Health Emergencies And Pandemics – Are You Prepared For The Future

Karsten Lee and Alexandra DiCenzo explore ways in which landlords and tenants can both be proactive with respect to pandemics and safeguarding their business interests in the next few months and into the future. Aside from the adjustments that many businesses have made during COVID-19, they dig deep into recommended clauses that can be introduced to leasing agreements and also touch on business interruption insurance with the additional rider that may help tenants obtain coverage during a pandemic. This episode was recorded in September 2020.
Transcript

Narrator: You’re listening to season two of WeirTalking Leasing, a podcast series from WeirFoulds LLP’s Commercial Leasing Lawyers in Ontario, Canada. In part two of the season, our lawyers and guest speakers discuss key topics through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as navigating the real estate market, landlord and tenant issues, and how to prepare for future crises. Let’s get to it.

Karsten Lee: Welcome back, everyone. As some of you might know, I’m Karsten Lee, and I’m a partner in the Commercial Leasing Group here at WeirFoulds, and joining me today is Alexandra DiCenzo. Alexandra DiCenzo, an associate in the Commercial Leasing Group with Karsten.

Alexandra DiCenzo: It’s nice to be here on a podcast.

Karsten Lee: Yeah, and it’s great to have you join us in delivering this podcast to all of our listeners. Today’s topic will be what everyone has at the forefront of everyone’s minds and everyone’s lives which is emergency and pandemic planning. And in today’s podcast, we’ll be speaking on how emergency and pandemic planning relates to commercial leasing.

Alexandra DiCenzo: Yeah. We’ve had Lisa Borsook talk about the current state of the real estate market and Krista Chaytor talk about the issues arising from post-COVID recovery. We’re continuing
that series of hot topics today. As an introduction, Karsten, emergency and pandemic planning in the context of commercial leasing doesn’t just relate specifically to the drafting of leases. Am I right? We’re going to discuss other ways landlords and tenants can be proactive with respect to future pandemics, such as preparing exit and reentry plans, new office designs and materials, new work environments and operations,
improve technology, and so on.

Alexandra DiCenzo: But is there anything else that comes to mind when you think of pandemic and emergency planning in the context of commercial leasing?

Karsten Lee: Obviously there’s a lot going on, and the first thing in everyone’s mind in the leasing industry, especially leasing lawyers, is the commercial lease. But aside from the commercial lease, there obviously is a lot of other things going on. You did mention a few of those things, which we’ll touch on a little bit later on in this podcast, such as preparing an exit and reentry plans and so on and so forth. But at the end of the day, for all parties entering into any lease or who are in the middle of a lease, what each party will need to think about is each business’ needs.

Karsten Lee: For example, from a tenant’s point of view, tenants will want to make sure that they have flexibility to allow their business to adapt in the event of an emergency, right? And we’ve seen a lot of examples of tenants adapting their business because of the pandemic.

Alexandra DiCenzo: Well, I say it’s been interesting to see. I live in the downtown core, so it’s been interesting to see sidewalk bars pop up for bars that can’t operate inside anymore, pop up grocery stores. My hair salon even developed their own PPE and created eucalyptus hand sanitizers. I’m seeing all these tenants get onboard of the pandemic planning for sure.

Karsten Lee: Well, absolutely. Those are definitely the types of tenants that we see at the forefront every day while we’re walking down or driving down the street, like restaurants who have adapted so that they can do more of their business from a take out basis, and then regular retailers being able to adapt to offer their customers curbside pickup. But also what we don’t see just from looking at a store or an office from the outside is that what’s actually going on in the inside, and they’ve obviously had to make changes to their premises. We’ve all seen the plexiglass.

Karsten Lee: But also in terms of offices, a lot of tenants have been shifting around the office space, shifting around desks so that they can have proper physical distancing within the office. There’s new directions, for example, that all employees need to walk within an office, so the minimizing of contact between people while people are walking from their office to another end of the office, that sort of thing. And there’s obviously a lot going on that we don’t see, safety measures that have been put in place both by the tenants as employers and landlords as obviously the owners of the building.

Karsten Lee: And also, there’s a lot of different communications going on between landlords and tenants and employers and employees and what not. Again, everyone’s got to think about what their business’ needs are. We spoke a little bit about the tenant’s point of view and how they need to have flexibility to allow their businesses to adapt. But also from the landlord’s point of view, they’ve also had to take on a lot of different things that they’ve never had to do, such as pandemic planning, thinking about measures that they need to do, thinking about insurance concerns, for example, and security measures that they need to put in place.

Karsten Lee: The landlords also need some flexibility in what they can do during a pandemic. For example, again, in an office building, landlords have had to adapt. They’ve had to make sure that they’re physical distancing in elevators and in the common areas. And at the end of the day, parties need to be proactive. We’re staring the second wave straight in the face right now. We’re at least coming from a position where we’re a little bit more ready than we were let’s say 12 months ago, but we still need to be proactive just in case there are other curve balls that are ahead. And we will need to be able to continue to adjust quickly.

Karsten Lee: Like we said, the lease is still important. It’s what governs the relationship between the landlord and the tenant. It’s what gives each parties the rights that they enjoy. But on top of the lease, there are other aspects that need to be thought about.

Alexandra DiCenzo: I don’t think anyone realized how difficult and complicated day-to-day operations get when restrictions are imposed. It’s definitely something to plan for. Do you think landlords and tenants were prepared for the current pandemic? I know after the SARS outbreak, parties were more mindful of pandemic and health emergencies provisions. I don’t believe they were commonplace, and COVID brought new government mandated regulations and closures that landlords and tenants have never experienced before, at least from my knowledge.

Karsten Lee: Well, were we prepared? I think if you were to kind of rewind and put yourself in our shoes more than six months ago, let’s say 12 months ago, were we prepared? Probably not. Was anyone expecting this? No. But at the end of the day, I think from an operational point of view, everyone was able to adapt relatively quickly, both landlords and tenants, right? It was impossible to prepare for something like this. You did mention SARS, but that was completely different. 17 years ago when SARS came about, it really didn’t have the same effect as COVID. Offices weren’t shut down. Malls weren’t shut down. Governments didn’t shut non-essential businesses down.

Karsten Lee: That was a completely different animal. A lot of people who had the foresight of thinking through issues such as this may have predicted it, but I think a lot of people ended up not listening as much as they could have to those visionaries shall we say. Brings to mind Bill Gates and all his documentaries and warnings about how a pandemic would affect the globe, and he was right. And a lot of people just either didn’t have time to think about those sorts of issues or probably a lot of companies just didn’t have the resources to be able to throw at preparing for something that would have happened like this.

Karsten Lee: But at the end of the day, we were able to adjust fairly quickly. And I think overall, society has adapted and we’re all coming out of it generally okay given the circumstances. Obviously some people would think no and some people would think it’s even better. But I think overall we’re okay. A lot of leases do not have pandemic clauses, but generally I think everyone got on the same page since it was government
that mandated the closures. The question I have though is what happens if it was a slightly milder version of what we got earlier in 2020?

Karsten Lee: Let’s say it was a milder version and the government didn’t take decisive, clear-cut action and they didn’t give those clear-cut instructions to have stores, malls, offices shut down. What if the government had left it to the parties to make that decision? What then? What if the landlord decides, “You know what? I want to shut down the building,” but then the tenants are like, “Why would you want to shut down the building? It’s not that bad.” Like we said, everyone’s got their own opinion on everything.

Karsten Lee: But what if one party wanted to go one direction and the other party wanted to go a different direction? Then that’s when pandemic clauses and leases would have been really tested, right?

Alexandra DiCenzo: There is a lot of differing opinions during this pandemic. Some tenants wanted to close. Some tenants wanted to stay opened. Some landlords had different measures. It’s true. You’d have to look at the leases in those cases to see what rights each party has in terms of closing and continuous operations.

Karsten Lee: Absolutely. And at the end, you can’t really be fully prepared for a pandemic that’s never happened, right? The question now is will we be prepared for the long haul, right? What happens if this pandemic goes on for another year, two years, right? And the issue at that point in time is obviously that… Well, one of the biggest issues that’s going to be popping up is the financial issue, right? Will tenants be able to weather the rest of the pandemic financially? And landlords as well, what happens if vacancies really start to trend very much lower than it is right now? Will landlords be able to weather the whole pandemic financially?

Karsten Lee: For example, how exactly will office towers adjust if physical distancing remains in place for a few years? Will there be enough elevators? What happens if vacancies start piling up at these office towers? Landlords will really have to think out of the box in how to entice tenants to keep staying in these large offices, whether or not the landlord is going to start using delivery services up the service elevators to get lunch up to their tenants. Stuff like that. I think everyone will need to be more creative and work together to overcome all the difficulties no matter how long it lasts.

Alexandra DiCenzo: No one wants to wait for hours for an elevator, but I think everyone involved will probably cooperate. Maybe there will be different shifts or something, so half the office building isn’t there on one day and then the other half is there another day. Oh, no, hopefully it doesn’t go on for two years, but you’re right. We have to be able to prepare for that. Bringing to the point, going back to pandemic and health emergency clauses and how operations are kind of dictated and the decisions that landlords and tenants can make are dictated, I the least…

Alexandra DiCenzo: Looking to the future, when parties do enter into new leases or enter into negotiations for extensions and renewals and other ancillary agreements, what are some of the items they will need to think about during these negotiations in terms of pandemics? What clauses should parties focus on with respect to emergency and pandemics in future lease negotiations?

Karsten Lee: Okay. No, that’s a very good question, and I’m going to talk about three of the biggest clauses and issues that have arisen since the pandemic started. And I’m going to talk about a handful of other clauses that parties may want to think about. The big three so to speak are force majeure clauses, the fixturing period and clauses surrounding that, and the last is the pandemic clauses that we’ve alluded to earlier in the podcast. The first is force majeure clauses. What happened when COVID first hit and there was a government mandated closure of non-essential businesses?

Karsten Lee: What a lot of tenants first did was to take a look at their force majeure clauses to see if there was any relief that was brought about by the wording set out in force majeure clauses. And just as a little background, force majeure clauses are generally, at least in common law provinces, interpreted based on the actual language that’s set out in the document. There is no common law right of force majeure. Whatever the language is in the least is how the courts are going to interpret it. With that in mind, most tenants opened their lease.

Karsten Lee: As you can imagine, 90-whatever percent of the leases are on the landlord standard form and you can imagine what it says, which basically says, “Too bad, so sad, tenant. Even in the event of force majeure, you still need to pay rent to the landlord.” Obviously that’s the backdrop of what’s been going on. And moving forward… Well, presently, it’s already started happening as you can imagine. And moving forward, tenants are really going to start thinking about whether or not they will be or they should be paying rent during a force majeure event.

Karsten Lee: On the flip side of it, landlords obviously will want the rent to continue because they still have mortgage payments to make, pandemic or not. In negotiating force majeure clauses in the future, you have to think about a few things. The first thing to think about is whether or not a pandemic or COVID-19 or any other emergency in the future would actually be considered a force majeure event. You’ll really need to think about what types of events or situations are actually going to be defined as force majeure events. And like I said, courts are going to interpret the clauses based on the language.

Karsten Lee: If you want a pandemic to be a force majeure event, you better put it in specifically, health emergency, pandemic, such as COVID-19, SARS, et cetera, et cetera. That way it’s not arguable that a pandemic is not considered a force majeure event, because I’ve seen a lot of force majeure clauses that did not consider a pandemic to be a force majeure event. The next thing to think about is how the force majeure event is actually triggered. If you’re going to be general and say, “Oh, a pandemic is a force majeure event,” well, you don’t want to get into an argument that a pandemic halfway around the world is a force majeure event.

Karsten Lee: You might want to be specific and say, “A force majeure event is if a government mandates a closure that arises due to a pandemic or health emergency,” and that sort of thing. The next thing to think about is whether or not you need some sort of notice or trigger. Some force majeure clauses do talk about you need to have notice provided by the tenant to the landlord in order for an event to be considered a force majeure event. Think about whether or not that is feasible or if it’s something that the parties do want or not want.

Karsten Lee: Finally, rent, right? Parties really should consider whether or not a tenant must continue to pay rent during a force majeure event. Like I said, a lot of tenants have started asking and trying to negotiate with landlords for the right to abate rent in the event of a force majeure or in the event of a pandemic. And as you can also imagine, landlords have been saying no. However, any new lease deal will have to I would assume have parties come to some sort of compromise. There’s many ways to figure out what that compromise might be. Like for example, I’ve seen deals now where landlords have agreed, okay, if a pandemic goes on and you can’t operate for more than X number of months, weeks, days, then you get to abate full rent, half rent, or a percentage of rent, that sort of thing.

Karsten Lee: There’s very many ways to come to some sort of compromise. And I’m assuming going forward that given what has happened over the past few months, I’m assuming that there is some of leeway for parties to come to some sort of compromise. That’s sort of the force majeure.

Alexandra DiCenzo: I feel like the payment of rent or enforcement is a very controversial topic right now. And I know tenants and landlords are coming to many different types of compromises, and I guess it depends on the situation. But is there a certain compromise you think is best between the parties? Do you think it should be placed on one party? They each have their own businesses to account for, right?

Karsten Lee: Unfortunately, there is no magic pill, and I hope none of our listeners have come to this podcast hoping that there is a magic pill because there isn’t. And as you can imagine, a lot of it is on a case by case basis. Landlords who are desperate to have tenants come in and fill a big vacancy in their plaza may well be more willing to compromise with tenants. There’s always going to be those properties that are going to always be fully leased no matter what happens, even after, whatever, the most powerful earthquake. People are still going to run to these malls and tenants are always going to be wanting to stay in there.

Karsten Lee: There’s little incentive in those situations for landlords to compromise, right? It depends on each situation.

Alexandra DiCenzo: Yeah, it’s all about bargaining power I guess.

Karsten Lee: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s force majeure clauses and a little bit to chew on.

Narrator: You’re listening to WeirTalking Leasing by WeirFoulds Commercial Leasing Lawyers. Are the issues being discussed far too familiar for you during this time of crisis? If so, our lawyers are here to help. No matter is too big or small. Send us a message at Firm@WeirFoulds.com and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. Now back to the episode.

Karsten Lee: The next big bucket of clauses so to speak to think about when you’re negotiating leases in the future are the clauses that surround the fixturing period. Due to the government mandated shut down of constructions sites earlier this year, many landlords and tenants were not able to continue with the construction and fixturing of their premises. When the government ordered to shut down construction was announced, many tenants were the middle of their rent-free fixturing period, but they weren’t able to complete their fixturing. They were basically burning and wasting their rent-free periods because they weren’t able to continue to do the work.

Karsten Lee: Conversely, at the same time, many landlords were in the middle of their construction and they were not able to deliver the premises to the tenant. And in certain circumstances, there are leases that give tenants the right to penalize landlords or ask for some sort of damage payments in the event landlords are not able to turn over the space within a certain date. Landlords were caught in a pickle in that as well.

Karsten Lee: In the future going forward, it’s definitely very important for all parties to be mindful of possession dates and the length of fixturing periods and whether or not fixturing periods should be extended in the event of force majeure or pandemic, health emergency, that sort of thing. From a landlord’s point of view during a pandemic, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee a set delivery date to the tenant and have a mechanism to allow the landlord a little bit of leeway in the event they can’t deliver the premises.

Karsten Lee: And on the other hand, tenants also need that sort of leeway to be able to come back in and continue their construction and not have to face the rent commencement date staring them in the face. Obviously these things have to be thought about and negotiated. And one thing that tenants might want to think about, and landlords might want to think about in terms of getting some sort of extension, is whether or not they need some lead time to get construction crews to mobilize after a shut down.

Karsten Lee: I’ve heard that in some scenarios construction crews were dispersed and they had to go home. And then when the construction sites were allowed to reopen again a few weeks later, it took crews three weeks or more to remobilize because they had to travel back to where the construction site was, quarantine for two weeks, and then get materials ready and what not. It’s not like construction sites are open, flip a switch, everything is back to normal. We really have to think about that quarantine period and remobilizing period.

Karsten Lee: Obviously in these scenarios, what ended up happening during these situations a few months ago when no one had these rights to extend the fixturing period, the key there was good communication between the landlord and the tenant just to make sure each side understands the concerns of the other party. That’s that fixturing period clause bucket. And the last bucket was the pandemic clauses, so clauses that dealt with pandemics and health emergencies. And these clauses, like you mentioned, some landlords had the foresight to put it into their leases after SARS had taken a hold a few years ago.

Karsten Lee: But the vast majority of landlords and the vast majority of leases didn’t really adopt any of these types of clauses. What are these clauses exactly for those of you who don’t know what a pandemic or health emergency clause looks like? They are clauses that typically allow landlords or give landlords very broad rights during a health emergency. For example, the landlord has the right to impose new rules and regulations. They have the right to restrict access to the building. They have the right to require a tenant to decontaminate their premises in certain situations. They have the right to require tenants or visitors to be subject to a health screening upon entry to the building.

Karsten Lee: They have the right to require tenants to participate in health emergency drills and minimize certain obligations. They allow landlords to let’s say stop providing janitorial services, et cetera, et cetera. Most importantly, these health emergency clauses also typically contain language that absolves the landlord from any claims or liabilities that may be brought on in connection with something the landlord does or they don’t do in the event of a health emergency. As you can see, these clauses provide very broad rights for landlords to their benefit. So it would be very smart for tenants to take a closer look at these clauses and not gloss over them when they’re negotiating the lease.

Karsten Lee: Tenants should at least try to introduce some language that requires the landlord to act reasonably in these circumstances, so landlords are just not going running roughshod with all the, “And now these are the new 105 rules and regulations in the event of a pandemic.” There has to be some sort of reasonability built in. That’s my suggestion is to definitely take a look at those and see what clauses allow landlords to overstep their bounds and just add in a little bit of reasonability in them.

Alexandra DiCenzo: Maybe pandemic and health emergency clauses will be the next staple in leases and in many agreements moving forward.

Karsten Lee: Oh, I’m very sure it will be, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of it and there’s going to be a lot more. Everyone went through the pandemic, so they know exactly now for a similar kind of pandemic what they want to happen and not to happen. But the thing is you never know what other future events might bring, so not everyone’s had the personal balls. We’ll see how negotiations will go in terms of those. Other clauses just quickly, just to run through, just to think about. Use clause number one, tenants have to shift gears during the pandemic. Just make sure that the use clause is broad enough so that tenants can expand and remain flexible during an emergency and that sort of thing.

Karsten Lee: For example, again, going back to our earlier example which is can restaurants offer take out if they didn’t use to? Can they offer curbside pick up if they didn’t use to? That sort of thing. Can a restaurant now shift and become a grocery store, like you said? Those sorts of things to think about. Next thing to think about, tenant might want the right to reduce space. Obviously landlords don’t like giving tenants these rights. But if tenants have the muscle and can negotiate these rights in certain circumstances, then obviously that’s something tenants might want to think about. Next group of clauses to think about are transfer provisions.

Karsten Lee: Tenants might want the flexibility to assign the lease without landlord’s consent, or in circumstances such as these, maybe to sublet a portion of the space so there is a subtenant helping out with the rent. Over the past few months, landlords have been extremely busy so they can’t really go through all the consent rights required for any transfer or sublease in a timely manner. Tenants might want to think about some sublease rights that they might without having to go to the landlord for consent in certain circumstances, pandemics and what not. Next group, tenant’s ability to make alterations to the premises.

Karsten Lee: As we just noted, obviously tenants have had to make changes to their premises, put a plexiglass. I’ve seen walls having to be moved. Tenants might want to think about putting into the lease to give them that flexibility, again, without having to go to the landlord for consent. And the last thing just a minor kind of provision to think about, but more on the practical side of it are the notice provisions in the lease. A lot of those provisions require registered mail, courier, personal delivery and all that, as opposed to email. And there’s obviously reasons why some parties don’t like to receive notices by email.

Karsten Lee: In pandemic or emergency situations, a lot of parties were not able to send the courier or personal delivery or go to the post office to mail something, and there may well be situations in the future where no one wants to leave the house. Those are some of the clauses to think about when you’re negotiating leases in the future.

Alexandra DiCenzo: We’re trying to stay positive, but trying to be proactive. Yeah. That was a great rundown. I think that helps all our listeners out there. I think that was probably their main focus to see what they’re going to do in terms of lease negotiations. But now that we’ve discussed how to make leases as full proof as possible in terms of pandemics, there are other things that tenants should be doing outside of leases that pertain to their operations and whatnot. I think to start, the first avenue that tenants look to when they were forced to close was their business interruption insurance.

Alexandra DiCenzo: But I know a lot of insurers were declining insurance coverage to tenants who were forced to close because the vast majority of insurance policies set out that payouts for business interruption would only be available in the event there was physical damage to the premises. And in the event of a pandemic, there was no physical damage to the premises, maybe to people, but this was a loophole for insurers. But there was a recent case that came out that gave people hope, right, Karsten? And it seems to come out at the perfect time.

Karsten Lee: Yeah. There was this insurance case that came out right around the end of March that opened the door. I’m not saying it’s going to be a slam dunk, but it opened the door for tenants be able to claim business interruption insurance in the event similar to COVID where there is no actual physical damage that occurred. Just kind of to rewind a few steps there, what ended up happening… All tenants are required, but most tenants get business interruption insurance. And you would think that, oh, business interruption insurance, my business has been interrupted by this pandemic.

Karsten Lee: I’m going to go now to my insurance insurer and say, “Hey, I need some funds to help pay for rent, pay for loss profits and all that.” And you would have thought, oh, business interruption insurance, I should be covered. But it turns out that business interruption insurance typically for the vast majority of policies only pay out in the event there is physical damage. And since there is no physical damage brought about by a pandemic or health emergency, then insurers generally said no.

Karsten Lee: From what I understand, I’m not an insurance expert, but the only situations where a tenant was able to receive business interruption insurance funds was if they purchased an extra rider for health emergencies and pandemics and whatnot. A lot of tenants were left out in the cold, so to speak, without any relief from their insurer. This case that came out in March… The case was MDS Inc and Factory Mutual Insurance Company. And what that case stood for in a nutshell was that in certain circumstances, and in this case a possible nuclear meltdown, you could classify that sort of circumstance as physical
damage even though there is no physical damage that has actually occurred.

Karsten Lee: That opened the door for tenants to claim for insurance. Obviously it hasn’t been litigated yet in the context of COVID. And we’ll see in the next few months whether or not tenants will prevail in being able to claim under business interruption insurance policies.

Alexandra DiCenzo: Yeah. But again, to be possibly proactive here and not rely on the decisions of the courts, although we have great litigation lawyers at WeirFoulds to help you if you needed, you should purchase that specific rider for pandemics, right?

Karsten Lee: Yup, absolutely. You should think about doing it. I can only imagine how much it’ll cost going forward, but again, it’s all about planning. And if it’s something that makes sense from a financial point of view, then definitely think about purchasing that rider.

Alexandra DiCenzo: The next thing in addition to help business prepare for the future in terms of pandemics outside of their leases specifically, they can prepare exit plans, as well as reentry,
reintegration, and continuity plans so that they’re ready for potential pandemics, because these plans will help businesses manage their operations more smoothly and help them set out how they will continue to operate during a pandemic. I know some businesses have even created pandemic planning committees which have helped them be proactive. I don’t know if this is going to continue into the future past the pandemic and keep them instated, but it’ll be interesting to see.

Karsten Lee: Well, there’s always going to be risks I guess that need to be planned for. I think these past few months have definitely made a lot of people think, well, if this can happen, what else could happen and how are we going to be preparing our businesses to cope with those kinds of issues? I’m not saying every company has the resources to deal with questions like that, but I think especially a lot of the larger companies do have those sorts of scenarios.

Alexandra DiCenzo: I think it’ll be helpful to definitely have at least general plans in their back pocket. They definitely have to be customized to the business place and the work environment. Because as we discussed, each work environment is very different and they had to adapt differently to the pandemic, a restaurant versus an office. I know our office has adapted pretty quickly and efficiently, and they came up with a plan right away. But we always suggest that businesses consult with lawyers and licensed medical professionals and occupational health and safety specialists to design these plans because they can be really helpful during a pandemic.

Alexandra DiCenzo: And if you’re developing one now, then you can use it repeatedly. Hopefully, even though future pandemics, well, we hope they do not happen, are going to be a bit different maybe. But that’s all in terms of plans, unless you have anything else to say, Karsten?

Karsten Lee: I have one last thing to say for offices especially. The one thing that has been brought to the forefront is the importance of a very sound and stable IT department in each of the offices. The whole migration from working from the office and working from home for companies that were prepared and had a strong IT department and IT plan, they were able to shift to working from home quite seamlessly within hours. Whereas there were companies that I’ve heard that some workers were, two months after the start of the pandemic, still not able to work from home because they didn’t have proper IT policies and procedures in place.

Karsten Lee: I think that’s going to be a really, really big part of any pandemic or emergency plan in the future.

Alexandra DiCenzo: I think that working from work was definitely a trend before the pandemic and then this definitely pushed us into the future. It’s been interesting to see all these businesses suddenly develop these IT platforms so that their workers can work from home. But we’ll see. I know a lot of people I’ve talked to have enjoyed working from home, so this might be going outside of the pandemic where workers might want to actually stay home. Offices will have to figure out how to be as productive in the office and at home and have everyone communicate seamlessly and work together seamlessly no matter where they are. That’s a good point.

Alexandra DiCenzo: And then I think the last thing that people have to think about outside of their leases would be new office design and materials, new work environments and operations, and
like you said, improve technology and digital platforms to support working from home. Because with this pandemic, everyone has to readapt and rescramble and work with what they had, but I think they’re going to plan for the future in how to make their offices as optimal as possible and as flexible as possible to adapt to any scenario.

Karsten Lee: I agree. I completely agree. It’s all about planning and putting it all together and making sure that it gets updated periodically so it’s not completely 20 years from now they’re brushing off the pandemic plans from 2020.

[Karsten & Alexandra laugh]

Alexandra DiCenzo: I’ve read in articles and I’ve heard on other podcasts, I think they’re going to start looking at new office materials and designs. I don’t know what’s going to happen to open concept and shared workplaces, because I know this pandemic probably pushed them back to traditional allocated desk formats and a lot of physical common spaces and offices were shut down. But in the long term, businesses are apparently going to start making signs driven decisions with respect to office design, and they’re going to start looking at some new services and easy to clean fabrics and anti-microbe bio surface shields and self-cleaning adhesive surfaces, all these big words.

Alexandra DiCenzo: They’re going to be using these in offices so that no matter what is brought their way, they’re prepared and everything is easily adaptable. And I know there’s also going to be hands-free technology in terms of equipment such as light switches and computers. There’s going to be a new whole office design I think. And before that, it was the whole open concept, shared workspace. It’s going to be cool to see what happens of office buildings and developments and see how everything’s going to be designed in the future.

Karsten Lee: Yeah. No, it’ll be very interesting to see. Well, I’m going to add one last tidbit before we go about office materials, and I can tell you that the technology existed a long time ago in terms of hands-free lighting and whatnot. If anyone remembers the clapper?

[Karsten claps his hands twice and they both laugh]

Karsten Lee: And with that, hopefully everyone listening has learned a little bit more about emergency and pandemic planning. If you have any questions, please do feel free to reach out to either Alexandra or myself. I hope everyone stays safe out there.

Alexandra DiCenzo: Stay safe, everyone.

Narrator: Thanks for joining us for this episode of WeirTalking Leasing by WeirFoulds Commercial Leasing Lawyers. Please take a moment to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’d like to hear from our lawyers on another topic, send us an email at Publications@WeirFoulds.com. Stay well and tune in again soon.

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