13 May 2020


While working from home was identified as the preferred solution for the majority of Luxembourgers, there're some professions that had to try to achieve operational continuity at their workplaces. In the world of business, property managers were quickly pinpointed as the right 'man' for the job.

When the lockdown was announced in Luxembourg, the country's Prime Minister urged both companies and employees to continue working. While working from home was identified as the preferred solution for the majority of Luxembourgers there are some professions that had to try to achieve operational continuity at their places of work. In the world of business, property managers were quickly pinpointed as the right 'man' for the job. As the natural link between landlords and tenants, property managers have shown their ability to listen, understand and adapt, both to respond as fairly as possible to companies' continued operations, and to prepare for the relaxation of the lockdown.

Active from the first inkling of a health crisis

As soon as the first cases of COVID-19 emerged in office buildings, property managers acted proactively, drawing up procedures and lists of recommendations on how working life should be organised inside. Their aim was to ensure the safety of those renting buildings while protecting business continuity. They helped companies obtain alcohol-based hand sanitiser, issued information on the protective measures needed to prevent transmission, and put in place social distancing, etc. Then, quite suddenly, the lockdown was announced. This led to the closure of almost all office buildings and meant that government technical and regulatory measures needed to be adjusted and applied.

This development raised a host of questions and was handled on a case-by-case basis since there are as many different situations and requirements as there are companies. For example, some companies completely closed, while others were still operating at full capacity, and some were providing a reduced service, and then there were some buildings with one tenant and others with several... But one figure seemed best able to deal with all of these challenges, act quickly, and to establish a dialogue between owners, user and occupants – the property manager.

The property manager: a vital role in the value chain

With expertise in technical, legal and accounting matters and more, but also primarily in consulting, property managers occupy a key role in the value chain. They have simultaneously been called upon in relation to the protective and health and safety-related measures to be implemented, to interpret government directives, to collect rents and the impact of the crisis on investments, etc. "Reports on a building and its business activity were completed on a monthly or quarterly basis, but this has now been increased to weekly, with much more interactive reporting", says Frédéric Van de Putte, Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas Real Estate Belgium & Luxembourg. "This will enable us to truly exercise our consultancy role and help produce recommendations and strategic action plans for the weeks to come."

Furthermore, the automation of procedures for core business functions and competencies began in recent years has allowed our teams to save valuable time devoted instead to dialogue, analysis, and anticipation work. This means that the day-to-day role of those in property management is advisory, working closely with users. This is all the more true today since managers from BNP Paribas Real Estate have prioritised human communication methods – via daily telephone conversations with their clients, both investors and occupants, to stay in touch and gain a sense of their expectations and the issues they are facing.

"We have been in great demand because we are perceived as having legitimacy", emphasises Frédéric Van de Putte, before adding that "Nobody can see the overall picture as fully as the property manager. Today, property owners and users understand just how involved we are in these matters: we certainly have the information, but we also have an understanding of the building and the needs of its occupants. In this respect, we are in a position to give genuine advice." This is where the added value in tomorrow's property management lies.

Guidance beyond the conventional framework

The COVID-19 health crisis that the world is currently living through has highlighted property managers' adaptability, as well as their knowledge of property users.

To prepare for the post-lockdown period, they are developing new expertise in methodology tailored to the needs voiced by companies, as well as the requirements arising from the measures and recommendations issued by public authorities. These needs differ from the usual framework and tend to be in the form of recommendations. Today, landlords and major building users expect firm guidance. This is a given.

"While our duty to offer advice is typically within the authorised remit, it seems clear that we are now going beyond the ordinary scope of our role", concludes Frédéric Van de Putte.

Therefore, companies must rethink all their systems and adopt their own individual preventive measures in order to combat the spread of the virus within the buildings they occupy. The easing of the lockdown is a crucial period, which must be managed pragmatically and professionally. To guarantee everybody's safety and outline initial types of responses for those in building operations and management, the BNP Paribas Real Estate Property Management teams have produced a Guide listing all steps that need to be taken inside buildings. Included are recommendations issued by organisations representing the profession, and measures imposed by the government. The Guide is intended to support both owners and tenants and to reassure building occupants when they return to the office.

In property, a new order has already taken shape. Property management is enhancing its reputation and demonstrating if this were still needed, its important and legitimate role in the property ecosystem. When we exit this crisis, these expert managers will naturally be the ones with the ear of building users and decision-makers. An advisory role rightfully returned.

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