Firms close offices amid coronavirus crisis

The property industry ramped up its response to the outbreak over the weekend, with several firms closing their offices temporarily and instructing staff to work from home to reduce the risk to public health.

CBRE, Avison Young and NJL Consulting are among firms that have implemented office closures and other social distancing policies for the next week or more to curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect staff and vulnerable citizens.

Avison Young has closed its UK offices, including its regional headquarters in Manchester, for the next fortnight.

“Following the unprecedented developments around coronavirus, Avison Young is instructing its employees to work from home, effective immediately, with a view to reviewing this position in two weeks’ time,” the company said in a statement.

“We are taking this social distancing step to support the World Health Organization’s containment and delay objectives and safeguard the health and wellbeing of our people and our wider communities.

“We remain open for business as usual and will continue to support our clients. Our workforce is fully agile, and we use cloud-based technology to enable our staff to work anywhere at any time.

“We have carried out thorough remote working testing to ensure that our systems and platforms can operate effectively to support our workforce during this time.”

CBRE has asked its UK and Ireland advisory staff to work from home for the next two weeks, although non-advisory staff, such as those in property and facilities management, are permitted to continue working from client sites.

“In view of the escalating COVID-19 situation in the UK, CBRE is accelerating work from home plans with our employees and clients’ safety and wellbeing foremost in mind. I wanted to make you aware of this at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Ciaran Bird, chief executive and divisional president of advisory services for CBRE UK & Ireland, in a statement to staff and clients.

“Therefore, for the week commencing Monday 16 March, all UK advisory employees at CBRE corporate offices will work from home.

“This will better enable us to achieve the social distancing that health authorities believe is so critical to slowing COVID-19’s spread.

“Certain essential staff will still be able to work in the CBRE corporate offices where necessary, while most employees work from home.”

Facilities management and property management employees “who work at client sites will continue to be responsible for providing services at those locations”, he added.

NJL’s employees are working from home this week

CBRE will decide by Friday 20 March whether to extend the work from home policy, the statement said.

“COVID-19 has presented extraordinary challenges that were hard to imagine a few months ago.

“Please be assured that we are doing everything possible to maintain a level of service you have come to expect from CBRE. We will maintain close contact with you as the situation evolves.

“Our teams will be in contact with you with regard any immediate issues that need to be addressed.”

Meanwhile, staff from town planning firm NJL Consulting are working from home for the next week.

A note in staff email signatures says: “During the coming weeks we will all need to help each other continue to work. We have already made preparations for remote working, teleconference calling, and for team members covering for others if they are ill.

“We will be working with clients and business colleagues to help avoid disruption wherever we can.”

A report by Avison Young at the beginning of this month said there would only be a “slight” disruption to commercial property activity from the coronavirus outbreak, but that the retail, travel, hospitality, leisure and logistics sectors would be hard hit and overall transaction volumes could fall due to delays in deal-making.

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