Future of Work: Staying Connected In a Tough Real Estate Market

Photo: Jason E. Kaplan

Jason deVries, managing principal of Cushman & Wakefield, balances remote work with the need to mentor young employees.

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OB spoke to executives at firms in a variety of sectors to see how the pandemic has transformed their businesses and how they see the future of the workplace evolving in a post-pandemic world.

In the next of our series of interviews with executives on the future of work, Jason deVries, managing principal of Cushman & Wakefield, emphasizes the importance of understanding that not all employees can work effectively at home.

Before COVID-19, the workforce of commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield mostly worked in the office. That all changed in March as the pandemic led the company to close its offices.

It surveyed employees to see how they were doing with the new setup and gauge how to develop future workplace policies. Most employees — 70% — said they would prefer a flexible schedule that allows them to work part-time from home and part-time in the office. After seeing that employees can be productive working remotely, the company has decided to allow permanent flexibility to work at home.

“I don’t think it will be people being able to work 100% remote. But we will see flexing based on if the employee can do the job effectively and efficiently from home,” says Jason deVries, managing principal of Cushman & Wakefield.

In October the company partially reopened its Portland office for employees who cannot work effectively at home. DeVries says it is important to be aware that not all employees can work comfortably in a remote setting. “We have had people who are frustrated living in a one-bedroom apartment with a spouse and kid and no outside space.”

DeVries says remote working does make him worry about losing company culture. The firm hosted many social events in the office pre-COVID, such as birthday and work anniversaries. It has tried to emulate those social events virtually by, for example, creating a Powerpoint presentation of pictures of employees’ home offices and doing happy-hour virtual calls. “I don’t feel we have lost culture, but there is a risk of doing so,” he says.

To maintain company culture, deVries says managers have to be intentional about staying connected with staff. The company holds regular video calls to stay in touch. Managers do more one-on-one calls with employees. Senior brokers are encouraged to mentor younger brokers to encourage them to stay focused through the market downturn.

Despite more staff working from home in the future, deVries says the company has no plans to downsize its office space. The firm intends to keep more spacing between employees even after the pandemic. “Even if you have people working remotely, from a sanitation standpoint, we will want to maintain individual space.”

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