CRE Executives’ Perspectives on Return to Work

The debate surrounding remote work versus returning to the office has gained significant attention in recent times. Commercial real estate experts, who have a unique perspective on the matter, hold varying opinions on whether or not CRE professionals will need to return to work.

There are certainly different views on the issue, especially when it comes to why companies prefer bringing employees back. Even though managing remote employees can be done effectively, the trend is now to bring them back to the office. We’ll explore a few differing perspectives within the commercial real estate industry and shed light on why some professionals believe that a return to the office is crucial as well as why others could be influenced by a bias against remote work.

Advancement Through Being Present
Sam Zell was a prominent figure in the commercial real estate sector prior to his passing last month. His insights have been highly sought after for many years. Prior to his passing, he weighed in on the issue, strongly supporting the return to the office. Zell dismissed the idea of remote work and stated that young professionals seeking recognition and reward for their efforts must be physically present at work. His assertion was that working from home diminishes productivity, especially when it comes to distractions and the lack of a conducive work environment in a home setting. For him, it’s a simple matter of efficiency.

Zell also highlighted the significance of in-person meetings, emphasizing that genuine discussions occur face-to-face. According to him, statistics indicate that the majority of office spaces, particularly Class A and B, are already in use east of the Mississippi. He questioned the productivity and job security of those working remotely and suggests that the office situation will eventually change.

The perspective he offers emphasizes in-person collaboration and understanding. He concluded that returning to work is inevitable and unavoidable for long-term career success. Advancement in your CRE career depends on how well those in your network know you and how often they see you at work.

Shifts in Norms and Opportunities
The COVID crisis triggered a paradigm shift in remote work. It forced both men and women, parents and non-parents, to adapt to working from home. The sudden shift challenged the notion that remote work was primarily associated with women, providing an opportunity for flexible work arrangements to lose their stigma.

It also revealed that remote work can be beneficial for both employees and employers. Flexibility in work arrangements enables a more diverse and inclusive work environment, allowing individuals of various demographics to thrive. It is crucial for companies to ensure that remote workers are not treated assub-par employees to prevent any disparities in opportunities or career advancement.

These current perspectives of commercial real estate professionals on the return to work and motivation behind that in the US tend to vary, but they offer insights into what the future of CRE work looks like as current industry trends evolve. While industry leaders like Sam Zell have argued for the importance of physical presence for recognition and productivity, other CEOs’ opposition to remote work may stem from other societal pressures. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up possibilities for a more flexible and inclusive work environment, clearly emphasizing the need for ongoing discussions on the future of work.

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