The Challenges of Bringing Employees Back to Work

The Challenges of Bringing Employees Back to Work

By: Dr. Sarma Velamuri, M.D. Foreword by: Kirk Ashy - Shepard & Walton


Shepard & Walton is proud to partner with Luminare and Dr. Velamuri. We are all coming into another chapter of our “new normal” and at some point, someday, we are going to start bringing people back to work… and what will that look like? The Luminare concepts and their Quickscreen tool is the best we have seen.

Kirk Ashy
Partner – Vice President
Shepard & Walton Employee Benefits 

The Challenges of Bringing Employees Back to Work

When your employees are feeling sick and feel like they may have a fever, their first instinct is probably to check their temperature. However, how accurate are thermometers? How do they know if they are able to go to work and not bring an illness with them? Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees didn’t worry as much when they had a cold or the flu and just went to work. Their coworkers may not have been happy about it, but they carried on. However, from the onset of COVID-19, going to work carrying the coronavirus is far more dangerous and employees need to think twice before showing up to the office. Companies can be exposing themselves to lawsuits if employees show up and end up spreading COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues to affect the world, businesses are investing in peripheral thermometers and PPE to protect their employees and workplace. According to Marc Blitstein, CEO of American Diagnostic Corp., one of the nation’s largest thermometer manufacturers, “demand is up 900% for his company’s “non-contact” thermometers, which take a person’s temperature without physically touching them. Demand for ADC digital thermometers is up 300%.” It’s great that many companies are taking the pandemic seriously and investing in healthcare tools to protect their employees. However, they must know the facts about the effectiveness of thermometers and invest in all tools that are necessary to protect their staff well.

In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, they found that “most commonly used peripheral thermometers do not accurately estimate body temperature. This was most evident for temperatures that may affect patient diagnosis, management, and outcomes (that is, fever and hypothermia).” This is concerning since a fever is an important data point for diagnosing severe infections and is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Handheld thermometers have become ubiquitous during this pandemic. According to Business Insider, “Thermometer screenings for COVID-19 aren't just inaccurate and unhelpful, they're lulling people into a false sense of security during the pandemic. A person's temperature, even when taken accurately, isn't always an indication of early coronavirus infection and often won't tell you that someone is ill when they're at their most contagious stage.”

So how can you protect your workplace if a peripheral thermometer isn’t accurate? In addition to temperature checks, you should look at all the symptoms you have and monitor those. According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms include: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, and so on. The full list can be found on the CDC website. Investing in a syndromic surveillance tool can help you track your symptoms in addition to anyone else that is in the workplace or visitors. Syndromic surveillance focuses on monitoring the more established risks of emerging infectious disease outbreaks. In addition, “syndromic surveillance may detect health threats faster than traditional surveillance systems, such as laboratory reports, which may permit more timely, and hence potentially more effective public health action to reduce morbidity and mortality.” (BMC Public Health) If you’re serious about protecting your workplace, you should consider investing in a syndromic surveillance tool along with thermometers, PPE, and other sanitation products and services. The syndromic surveillance tool should also be compliant with HIPAA and ADA regulations along with following OSHA and CDC guidelines, reducing the liability to the company. Keep in mind that the health and safety of your employees is the most important thing.

Looking for some guidance on safely reopening your business while adhering to federal and state guidelines?

Please contact us and we will help you with the process.

For more information on Quickscreen, please visit:

3 Potential Rent Relief Structures to Talk to Your Broker About Amidst COVID-19

3 Potential Rent Relief Structures to Talk to Your Broker About Amidst COVID-19

By: Jon Wheless


AQUILA has been working tirelessly to understand the impact that the COVID-19 crisis will have on the commercial real estate industry so that we can, in turn, properly advise our clients during this unprecedented time. 

Several of our tenant representation clients have asked about the possibility of rent relief to help ease the significant financial burden they are suddenly encountering, so we have been working with our network of brokers, landlords, lenders, tax consultants and others to understand what potential rent relief solutions might look like.

In this article we will discuss:

Read More: AQUILA COVID-19 Austin Real Estate Resource Center

Three Possible Rent Relief Structures

It is important to understand that every company’s situation is unique so there isn’t a good one-size-fits-all approach to rent relief. That said, here are three potential rent relief scenarios that landlords might be open to, depending on the unique situation of your company. 

  1. Abated Rent (Amortized)

This structure would call for abated base rent in the short-term, but the value of this abated rent would then be amortized in to the base rent in the future. 

What does abated rent mean?

Commonly referred to as “free rent,” abated rent simply means that for a period of time the landlord agrees not to charge rent. Free rent can be a little misleading, however, because it often does not mean the tenant is paying nothing for those months. In most cases, it is the base rent that does not have to be paid, while operating expenses and other costs not associated with the base rent are still paid by the tenant.


You wouldn’t need to extend your lease, but your monthly rent would increase in the future to essentially “pay-back” this rent over the life of your lease. 

For example, if your monthly rent payments are $50,000 per month and your landlord gives you two months of abated rent, that $100,000 ($50,000 x 2 months) would be paid back over the life of the remainder of your lease. If you have five years remaining on your lease, you would end up paying an additional $1,667 per month in rent over the remaining lease term ($100,000 ÷ 60 months).


If you have more than five years of term left, this could be an attractive option since the increase in rent could be paid back over a longer period and thus not dramatically affect your monthly occupancy cost.

  1. Abated Rent (Lease Extension)

In this structure, you could also negotiate abated base rent in the short-term, but as opposed to amortizing the abated rent value into your existing rent schedule, you would extend your lease term a few additional months. 

This structure may make more sense if you have less than five years of term remaining on your lease as it would not increase your existing monthly rent obligation, but merely extend it. Additionally, landlords may be more receptive to this if your lease expiration is looming, as it would ensure your tenancy in the building for a (slightly) longer period. 

  1. Lease Restructure

If you have less than two years remaining on your lease and have a certain degree of confidence you may want to extend in your current space (or downsize into a portion of your current space), you may consider restructuring your lease. 

In exchange for a longer commitment, the landlord might be willing to offer up-front abated rent, as well as a tenant improvement allowance should you need to perform any work in your space to make it suitable for you long-term. 

Given the uncertainty of the current market (and the fact that there is 4.5 million square feet under construction that is not accounted for with leases), we may see some landlords start to be aggressive in the short term in order to get ahead of the curve and limit their exposure down the line.   

How long will it take to see rent relief? 

The understanding of the severity and duration of the impact this pandemic will have on commercial real estate is occurring in real-time, and we are learning more each day. While we have seen some landlords agree to these concepts already, most building owners would say that it is still too soon to dive deep into discussions surrounding abated rent scenarios. 

Building owners that have debt on their buildings need lender approval to modify any rent schedules or provide rent relief, so they are currently busy having these conversations regarding what can ultimately be done and at what point in time. We anticipate that landlords will have a clearer understanding within the coming weeks of what may be possible, at which point they can begin having substantive conversations with their tenants.

What You Can Do Now to Speed Up the Rent Relief Process

Review Your Lease

The first thing you can do is have an attorney review your lease to make sure you have a thorough understanding of your rights, particularly the force majeure section of your lease. 

An experienced tenant representation broker can also help you review your lease and make suggestions on questions you might ask your legal counsel to review. 

Prepare Documents to Share with Your Landlord

Since the potential solutions laid-out above contemplate concepts that are likely not included in your existing lease, enacting these solutions will require a certain level of willingness and cooperation from your landlord. 

Landlords have uniformly told us each tenant will be handled on a case-by-case basis and an understanding of their past, present, and anticipated future financial position is going to be paramount. 

To understand what you might need to provide your landlord, read our article What You Need Prepared Before You Approach Your Landlord for Rent Relief Negotiations.

During this uncertain time, AQUILA is here as a resource for you, and we are ready to help with any questions you may have.

To get more information on your unique situation, schedule a consultation with our Tenant Representation experts.