Technology in CRE Series: Telecommuting

If you feel like life has been turned upside down over the past few months, you’re not alone. Working in a COVID-19 world can be challenging. Luckily, many employers are allowing workers to telecommute, keeping businesses running while still staying safe. In commercial real estate, technology is helping professionals get their work done, even if they can’t step foot in the office.

However, many employees struggle to find a work-life balance, particularly as we all continue to adjust to this “new normal.” If you are a CRE professional working from home, we’re sharing popular real estate technology tools that can help you keep up with your workload as you telecommute.

Can Real Estate Professionals Telecommute?

Real estate technology As COVID-19 spread across the country, more and more businesses moved to “work from home” models. Currently, about half of American workers are telecommuting – double the average from a few years ago.

However, even if the virus disappears, experts think many workers will continue to telecommute. The Brookings Institution Center on Children and Families found that many businesses expect at least 20% of their employees will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.

While some businesses were trending towards telecommuting, the virus made working from home a necessity rather than a luxury. Now, many companies are trying to balance productivity with employee health and safety.

The National Association of Realtors compiled a very helpful list of resources for telecommuting real estate professionals, which you can find here.

Challenges for Commercial Real Estate

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 will impact commercial real estate. With so many workers telecommuting, many businesses will move from large office buildings into smaller, more economical settings. However, real estate professionals – from brokers to property managers – must navigate the changing landscape from home as well.

As businesses start to reopen, property owners and property managers will have to ensure their tenants keep their buildings safe. New CDC standards mean property managers must communicate expectations clearly and provide adequate cleaning, sanitation, and health and safety supplies to tenants.

In multifamily buildings, property owners and property managers continue to negotiate with tenants who have lost their jobs. Since the pandemic hit, more than 42 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. As a result, many tenants are struggling to pay rent. Therefore, many property owners can’t pay the mortgages on their properties, and the dominoes continue to fall.

Some companies are slowly bringing their employees back to work as the economy opens, raising economists’ hopes that we will soon be out of a recession. However, as the COVID-19 virus continues to lurk in our cities, those who can work from home likely will.

Real Estate Technology: Tools to Help You Telecommute Effectively

Many CRE professionals will continue to work from home as long as their businesses allow them to do so effectively. Real estate technology has come a long way in recent years, making it easier than ever to telecommute.

Virtual Tours

Virtual tour software programs are quickly becoming the most popular real estate technology during this pandemic. Even though many states are slowly relaxing restrictions, property owners, investors, and property managers are still trying to maintain social distancing.

There are multiple virtual tour and 3D floorplan software options. Whether you’re a real estate broker showing an industrial property to a potential investor or a property manager looking to lease out a vacant apartment, virtual tour software can help.

The premise is simple: specialized cameras create a 3D map of a property. Then, users can “tour” the property from a computer or mobile device, moving virtually from room to room. This process allows potential investors or tenants to get a feel for a space without ever stepping foot inside.

Automated Intelligence

Within the last decade, the CRE industry has seen a dramatic rise in the use of automated intelligence, or AI, technology. You can read a more detailed description of AI real estate technology applications here.

AI is transforming the commercial real estate space in nearly every way:

  • Brokers and investors use AI to identify potential properties and perform a more accurate analysis of each property.
  • Property managers can use AI to advertise vacant properties. In addition, AI can help property managers identify qualified applicants, automatically process applications, and collect deposits and rent payments.
  • Many AI systems help brokers, investors, property managers, and tenants communicate with one another. For example, property managers can use AI on their website or internal communications systems to automatically respond to tenant questions, schedule maintenance, and send payment reminders. Brokers can use automated assistants to answer client questions and schedule appointments or showings.

Smart Tech in Real Estate

With the rise of Smart technology in homes and businesses across America, it’s easier than ever for investors, property owners, and property managers to oversee operations from a distance. Smart tech keeps vital infrastructure systems running. Some even go as far as self-diagnosing and self-correcting building or technical issues, eliminating the need for costly maintenance calls.

Many of these “Smart” systems are automated, meaning property owners, property managers, and even tenants can control the systems remotely.

In this age of Coronavirus, Smart tech is keeping both owners and tenants safe, reducing the need for face-to-face contact.

Video Conferencing

It seems like video conferencing has become front and center of the work-from-home universe. Companies like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are just a few of the companies thrust into the international spotlight during this pandemic.

Online video conferencing can be a great way to get your team together for a virtual meeting. While phone calls and emails are useful, there’s nothing quite like seeing the faces of your co-workers and clients to help you feel more connected and to communicate more effectively.

Finding a Work-Life Balance While Working from Home

Life work balance While telecommuting means not having to go into the office, it also means not having a separation between work and home. Under normal circumstances, real estate professionals would still answer the occasional after-hours phone call or send an email from home. But now, work is always there: from the time you wake until the time you go to sleep.

Without the physical separation of business and home, it can be difficult to mentally and emotionally separate from work when the day is done.

How can commercial real estate professionals find a work-life balance if they’re telecommuting?

Have a Dedicated Workspace

Turning off the computer and walking away from work is much more difficult if your computer is sitting at the kitchen table.

Instead, carve out a dedicated workspace, ideally with an ergonomic desk and chair, where you can focus on your professional tasks. This space should be away from distractions, if at all possible.

Plus, having a dedicated workspace will make it easier to “leave work” at the end of the day. Walk away from your work station, turn off your computer, and focus on your family and friends instead.

Even if you live in a tight space, try to find somewhere to set up as your work zone. Don’t sit in your bed and work. Not only will this eventually wreak havoc on your back and neck, but it will also negatively impact your sleep habits. Your room should remain a sanctuary – not somewhere you go to send emails.

Set a Schedule

While this might seem like an obvious point, too many people who telecommute don’t establish work hours. Set a designated work schedule, and then stick to it. Communicate those hours with your clients, co-workers, and your family members so everyone knows when you’re available and when you’re not. Real estate technology, like scheduling apps, can help you make a firm schedule and stick to it.

In addition, maintain professional boundaries. This is a challenging time for everyone, and working from home can blur the lines between work and family. However, setting boundaries with your professional colleagues can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.

For instance, if you communicate that your work hours are from 8-5, but you receive an “urgent” email at 9 PM, kindly reply that you will answer the message during your regular work hours. Emergencies aside, many “urgent” messages can wait until the next business day. Respecting both your own work hours and those of others can help everyone telecommute successfully.

Make Time to Spend with Family and Friends

Working from home can be lonely. Besides the occasional video conference, many of us haven’t seen our co-workers or clients in weeks.

During this time of isolation, many Americans are reporting higher rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. These issues can not only negatively impact your professional productivity, but can also dramatically impact your overall wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can help you feel more fulfilled and less anxious.

Take care of your mental and emotional health. Carve out deliberate time to spend with family and friends (but maintain social distancing). By taking intentional breaks from work, you will re-energize yourself and be ready to work even harder once you log in again.

Telecommute Successfully

As more CRE professionals move towards long-term telecommuting, it’s vital that we know and understand the challenges this presents. By using available real estate technology, communicating with your team, and setting boundaries to keep a healthy work-life balance, you can continue to have a successful CRE career from home.

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