We spoke to industry insiders in locations with shelter-in-place orders. Here’s how they are staying sane and productive.
Over the past few weeks, an increasing number of states and municipalities have issued shelter-in-place orders, hoping to contain the COVID-19 outbreak from spreading further. This has led to large-scale temporary closures of commercial properties, including the offices of many real estate firms, forcing industry professionals to work (and largely stay) at home. This has happened at the same time as children and spouses are back at home too, with schools, colleges, non-essential shops and entertainment venues closed for business. So how are commercial real estate professionals staying productive and staying sane while adjusting to the country’s new lifestyle?
NREI asked Barbara Byrne Denham, senior economist at New York City-based Moody’s Analytics REIS, Connecticut-based Greg MacKinnon, director of research with the Pension Real Estate Association, Sandy Sigal, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based NewMark Merrill, Trish Sikiric, manager of research services in Stan Johnson Company’s New York City office, Jonathan Cohen, chief operating officer with Los Angeles-based Universe Holdings, Mary Cook, president and founder of Chicago-based commercial interior design firm Mary Cook Associates, and Bruce Beck, president of California-based real estate public relations firm DB&R Marketing Communications, to find out how they are coping with working from home and sheltering in place.
What has been the biggest challenge about this new work situation the past couple of weeks?
I can’t lie, many aspects of working from home have been really refreshing. Working remotely saves me several hours a day of commute time. Instead of rushing through, or skipping breakfast entirely, my morning routine seems calmer. I’m not elbowing my way through tourists or rushing to catch the subway. I’m saving money by making my own coffee and lunches, and having extra time back in the evenings allows me to cook, work out, and spend time with my family. I feel more productive and less drained by working from home, with natural light instead of the overhead florescent lights at the office, and I don’t feel guilty taking a break to walk my dog and enjoy some fresh air. Our industry is already very mobile. My colleagues are scattered across the country, and I manage a team of research professionals in Oklahoma and Texas, so I’m very used to communicating via phone and video chat. Despite the benefits of working from home, I do find that I miss the human interaction and ease of collaboration that comes from working in the office. There’s no small talk in the breakroom, and I don’t benefit from passing someone in the hallway and getting a quick answer to a question. I have to consciously remind myself to reach out to people. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a real problem, and you really need to work at keeping in contact with people and building new relationships.
What are you doing/watching/reading to entertain yourself and stay sane?
It’s been a busy, busy few weeks! Throughout the day, I’m trying to read as much industry news as I can that comes in via email, but daily work hasn’t slowed down and there’s no time for entertainment. Outside of work hours, I really haven’t changed my routine that much. I regularly listen to music and podcasts, and probably have been watching the news a little bit more than normal.