Before 2020, remote work was a normal way of life for many professionals. GlobeSt reports that in 2019, remote employees accounted for 11.9% of the total labor market. This number then shot up to over 35% during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While many careers allowed for remote work prior to 2020, many real estate professionals were among the few that rarely, if ever, worked from home. Why? For multifamily professionals, the main way of showing prospects around an apartment community was to do so in person and daily management responsibilities required the onsite team presence. But the pandemic shed light on a new way of leasing: virtual leasing.

This shift from onsite leasing to remote leasing wasn’t unprecedented. Pre-Covid-19, some multifamily teams investigated a “regionalized” leasing model that would move onsite leasing teams into a centralized leasing team that covers a set amount of properties within a defined area. Now, this model is now more feasible.

Initially, this transition to remote work seemed temporary for many companies at the start of the pandemic. But more and more, we’re now seeing companies incorporate remote work into their long-term plans. How is this possible? Technology.

How Technology Enables Teams To Work Remotely

The evolution of technology is an incredible one. If you recall, thirty years ago, most people were just finding out what a computer was, and a decade ago you couldn’t book rideshare on your phone. The 21st century has ushered in countless life-changing innovations. In fact, Deloitte found that digital maturity can impact financial performance — making digital technologies important for company operations.

According to SWZD’s 2021 State of IT report, 76% of the business leaders surveyed felt pushed to create strategies to bring long-term changes through their IT.

As a result of the large remote work experiment the pandemic provided, many companies have already implemented permanent remote options for employees. The same can be said for some multifamily professionals now too.

Multifamily owners and managers realized that having fewer leasing professionals on-site with additional staff off-site provided ample coverage. The pandemic proved that with the right technology and training, leasing professionals can do their job just as well, if not better, from the comfort of their own home when matched with the continued on-site support.

Should Multifamily Owners And Managers Allow Permanent Remote Work

It’s clear the demand to work remotely is staying. Having flexibility with your work environment is now a key factor for many job seekers. Multifamily communities have long been unable to provide such a convenience. With more consumers desiring some mix of virtual touring during their leasing process, this loosens the physical leasing constraints. This allows multifamily communities to appeal to job seekers that desire increased remote work.

An industry that’s known for high turnover of on-site employees, multifamily owners and managers should be looking for ways they can integrate this shift to remote work. Not only could it decrease churn with on-site staff, but it could incorporate a model that requires fewer leasing agents in order to provide the same results as the larger team. In such a model, that would mean more commission opportunities for those fewer, higher-producing leasing agents. This model is one that multifamily has long toyed with and courtesy of the pandemic is proven.

How Multifamily Owners And Managers Can Implement Flexible Work

There are reservations about remote work for leasing teams. Are leasing professionals equipped to do their job from home? Will you see the return on investment if you adopt new technologies to enable remote work? It comes with unknowns and risks for most teams that have never had to think of it. In fact, 45% of C-level managers surveyed by Celonis say that they don’t know where to start when it comes to creating digital transformation strategies. So, let’s look at a few ways you can start:

  1. Set Clear Goals. Multifamily owners and managers should set clear goals and expectations with their leasing teams when it comes to remote work. These may be based on a number of variables from historical sales and traffic numbers to occupancy rates, existing lead-to-lease conversion rates and more. Remote work should not come at the sacrifice of performance. Establish baselines for performance or even consider stretch goals to challenge your leasing teams.
  2. Research Resources. It’s important to set your leasing teams up for success. To do that they need to have access to tools, such as virtual leasing technology, that allow them to fulfill their job responsibilities in the most efficient and effective ways while remote.
  3. Leverage The Right Technology. Setting clear goals is first on this list because any technology that you purchase for your leasing team should be in support of achieving the goals laid out for them. There are many real estate technologies on the market, which is why it’s important to leverage the right technologies based on the goals you set for your leasing teams.

Multifamily owners and managers can assume some benefits that are likely to result from remote work:

  • Fewer on-site distractions
  • Decreased staff turnover
  • Increased staff productivity
  • Residents funneling through the proper channels for questions, complaints, and maintenance requests versus popping by the leasing office
  • Ability to repurpose unused leasing center space
  • Cost savings with fewer staff

Don’t Forget About The Human Connection

The work landscape across all industries changed dramatically in 2020. And with that, so has the perception and benefits of remote work. Leasing teams have said that they don’t see virtual leasing disappearing post-Covid-19. Instead, they see leasing evolving into a more streamlined process that still supports in-person touring but is paired with increased virtual connection points and touring opportunities: 100% physical and 100% digital.

It’s important to remember that technology can’t do it alone regardless of where your leasing teams are working from. In order to truly pivot to a digital organization, leasing teams should never lose the human connection throughout virtual engagements. At the end of the day, real estate is a very personal decision and a large one. Establishing that personal connection, even remotely, is a key element in leasing success.

Read the original post on Forbes Real Estate Council

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