How we mobilized
at the beginning of the pandemic
There was no roadmap for re-entering buildings
At JLL, we were as anxious and disoriented as everyone else in March 2020 when COVID-19 was spreading across the country. We hunkered down, glued to the news for information that would help us make sense of what was happening.
“It was an uneasy time,” says Denise Dexter, Chief Operating Officer for the East Markets Region and JLL’s re-entry operations lead for the Americas. “It was surreal to send some of our people home without knowing when they’d be able to come back.”
But despite the fear and ambiguity, we had to act immediately to keep serving our clients, who were also navigating the unknown. You may have heard the phrase “building the plane while flying it.” We not only created and implemented our own re-entry plan very early in the pandemic, we were also simultaneously guiding and supporting our clients as they did the same.
The first thing JLL did was create a cross-functional re-entry committee dedicated to building re-entry processes and policies, comprised of leaders from our Health & Safety, Human Resources, Legal, Commercial Real Estate, Marketing and other divisions. The goal of our initial COVID-19 response was first and foremost to keep our employees healthy, and to keep them engaged and connected through technology—at home or wherever they chose to work.
A unique challenge for our property managers
Many of our employees, by nature of their roles, weren’t able to work remotely. Our property management and engineering teams, who support client properties all over the world, were the linchpins in our ability to implement rapidly changing operations procedures. We prioritized creating safe protocols for them as they cared for offices, retail centers, manufacturing facilities and all of the people inside them.
“Our property management teams didn’t get to work from home,” says Kristin Mueller, JLL Chief Operating Officer for Property Management. “They were our first responders, on the front lines of our pandemic response procedures.”
To date, our property management teams have supported 3,830 properties totaling 745 million-plus square feet—keeping them open and running throughout the pandemic.
The road back to the office
As soon as we could do so safely, we started bringing our own people back to JLL corporate offices in a way that ensured their continued protection and comfort. With more than 130 JLL offices across the U.S., we made daily decisions according to guidance from governmental health authorities and in compliance with the varying mandates of the 36 U.S. states in which our offices are located. We were able to reopen more than 90% of our U.S. corporate offices by July 2020, without a single COVID-19 outbreak in any of our domestic locations, and we have 100% of them open as of September 2021.
We attribute this, in part, to testing and implementing a range of technology tools for everything from assessing employee health to planning for and monitoring building occupancy and other data. The most critical tech tools were those that allowed us and our clients to screen employees for signs of COVID-19, to create social distancing plans and to manage contact tracing effectively.
The screening and health monitoring tools included online questionnaires that asked employees basic questions about travel history and potential COVID-19 exposure. We also tested wearables (like badges) that allowed us to determine which employees had been in the same spaces and for how long. Certain U.S. jurisdictions required vaccination tracking, and we were able to efficiently adapt a digital tracking method.
Because we were able to ensure the health and safety of our employees, they felt comfortable coming back. The collaboration that only happens within the office returned as well. We were once again making organic, in-person connections that sparked new ideas and boosted innovation. We believe that organizations will bring their employees back to their workplaces when the time is right and that they’ll be happier and more productive just as we are.
“Seeing our employees eager to get back into the routine of their work at the office has been a joyful gift,” Dexter says.