Balancing Your Brokerages Remote Working & Company Culture

Balancing a CRE Brokerage's Office & Remote Working Culture

Daniel Levison | October 19, 2020

If you are a principal or managing broker you are likely grappling with decisions that will change the way you operate your brokerage business in the future. For significant issues that deal with long term effects on your brokerage business, the concept of “scenario thinking” has helped many executives improve their decision making. 

Scenario thinking challenges conventional wisdom, but also relates decisions to your company’s or industry KPIs. Without the ability to monitor decisions over time you will never know if your decisions have helped or improved your organization. To develop best practices for scenario thinking, we suggest reading Peter Schwartz’s article.

We doubt anyone would disagree communication and trust are critical in developing and nurturing a successful business and company culture. Events of 2020 have put all of us in uncharted waters as we try to  navigate how to survive in this environment and keep our business moving forward and our company cultures alive and thriving.

Although there are numerous business factors and decisions to balance your remote working procedures they all start with the health and well being of your team.

What Are Some Of The Psychological Effects of Working Remotely?

Even before COVID-19 the 2019 State of Remote Work study by Buffer reported 49% of remote workers claimed that their greatest challenge was related to mental health. To be more specific, 22% said they were unable to unplug from work, 19% suffer from loneliness, and 8% struggled with motivation. 

If you’re a managing  principal being proactive with regular  communication to your team is imperative with a remote workforce. It will not only negate feelings of being disconnected,  it will also help your teams with any feelings of being trapped in a bubble of isolation. 

Of course above all else, authenticity, sincerity and sensitivity in your communication is the most impactful resource a owner or executive can offer their team and staff. Only when a leader’s efforts are truly genuine, will organizations see less disruptiveness in their company’s productivity and company culture.

If they don’t feel your genuine support they likely won’t feel empowered or really care to make decisions that are in the best interest of your business. 

One of the first steps an organization might need to consider  in balancing their remote workforce, as they try to maintain their company culture, is supplementing key executives and administrative support personnel with home internet benefits. 

Recent discussions with executives in various industries suggest most individuals working remotely are utilizing the lowest level of internet speed from their providers. Many are having connectivity issues trying to deal with large files, workflows and interacting with team members and customers.

Without sufficient internet access your team won’t be able to operate efficiently and without significant bottlenecks. Customers as well as your entire organization could suffer from lower morale without effectively being able to communicate without disruption.

With less face to face interaction, and the ability to develop trust with your office associates providing full transparency, with your team, particularly 1099 independent contractors, will help maintain a team feeling even without physically coming into the office

As the great Work From Home Experiment continues, many workers and companies are finding that remote work isn’t the productivity killer they imagined. However, not everyone is faring the same, and even those companies that are holding steady right now will need to take proactive steps to ensure the work-from-home model continues and doesn’t destroy their company culture.

How companies build and maintain supportive cultures when all, or the majority of your employees, are remote or split schedules is going to take some new and creative thinking, because the old standards just won’t work. 

When employees are remote, organizations lose many of the social aspects that office environments offer. In order to create a connected and supportive experience companies must build supportive cultures through creative communication and interaction. Email is not always the best solution because it doesn’t open up opportunities for two-way interactive sharing. 

As workforce’s turn more and more to a digital approach, it is increasingly difficult to keep work completely separate from out-of-office life, and it is even harder when we live and work in the same location. 

Providing team members flexibility in their schedules, even while working remotely, can help build trust and loyalty which are key ingredients of building a strong company culture. No culture is perfect, but maintaining and even growing your brokerages culture is possible even with a majority of your workforce is remote.

Below are a few tips on maintaining and improving your firms culture while working remotely. 

Clarify your company’s values and mission statement. Take an honest look at these cornerstones and determine where you’ve succeeded and where you’re falling short. 

Buy in from leaders and employees is absolutely critical.  Changing culture requires buy-in from the C-suite and the front-line workers. If you are a principal or managing broker you should be the face of culture transformation, but employees must be part of developing and maintaining the culture or they won’t buy in and allow it thrive. 

It is important to also remember that onboarding remote employees is different from onboarding in-office employees, so changes to typical procedures will have to be made. Organizations can help new employees connect with their teams and the company as a whole during remote onboarding by utilizing a buddy system or mentor. 

Additionally, organizations can set up virtual coffees or other social interactions that remote employees can take advantage of and stay in contact with team members. Through these more casual meetings, new and existing employees can connect with their teams and begin building friendly relationships. 

Employee resource groups are another way to make inclusion come to life, as ERGs can create a sense of community and help new hires transition into the organization.

In a recent Forbes article, Laurel Farrer CEO of the Work From Home Association says that most companies are allowing work from home out of necessity. “But allowing is not the same as embracing,” 

Creating a sustainable work-from-home workforce requires a cultural shift from business leaders today.  According to a recent survey of over 30,000 users, work-from-home productivity is up 47%. 

However, leaders still have key concerns about making a complete shift to a remote workforce. Some of their  primary concerns – and solutions are:

A control issue is really a trust issue. Micromanagement is a mistake.

Culture and collaboration will suffer – often, it’s the informal conversations that lead to new productivity breakthroughs. For your culture and productivity to thrive leaders should create physical opportunities for various teams to meet with the proper social distancing requirements in place, and collaborate.

Embracing remote working is more than simply allowing folks to work from home. Embracing work-at-home is also more than a COVID-19 trend is just good business. Employees crave it, employers can benefit from it and if approached properly can enhance your company culture. 

Authors: Daniel Levison – Chairman CRE Holdings (Atlanta Investment Properties, CommissionTrac, SharedSpace) and Turner Levison, CEO, CommissionTrac

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