Managers and their teams are all navigating uncharted waters. A common response as a positive outcome of working from home was gaining back the time previously spent commuting.
Although dependent on industry and company culture, prior to the pandemic, there was the general belief by senior management that employees would not be as productive or collaborative working from home. The pandemic forced a requirement to work 100% remotely, putting that theory to the test overnight. The result many senior executives have discovered is that the majority of employees can work very effectively from home. Advancements in technology, including home WiFi network speeds, and software applications including Zoom and Microsoft Teams, have played major roles in the success of working remotely.
For example, Genea not only successfully deployed all of their employees to working remotely, but also conducted client webinars demonstrating the 100% remote implementation of their on-demand HVAC solution. These webinars were attended by real estate companies nationally including both those utilizing the software as an overtime application and those considering the on-demand capability of the application given the reduced level of occupancy in their properties. The solution is completely automated from service delivery through billing and can be controlled remotely. Additionally, going on-demand for HVAC services reduces operating expenses and increases energy efficiency, while simultaneously supporting sustainability goals.
Based on feedback from colleagues, families and friends in various industries working in major metropolitan areas across the country, the consensus is that although they miss the social interactions of the office, many have taken advantage of flexible work schedules and gained some control over their work/life balance. However, the daily virtual business interactions can become limited to core groups, eliminating impromptu meetings and spur of the moment collaborations that previously occurred routinely in the office.
Per Kevin McCann, Senior Managing Director NY Tri-State/Occupier Services for Cushman & Wakefield, “Although technology has kept everyone in touch, collaboration has suffered and you tend to produce a product that has less input from others.”
A critical component of managing a remote workforce is establishing open lines of communication. Per Rich Hillgardner, Senior Portfolio Manager and NYC Real Estate Management Services Lead at Avison Young, “As a manager, I look to find ways to keep my team focused with a clear set of expectations that will then frame specific milestones and deliverables.” Regarding managing communication with senior management Rich found “one technique to be successful is to pre-schedule daily or some frequency of ‘touch point’ calls with my manager and executives. These calls are usually by Zoom and can be for as little as ten minutes just to catch up and talk about the week ahead or a simple state of affairs. The Zoom calls are very casual and most times done from our home offices or living rooms and I can’t help but feel this has created a better working relationship.”
It is certainly evident that the group who has had the most daunting challenges are parents of young children. They have had to balance working full-time with home schooling, completing all household chores and cooking with no outside assistance. The pandemic brought to light the many flaws in the education system being unprepared to support their entire remote student body effectively. A positive outcome of the pandemic would be if educators utilize the lessons learned and plan for remote learning continuity in the future.
For those with no family obligations, some achieved a better work/life balance if they were self-motivated, disciplined and well organized. Alvis Yuen, Assistant Vice President, Energy and Building Performance at SL Green Realty, commented “Not physically being in the office forces us to reexamine work priorities and routines. I have identified and incorporated improvements to work habits to improve efficiency and free up time for more creative long-term thinking.”
The success of working from home is not for the undisciplined! Human beings were not meant to self-isolate indefinitely. Unfortunately, with the virus continuing to spread and new cases being reported in the cities that are reopening, companies need to weigh their options regarding which employees and/or entire departments should continue to work from home indefinitely and which employees should return to the office in the near term.
There are many considerations to be undertaken prior to bringing employees back into the office including if the employer will:
- Implement mandatory testing
- Institute daily temperature checks
- Provide PPE (masks, gloves, sanitizer)
- Social distance all work spaces
- Create staggered work shifts
- Eliminating in person group meetings
- Close shared amenity spaces (pantries, break rooms, etc.)
- Substantially increase cleaning protocols and personnel
- Implement new HVAC maintenance measures
An additional factor is these mitigation measures will result in increased operating expenses that although prudent for a safe work environment, are unlikely to be offset by increased revenue.
It is uncertain whether the “new normal” will fully materialize in 2020, as the worldwide toll of the pandemic continues to evolve on a daily basis. What is certain is our personal and professional lives are forever impacted and the organizations that embrace available technologies effectively will have a competitive advantage in the long run.
Schedule a demo to receive additional information regarding how Genea’s cloud-based applications can increase revenue, and improve processes at your building.