Managing Remote Commercial Real Estate Teams
A Cisco survey of 2,000 people worldwide has revealed that employees who telecommute experience higher rates of productivity, work-life flexibility, and overall satisfaction. It also revealed that remote work saves the company money.
The survey showed that 67% claimed the overall quality of their work improved when telecommuting, 83% said communication was the same or better, and 75% said it was easier to get work done on time. The vast majority (91%) also said telecommuting was important to their overall job satisfaction.
Besides being better for employees, using remote workers saves Cisco approximately $277 million each year in just time a productivity costs, not to mention the environmental benefits of workers not commuting to an office every day. Workers also saved $10.3 million in fuel costs each year.
All of these factors combined mean remote workforces are becoming increasingly more common in many fields, and commercial real estate is no exception. When looking to expand, agencies often look to remote workers as a strategic solution.
Remote workers save companies money, because they don’t need office space and many of the expenses that go with on-site employees. At the same time, they expand the geographic reach of a commercial real estate group: teams located in other cities or rural areas allow for rapid response times, and mean clients can reach someone in their area when the need arises.
A remote commercial real estate team does offer challenges. Most of these can be solved by being prepared for remote management and implementing a strategic plan from the outset. Having a plan in place for how you are going to manage your remote workers before you even hire the first one is essential.
Hire the Right People
Remote work is not for everyone, and hiring the right people is essential. The ideal remote teams must be self-motivated and trustworthy. Self-management skills are a must, as remote monitoring and micromanagement are counterproductive.
When working on the road or from a home office, commercial real estate teams must be highly organized, limit distractions, and create their own routines. An employer must give them the freedom to set their own schedules and work outside of what might be considered “normal” office hours.
A two way trust is essential for remote real estate teams to be effective. The agency must trust them, and they must be able to trust management as well.
Set Expectations from the Start
To enable remote commercial real estate agents to operate effectively, it is important to set expectations from the beginning. This does not mean just setting expectations for team members, but they must also know what to expect from management.
It is important that these expectations are in writing and clear. The times team members should be available to management, how quickly they are expected to respond to messages, and when meetings will be held, whether by video, phone, or in person should be outlined early on. Meetings or calls should be scheduled far enough in advance to offer the remote team members time to travel to the office for in person meetings if need be, and ensure there are no other conflicts in their schedule.
On the other hand, management should equally respect the remote team’s time. When there are expectations regarding team member availability, management should be equally accountable. It should be clear when management is available to answer questions or deal with issues.
Meetings with remote commercial real estate teams should never be cancelled, whether they are by phone, video, or in person unless absolutely essential. A remote team member cannot “see” a closed office door and often can feel disconnected anyway, so management engagement is critical to their success.
“As a company owner or manager, you need to create and maintain a level playing field—one on which those in and out of the office stand as equals,” Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson touch on in their book,Remote: Office Not Required. “That’s easier said than done, but one way to better your chances is to have some of the top brass working remotely. People with the power to change things need to feel the same hurt as those who merely have to deal with it.”
When an office culture doesn’t embrace remote culture wholeheartedly, it doesn’t work. People in the office end up having access to information that remote people don’t have. It could be the result of in person discussions or spontaneous meetings where you forget to dial in remote people or let them know about them in time for them to attend.
Well outlined expectations on both sides are critical, and management should understand or if possible experience remote work, so they have a full understanding of the challenges and how to overcome them.
Use Technology to Communicate
An essential part of managing remote commercial real estate teams is communication. Technology offers many ways to do so. Chat programs like Slack allow team members to communicate through “channels” created for specific purposes or private messages. Project management software like software that allows team members to upload files to tasks, complete them, and communicate, all without using email. This reduces the risk of communication getting lost somewhere along the way.
Communicating by video is extremely valuable. Much of our communication is nonverbal, and video should be used whenever possible. From one on one communication to patching remote real estate team members into meetings or conferences, video is one of the best ways to keep them engaged.
“Depending on the worker and the position they fill, I try to connect one on one with each of my remote workers weekly or monthly,” Eric Siu, CEO of Single Grain tells Entrepreneur. “Doing so helps me catch small issues before they become big issues and increases the sense of loyalty my remote employees have to the company.”
Management should also bring in remote commercial real estate teams whenever possible for in person meetings and gatherings. This ensures they feel both valued and engaged. Many companies have events annually or even more frequently where all team members including those who work remotely gather to network and socialize.
Help Teams Avoid Burnout
One advantage that real estate teams who work remotely have is the ability to work at flexible times throughout the day, and get things done. One danger of working remotely, especially from a home office, is that team members never really “leave” work.
Monitoring team members is essential not just to make sure they are working, but to make sure they are not overworking and burning themselves out. Be sensitive to when they might need to take time off, and encourage teams to take time to care for themselves.
Managing remote commercial real estate teams can be a challenge, but it has significant strategic advantages. Hiring the right people, setting expectations, using technology to communicate, and helping team members avoid burnout will ensure not only the team’s success, but that of the company overall as well.
Students of the Marylhurst University’s Online Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Real Estate program will learn these skills and apply them while receiving their education online. They will be better prepared to effectively manage today’s agile remote commercial real estate teams effectively.