By Marc Rapport and Liz Brumer
Now that vaccines against COVID-19 are being rolled out, it seems a good time to consider their impact on commercial real estate investing; specifically, if mandating them would help or hurt those investments. Two Millionacres pros debate the two sides.
First, the pro-vaccine position.
It seems pretty clear that employers can make receiving the vaccine a condition of employment. Whether residential landlords can seems to be a murkier question.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who say they’ll take the vaccine has been steadily rising, so resistance could well be waning in the face of catastrophic rises in cases across the country.
But would mandating the vaccine help commercial real estate (CRE) investing?
Yes -- of course it would help
Giving people a valid, science-based reason to feel less concerned when they go into public spaces can only help retail businesses of all kinds. Being able to market that would be a public relations/marketing plus to many consumers.
Plus, it can make companies feel more comfortable bringing people back into their more natural state of being: working together instead of at home in our caves.
The effects of the vaccine, in fact, are already being felt. Widely reported measures of consumer confidence, for instance, have already started rising even while confirmed cases and deaths are skyrocketing. That’s on news of the arrival of the vaccines, well before there’s any clarity on how quickly most of us can get vaccinated.
In fact, the vaccine may be critical to retail and in many cases office space survival. A recent McKinsey report found a net increase of 40% in consumers who plan to continue to shop online after the pandemic is gone. Hanging on to as many in-person shoppers, diners, and office workers as possible by making them comfortable to be there can only help.
Now for the other side of the argument
Freedom of choice is an essential part of our Constitution and rights as United States citizens -- including the right to decide if you want or don't want to receive a vaccination. Mandating vaccinations, particularly in the workplace, may seem like a way to ensure safety among the workplace, reduce liability for the business owner, and limit the likelihood for the spread of illness within the office, but it directly goes against employees rights.
John F. Kennedy said that "the great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free." While some employees may want -- and opt for the vaccine, just as many may refuse to get the vaccine. Mandating the vaccine in order to work or return to the office place could result in a large number of employees refusing to return to the office and only working from home or seeking alternative employment elsewhere with a company that doesn't require employees to take the vaccine.
Short-sighted solution riddled with constitutional problems
Mandating employee vaccinations is a short-sighted solution that blatantly ignores constitutional rights, personal freedoms, and a free-market economy and will likely have the opposite effect than what employers hope to achieve. I personally believe if employees mandate vaccinations there will be a large uptick in the number of employees leaving the company, resulting in reduced commerce and production because of limited staff and employees; thus, it's not a good solution for the economy or country.
Meeting in the Middle
Providing employees with the option to receive the vaccination in their workplaces, at no extra cost to them, allows those who want to receive the vaccine the ability to do so while still giving employees who do not want to take the vaccine the right to decline. Including a waiver that indemnifies the company against employees who refused to take the vaccine could be a way to limit risk for the employer while still honoring and upholding employees' constitutional rights. It's also a far better long-term solution to the current problem.