Commercial Sector Finds Pluses, Minuses in Remote Working

August 11, 2020

The pandemic has prompted a lot more people to work from home and for some, the jump to a remote workforce has been successful. However, some commercial real estate professionals are acknowledging that some areas of the adjustment have been a struggle—notably, networking and training newer employees.

Technology and videoconferencing tools have helped industries get their work done in new ways. Offices found savings by not having workers in the office all of the time.

“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. Eyzenberg says he and his staff were communicating as much as they ever were even with everyone working remotely.

However, “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 told commercial real estate news site Commercial Observer of the feedback he’s gotten from employees.

As weeks of remote work have turned into months, the practice may be losing some of its sparkle for other companies as well.

Cushman & Wakefield surveyed 40,000 office workers about COVID-era workplace practices and released its findings in June. Workers who had experience working from home prior, had a dedicated place to do their work from home, and maintained lots of communication with their workplace are faring the best in remote work, the study found.

Commercial real estate execs said they could work efficiently from home but coordinating timing with external services has been problematic. For example, the pandemic has created delays in permitting and other approvals and on inspections.

Some companies reported to Commercial Observer struggles with networking that often leads to developments, leases, and financing. They have struggled to recreate those relationships over videoconferencing tools.

“This is a relationship business,” Jerrod Delaine, a real estate asset management and construction director at Carthage Real Estate Advisors, told Commercial Observer. “At some point we’ll have to find a way to continue to generate new business and contacts.”

Also, firms cited training newer employees and mentoring has been a struggle during the pandemic. It’s easier to communicate remotely with those you’ve worked with for years, execs say.

Seventy percent of Generation Z and 69% of millennials have reported challenges in working from home. That is more than the 55% of older baby boomers who have reported a struggle in remote work, according to the Cushman & Wakefield office-worker study. The survey explained this could be partially because younger workers may have roommates or care for younger children that may be distracting them from work, or it may have to do somewhat with lack of experience and relationships at firms since they tend to be newer.

The Cushman & Wakefield survey says remote working companies are being forced to find ways to better use technology that fosters collaboration.

What Worked, What Didn’t for CRE Pros Working Remotely,” Commercial Observer (Aug. 10, 2020)