have to be technology driven, being available by video under the same principles of picking up a phone at a reception desk.
❖ finding new space If you feel that your landlord’s actions or lack thereof is not helping to promote good health or good business.
❖ checking your lease to see if the landlord is preforming their responsibilities with respect to the common areas
❖ negotiating with your landlord to include new common area practices into your lease
❖ monitoring additional rent costs to watch for COVID – 19 costs
❖ negotiating a leasehold improvement allowance to help pay for some of the changes you need to make to continue to run your business and pay the landlord rent
❖ negotiating a rent reduction if your building has physical limitations that interrupt the flow of customers to your business
Regardless of how and why things are changing,consumers still want to be safe & have great,immediate customer service. Your ability to provide great, safe, and immediate customer service could lie in the type of building or premises you rent.
In hindsight, the snail mail telegram has become an instant email, the telephone has become a video conference call and the expectation of consumers is immediate. The advent of technology, mainly ecommerce and tele-commuting coupled with COVID-19, has changed the way we interact with each other through convenience and necessity. COVID-19 has dramatically sped up the process of communicating efficiently with technology and should be taken into consideration when designing or adapting your business model, choosing the right space to tenant and space planning to meet social norms.