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Remote Work Implications Beyond Flexibility: Testing the Model During Uncertainty

This article first appeared in D Magazine’s Commercial Real Estate section.

By: Dan Harris, Managing Director, Stream Realty Partners

As early as a few weeks ago, 3.4% of the United States population were working from home. Almost overnight, companies across the nation scrambled to confirm if their remote working capabilities could support 100% of their workforce as they implemented a work from home mandate amid fears of the Coronavirus. Every day, more and more people are continuing their jobs remotely at home, many under governmental mandate. In the coming months, it will be interesting to see if companies that previously evaluated the viability of a remote working structure are justified in their current structure or realize there is opportunity in a more flexible working arrangement for employees.

Attracting Top Talent from a Distance

Over the last decade, 83% of U.S. businesses have introduced a flexible work policy (or are planning to adopt one) to attract top talent. The capacity for a remote job market, once reserved for coders and customer service, has become limitless, opening up the possibilities for many positions within an organization. For many professionals, this is a dream come true: in a recent study conducted by Buffer, 99% of respondents said they would like to work at least some of the time remotely for the rest of their careers. Job seekers agree: 78% cite flexible schedules and telecommuting as the most effective non-monetary benefit for new employment.

One Perspective

Ideally, creating space for flexible work options increases productivity and boosts employee morale. Yet, some organizations—law firms, and oil and gas, in particular, have not fully adapted broad remote-working platforms. The reality is that not every role is ideal for remote work. Consider the responsibilities for those in business development, field marketing, and sales positions that are far better suited to occur in-person. As for productivity, some professionals speculate that when collaboration happens remotely, innovation and creative problem-solving tactics suffer, and with it, team performance. 

Stream Realty Partners’ team of 900+ professionals operate in twelve major markets across the U.S., many of whom work in tandem with a traditional office. Our teams leverage Microsoft 365 communication tools, including Microsoft Teams, for collaboration and communication.

Last week, Stream instituted a company-wide work from home policy. Since then, daily meetings occur online using the Microsoft Teams interface to check-in and connect in-person allowing us to engage just as we would in a conference room at the office and maintain a human element.

When Less Is More

The obvious result in a successful remote working platform is twofold: an increase in employee satisfaction and a reduction in overhead from reduced office obligation. Seventy-seven percent of companies report lower operating costs from allowing employees to work remotely. Businesses have an opportunity to dig deeper into space allotment to determine the most relevant amenities for their workforce before engaging in future lease negotiations. As organizations steadily adapt to open office layouts, combining square footage per employee reductions with remote workers, occupancy costs will continue to come down. The average square foot per office space has dropped significantly from an average of 225 square feet per person in 2010 to 150 square feet today. Unfortunately, a tighter layout makes social distancing impossible, which has many call centers forced to close during this time. 

Personally, I’m not entirely sold on the work-from-home model. I miss going into the office and having a corporate environment as my epicenter. The day-to-day interactions carry significant weight in defining company culture, something that is difficult to create without consistent human interaction. Although I will say this, in the coming weeks or months, those (including myself) that are skeptical might be surprised at the level of productivity that has remained despite the lack of in-office interaction.

Dan Harris is the managing director of Stream Realty Partners’ Dallas office tenant representation team.

SOURCE: D Magazine

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