As the world adjusts to new working norms and expectations, we’ve been making every effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our tenants and staff as we prepare to welcome them back to our centres in greater numbers.

By keeping our centres open during the lockdowns, we enabled tenants to carry out their vital work, in some cases directly supporting local communities and vulnerable people. This also means we have had to stay on top of social distancing and hygiene measures from the very first days and weeks of the pandemic and adapt to the rapidly changing situation.

We have a comprehensive set of guidelines in place which applies to all centres and is regularly updated. This is supplemented by bespoke guidelines outlining the detailed measures specific to each centre. These cover social distancing, signage, cleaning, hand sanitiser points, use of communal areas and the wearing of face masks (which is currently mandatory for all staff and tenants unless they have an exemption on medical or other grounds).

Providing a safe and clean environment and has always been very important to Ethical Property, and during the last year we have worked closely with all our cleaning services to ensure regular, safe cleaning, and to facilitate deep cleaning for tenants who require it. We are providing ‘Wipe and Go’ kits in all our communal areas, and we kindly ask all staff, tenants and visitors to wipe down any surface they may have used before they leave.

A tailored approach

One of the challenges for Ethical Property is that with such a variety of properties – ranging from offices to conferencing facilities to retail and creative space – a one-size-fits-approach just doesn’t apply, and this is certainly the case when it comes to keeping our centres Covid-secure. That’s why we’ve taken a tailored approach, with centre managers taking the lead, backed up by guidance and materials from HQ.

The requirements for conferencing, for example, are quite different from those in our office spaces. At Resource for London, we obtained both ‘Good to Go’ and ‘AIM Secure’ accreditations from Visit England and the Meeting Industry Association (MIA) respectively. These gave the centre Covid-secure venue status, so we can resume conferencing activities safely when the lockdown restrictions are eased. Meanwhile at Green Park Station in Bristol, the more open spaces have enabled the centre to provide venue space for charity functions and music events that would otherwise have been cancelled – raising much-needed funds and morale in this challenging year. Even in the early days of the first lockdown, the farmer’s market was able to continue operating, providing a boost for local traders as well as the community.

Safety first

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, the safety and wellbeing of our tenants and staff remains our top priority. Tenants’ feedback has been extremely valuable in adapting the building to the ever-changing Covid regulations. All our centres undergo regular and thorough risk assessments, and we have requested that our tenants carry out and share their own assessments to ensure we all play our part in keeping everyone safe.

Of course in all of this, we have not lost sight of the environmental impact of the new measures. Keeping Covid-secure has presented us with many challenges in this respect. At one level, we have to increase the use of single-use products that we’ve previously worked so hard to phase out – for example replacing tea towels and shared crockery with disposable alternatives. Keeping our centres open during the year has also meant keeping them heated and lit, despite being very far from full. As always, we strive to find a balance, and in the face of the pandemic we have had to prioritse protection. Of course we will return to more environmentally friendly practices as soon as it is safe to do so.

Thank you for your support

Responding to the ever-changing situation has required a huge effort from the teams in our centres throughout the year, many of whom have had to step up to new and unfamiliar roles – sometimes on top of additional strains of shielding vulnerable family members, home schooling and being without the support of furloughed colleagues. As Deputy MD Jonathan Davies puts it, “The energy, commitment and problem-solving capacity local teams have shown in keeping our centres open and safe has been outstanding.”

We are also hugely grateful to all our centre users for their persistence and patience over this most challenging of years. In the weeks and months to come, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and listen carefully to their questions and concerns. We very much look forward to welcoming our tenants back and providing them with the flexible workspace they need to be changemakers in the post-pandemic world.