With more people working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, many companies say the transition has proven to be successful. But some commercial real estate professionals say that some aspects of their work have become more challenging, including training new employees and networking.
Technology such as video calling and collaboration software has helped many businesses to get work done from people’s homes. And some offices have made big savings by not having workers in the office 24/7.
“I felt that, in at least the first few weeks, we were really functioning well,” David Eyzenberg, the founder and president of Eyzenberg & Company, a real estate investment bank, which moved its two dozen employees to remote work early in the pandemic, told the Commercial Observer.
Eyzenberg said he and his staff were communicating as much as they ever were even with everyone working remotely. Still, he said the move to remote work was likely temporary, and that many workers were keen to return to the office even with the pandemic dragging on.
“I will tell you if I told the company, ‘We’re just going to be remote,’ I’d probably lose half the company immediately,” Eyzenberg said regarding the feedback he’s gotten from employees.
Indeed, remote work is losing its novelty at other companies too. A recent survey of 40,000 officer workers by Cushman & Wakefield found that not everyone is satisfied with remote work. Those who had prior experience of working from home, and had a dedicated space set up for that, tended to fare better with remote work, the survey found.
In the commercial real estate sector, executives said that they could work reasonably efficiently from home. However, they said coordinating timing with external services is a challenge. For instance, they often experience long delays in permitting and other approvals on inspections.
The Commercial Observer said that some firms are struggling to replace face-t0-face networking that leads to developments, leases and financing deals. Those interactions are not so easily recreated using video chat tools, and are sorely missed.
After all, “this is a relationship business,” said Jerrod Delaine, a real estate asset management and construction director at Carthage Real Estate Advisors. “At some point we’ll have to find a way to continue to generate new business and contacts.”
Other firms have complained that training new employees and mentoring has also proven to be difficult with everyone working from home. It’s far easier to do this remotely with people that you’ve worked with for years, but not so easy with unfamiliar people, executives said.
The survey also found that 70% of Generation Zers and 69% of millennials have reported challenges in working from home, despite their supposed familiarity with technology tools. That’s actually higher than the 55% of baby boomers who reported the same. The survey authors said this might be explained by the fact that younger people tend to have roommates or young children around that can be more distracting. It may also be linked to the lack of experience and relationships at the companies they work for.
The Cushman & Wakefield survey says remote working companies are being forced to find ways to better use technology that fosters collaboration.