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Opening Industrial Real Estate Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Much of the U.S. has been in isolation as we battle COVID-19, leaving millions of employees without jobs or income. More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. The manufacturing and industrial sectors have been severely impacted as well. As our country prepares to reopen businesses and industrial buildings put employees back to work, how can property owners and property managers ensure everyone remains safe?

Coronavirus and the Industrial Manufacturing Industry

The coronavirus COVID-19 has caused unique challenges for the industrial sector. Unlike past economic or social difficulties, COVID-19 impacted nearly the entire world at the same time, disrupting supply chains from every continent.

Furthermore, some factories shut down as governments instituted stay-at-home and social distancing orders, making it impossible for manufacturers to continue creating goods.

However, many large-scale manufacturers remain open. Retailers like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and many grocery suppliers have seen a spike in demand. Employees are working around the clock to keep up. However, with a severe impact on overseas trading due to the virus, many American factories face delays or disruptions.

Economic Impact

Unlike businesses that operate out of an office, manufacturing employees cannot do their jobs from home. Consequently, many small manufacturers – particularly those deemed non-essential – have faced layoffs. Auto plants, hospitality industry manufacturers, and those creating goods for restaurants have been hit particularly hard.

But there is good news, too. Currently, major factories and distributers, namely Amazon and other large-scale retailers, are hiring thousands of new workers as demand is higher than ever.  The industrial sector looks to be in good shape in the long-term, too. Economists predict that manufacturing jobs will increase as our country reopens. Whereas many companies relied on overseas plants to produce goods in the past, the virus has rewritten the narrative. Now, more and more companies are seeing the need to manufacture locally. As a result, the U.S. could see manufacturers moving back to American soil, adding jobs and jump-starting our economy.

Reopening Industrial Buildings Safely

As the rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations slow throughout the world, many manufacturers are eager to get back to work. However, property owners and property managers must follow CDC guidelines for keeping employees safe. How can you make sure your properties are ready for tenants and their employees to return?

The White House’s Coronavirus Task Force recently issued a three-phase approach for states to lift shelter-in-place restrictions. To successfully reopen every industry, each state must evaluate their medical readiness and resources, and see a 14-day continuous drop in the number of hospitalizations. Largely, local municipalities are preparing to reopen businesses, including factories that were closed due to the virus.

To find out when your state will reopen, click here.

How Property Owners and Property Managers Keep Industrial Buildings Safe

Many Industrial property owners and property managers are eager to reopen and start generating income again. However, many factories require employees to be near one another. Large companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Fed-Ex, and other essential businesses are increasing their efforts to keep workers safe. But some workers feel like their employers aren’t doing enough. 

How can property owners, property managers, and business owners reopen while also maintaining a healthy work environment?

  • Follow CDC Guidelines Property owners and managers should closely monitor and follow CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The CDC is continuously updating its data and recommendations for sale workplace practices. These guidelines include actions like frequent hand-washing, refraining from touching your eyes and face, keeping at least six feet of distance, wearing masks if in a public area, and limiting contact with hard surfaces where the virus might live.

  • Check Employees for Signs of Illness

The CDC also lists common signs of the illness on its website. While there are many symptoms, the most common are a high fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Property owners and managers may insist their tenants check employees' temperatures when entering the facility. Anyone exhibiting any of these symptoms should go home and self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

  • Encourage Self-Isolation by Providing Enhanced Sick Leave

Many manufacturing jobs don’t offer much in the way of paid time off. In a pandemic, that can be a recipe for disaster. Employees, many of whom are already stretched thin financially, cannot afford to take unpaid time off of work. You can help control the spread of the virus by not only insisting employees stay home when they feel ill, but paying them for that time.  This way, tenants and their employees are more likely to stay home when they exhibit symptoms of the illness. While this will undoubtedly impact your profits, it will also keep coronavirus out of your building, which is the most crucial factor in the end.

  • Increase Cleaning and Sanitation Efforts

Property owners and property managers should immediately increase cleaning and sanitation at their buildings. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces multiple times a day. 

  • Require and Provide PPE for All Employees and Subcontractors

Employees should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever at work. This includes face masks (surgical quality or cloth masks), gloves, face shields, and other types of PPE to limit exposure to the virus.  Property managers and employers should provide this equipment for employees and require their use on the premises. 

  • Stagger Shifts to Increase Social Distancing Practices

Social distancing is one of the best ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends people stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, including at work. For industrial businesses and manufacturing facilities, social distancing might not be possible. However, property managers can suggest their tenants stagger employee work shifts to limit the number of employees on the property at any given time.  Resources for Property Owners and Property Managers

Undoubtedly, the world of manufacturing has changed virtually overnight. We face an uncertain future, but the manufacturing sector plays a critical role in getting the economy moving again. Property owners and property managers must ensure industrial workplaces are safe for tenants and their employees. Doing so will slow the spread of the illness and allow manufacturing to continue unabated in America.

If you’re a property owner, property manager, or business owner looking for resources to help you through this difficult time, click here to see a comprehensive list from the National Real Estate Investor website. 

The information provided herein does not constitute legal nor medical advice and is for general informational purposes only. This website contains links that are only provided for the convenience of the reader. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this site are hereby expressly disclaimed. No representations are made that this content is error-free. Please consult your attorney or medical professional to determine if the information contained herein is applicable to your situation.

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