This has been a week of many firsts professionally and personally, including my first “attendance” at a web-based panel discussion. Thank to you RE:Women for putting together a fantastic panel of speakers to discuss, “How is the Real Estate Industry Reacting to the Coronavirus Crisis“.
Whilst as an industry, we are well prepared to deal with terrorism, fire, floods etc we were not ready for a pandemic. We lacked knowledge about how pandemics work and were therefore, unprepared for the impact of COVID-19. This lack of “preparedness” and the speed with which the impact hit our industry has inevitably caused delays in our responses. Questions such as whether and when we should shut our offices, how to set up our teams to work remotely and the differences between normal and “deep” cleaning services were discussed by businesses of all sizes.
The feeling across the panel was however, that in terms of IT and infrastructure for businesses, people were pretty well settled into their new routines. The e-attendance of approx. 60 people at the RE:Women discussion is testament to this; I am sure I was not alone in that group in having had no idea what Zoom was two weeks ago! There was a discussion about how to ensure that teams remain connected and that their well-being is prioritised; with ideas such as regular video conferencing calls with your team, giving your team time to adjust to new working practices and Friday afternoon “wine online” e-gatherings.
The need to stay connected with clients was of course also discussed, as was the need to be flexible in our responses to our clients’ requirements both for services we provide, and how these are delivered. Internal dedicated task-forces across all disciplines in our businesses were discussed to collate the information we gather from clients and other sources and to co-ordinate our responses. Dedicated resource centres on our websites was also suggested as a useful tool for clients.
Whilst none of the panellists could reasonably be expected to give a definitive answer to my (perhaps slightly premature) question about when we might get back to true “business as usual”, all were optimistic that we would emerge from the current situation having learned important lessons. We will surely be more aware of the “green credentials” of our buildings, and the need for fresh rather than circulated air, and proper maintenance and cleaning. There will be rapid changes in how we work.
We should not expect to go back to the pre-pandemic normal, there will be a new normal, and the Real Estate industry will need to react to this. Panellist Dr Marie Peybaraud referred to Tomas Pueyo’s article, “The Hammer and the Dance”. Whilst we are currently very much “under the hammer”, a time will come when this will pass, and we will once again be “dancing”.
For now, I am off to check our firm’s WhatsApp chat group for the latest memes and am looking forward our inaugural wine online “meeting” this evening.
As coronavirus spreads globally, businesses are trying to grapple with a host of issues such as keeping their employees safe and keeping clients informed, as well as managing productivity and a workforce that is now almost completely virtual.