In mid-March NSI faced an enormous challenge. The Covid-19 pandemic forced us to take immediate measures and to make changes in all 38 multi-tenant buildings. This was a huge operation that required the full attention and efforts of Jeroen Solleveld, as Head of Technical Asset Management and one of the members of NSI’s internalCovid-19 task force.
“This was an unprecedented situation, for which we didn’t have a roadmap at hand,” Jeroen said. So the first step was to set up a task force in which every discipline was represented. Technical Asset Management, Customer Excellence and Marketing & Communications formed the core team that held consultations every day. This ensured that we were in continuous dialog with customers and safeguarded proactive communication throughout the entire process.
The first task of the task force was to develop a coronavirus crisis plan which included scenario planning to be prepared should a large Covid-19 outbreak hit one of our offices. The task force set up the required internal organisation and protocols, identified stakeholder groups, and formulated the approach and communications strategy to reach out to stakeholders, most prominently our tenants and own employees, as well as a detailed plan at asset level to implement all required health and safety measures.
It goes without saying that the health and well-being of our tenants was our main priority. The Customer Excellence team saw to it that the task force was constantly fed with information about the needs and wishes of tenants. “That also meant being mindful of tenants whose business had been hit hard by the pandemic.”
Clear, proactive and intensive communication played an important part in informing tenants and creating the best possible sense of calm. Marketing & Communications Specialist Florine Evers said: “We employed every means and channel. In the offices we were aided by banners, posters and up to date information about the actual situation on the narrowcasting screens. The FAQ on the website was constantly updated and expanded. As of September we were able to use our Office App for this.”
In the meantime, NSI went straight to work making every office as safe as possible as quickly as possible. Some of the measures that needed to be taken were identical and pretty straightforward, such as ramping up the cleaning moments and creating paths and signs to make sure the 1.5-meter distancing rule was adhered to. This was a huge operation due to the volume of work involved and speed at which it had to happen. “In three weeks, our buildings were 1.5 meter proof and safe to use,” Florine said.
To urge people to comply with the rules Marketing & Communications put a creative twist on the stickers, known in marketing as nudging. Florine added: “Nudging is all about giving a subtle little push in the right direction to promote the desired behaviour, by presenting measures in an unexpected way.” For example, in front of the coffee corner there’s a sign saying: ‘keep 18 coffee cups distance’.
NSI assumed responsibility for all central facilities and shared spaces, with measures including cough screens at the reception desks and stands with hand sanitiser at the entrance. Moreover, NSI offered to help every tenant who wished to add cough screens and hand sanitiser to their own office. “Once the magnitude of the pandemic became clear there was a huge run on these products, so that thesewere almost unavailable via retail channels. We did have access to these products by buying them in bulk, which we then offered our tenants at cost price.”
A more drastic undertaking was mapping out the technical aspects, like climate systems, that play an important role but that cannot be easily changed. NSI has invested heavily in its data and information systems and this turned out to be a huge asset. “Because we have a great understanding of each building, we were able to take action in an extremely focused way,” Jeroen said. Ventilation was an important area of attention, one that was getting a lot of media. “Because sustainability is an important spearhead of our maintenance programme, a key part of which is good ventilation and sensor-driven climate control systems, we had information about the buildings’ usage, which enabled us to take targeted actions and ventilate the buildings more to make them as safe as possible.” Furthermore, NSI put additional measures and protocols in place. This included ventilating the buildings with as much outside air as possible and having the systems switched on two hours earlier and two hours longer, thus creating the best possible air quality for each individual building. “We calculated how many square metres each person needs with each type of ventilation system and were able to monitor if we stayed within the required visitor numbers with the help of the newly introduced people counters.”
Regulating the visitor flows was another important point of attention. “Ideally you want to spread out the flow of visitors, particularly in the entrance and lifts areas, but most of our customers had no insights in these flows.” So NSI installed so-called ‘people counters’ to gain insight into this. “Then we performed data analysis to determine the best lift policy, taking into consideration the capacity and speed of the lifts.”
Jeroen and his team worked overtime while the offices were initially largely unmanned due to the call for people to work from home as much as possible. “When the tenants came back after the first lockdown, our buildings were well equipped for their safe return.” Jeroen believes that some of the changes, which involved a total investment of €0.6 million, will be useful in the future too. “Like the people counters that provide more information on how offices are used, which helps us set up things like our climate control systems, security and cleaning more efficiently. And the focus on health and well-being is an important trend that will get a lot more attention in a post-Covid world. That is why we launched a pilot at HNK The Hague with a so-called ‘health wall’ (see insert) that will still be relevant after the pandemic is over.”
To promote health and well-being in our offices we have developed the ‘Health Wall’. The integrated screen features information on nutrition, physical activities and bike rentals. Moreover, tenants can take their temperature and check their oxygen levels. While particularly valuable in these times of Covid-19, this service is likely to stay. The concept is being piloted at HNK The Hague and will be rolled out further if it proves to be successful.