Service-Oriented Firms Lead the Way While Larger Corporations are Holding Back.
Is the “Great Wait” for things to return to business as usual finally over, or is COVID-19 still rearing its ugly head? Well, that seems to depend on who you are and what your business is. For some SIORs and their service-oriented clients—attorneys, accounts, etc.—things are most definitely at least back to a “new normal.” Though such pandemic remnants as hand sanitizers and masks can still be found in workplaces around the world, and virtual meetings are likely here to stay, people have returned to their offices (if they ever truly left). On the other hand, larger corporations are moving much more slowly, with many taking a “hybrid” approach when it comes to having their employees in the office. And with the emergence of the omicron variant, some that planned a January re-opening are taking a “wait and see” approach—at least for the short term.
“It’s a changed framework,” says Frank Martin, SIOR, senior associate broker with Hall Associates, Inc., in Roanoke, Va. “My clients are not at full density.” As far as his own firm, however, he says “Everyone feels much better from an organizational standpoint to have people under one roof, trading institutional knowledge.”
“Our brokerage team was back operating essentially full-time in the office by May or June of 2020,” says Andy Westby, SIOR, president and managing broker of Goldmark Commercial Real Estate, Inc., in Fargo, N.D. “We have room to distance in our own offices, and our clients generally prefer more face-to-face meetings than virtual interactions.” Agents can set their own schedules, he notes, but adds that, in his opinion, the most productive ones choose to be in the office on a full-time basis.
“Our team is back in the office, and it has been for over a year,” says Adam Kaduce, SIOR, R&R Real Estate Advisors, Des Moines, Iowa. “We have found that having our team members together has brought new opportunities and new customers, and we have not had any health or safety issues.” He adds that his industrial and flex tenants are back in the office, and most never left. “Office is the slowest type of space to return, but 60% of our office customers are back in the office.”
“My people are back,” asserts John Culbertson, SIOR, manager at Cardinal Real Estate Partners, LLC, Charlotte, N.C. “Most people I know in commercial real estate—developers, investors, brokers, attorneys—the breadwinners, the stars of the office, never left. It seems like the more salaried types in supportive, administrative roles, left and worked remotely, but if it’s a healthy, small- to medium-sized business, they are back in the office.” He adds that his large headquarters and corporate clients, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are “not back to normal,” but that their leadership is.
“We don’t have a protocol; everyone can do as want they want,” shares Hans-Ulrich Berendes, SIOR, with Berendes & Partner Consulting in Hamburg, Germany. “But bigger companies have to be more formal. Siemens says people can choose two to three days to stay at home. Others say part of the company can come in Monday-Tuesday, the others Wednesday-Thursday, and organize day-per-day.”
Read the full article in the Spring 2022 issue of SIOR Report out now!