5 must-haves for an efficient remote workforce

17 Dec 2021
Estate Agents Co-operative
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Whether we like it or not, our employee landscape is changing.

While rumours of ‘great resignations’ might be exaggerations or even just stories, the fact is, real estate has always had higher-than-average staff turnover and many agencies have had little ability to do much about it.

But knowledge is power, and research tells us that it isn’t just traditional factors like remuneration and poor management that result in turnover, but increasingly, a desire for something most of us want more of — balance.

The conversation about work/life balance has been one had in real estate circles for more years than most of us remember.

Real estate is traditionally a lifestyle, rather than just a job, and it demands of us from early in the morning to late at night, on holidays, during school plays and kids’ sports events, even during deeply personal periods of challenge.

The rise and fall of Covid not only affected our economy, technology and healthcare, it also really affected the way we think.

It allowed us to stop and consider how we work, how many hours we put in and what we have been compromising on in order to do so.

One of the ways many agencies are managing these concerns of their agents, and retaining and attracting new employees, is by continuing that opportunity for remote work (where possible).

Not only are they enabling flexibility and balance by allowing staff to continue working from home, they are also decreasing their physical office footprint and associated overheads. Some are even doing away with storefronts altogether!

But saying your staff can work remotely and actually enabling it are two different things. And if you don’t do the legwork to actually enable it, are you really, actively offering that flexibility and remote option?

A big part of genuinely offering remote work and flexibility is introducing the digital platforms and equipment you need to facilitate normal day-to-day work and open communication.

We’ve highlighted some of the absolute essentials for providing a genuine remote work option.

Cloud-based CRM

Not all Customer Relationships Management (CRM) software is created equal.

While most claim to be cloud-based and accessible from anywhere, for your team, ‘anywhere’ often means the car, not just a nice desk at home.

When selecting a CRM, look at how much of its functionality is accessible remotely and with what quality.

Likewise, review for real responsive design, and if functionality availability changes on mobile, so you can assess how easy it is for your team to get and use the contact details they need, while in the field.

You also want to consider how fast it is on mobile or in the field, compared to desktop – and if that’s acceptable. While most platforms are built on the cloud to be mobile now, in the past, much more focus was put on desktop design, and speed and quality of mobility were secondary considerations.

File storage

Being able to access your files, templates, notes, presentations from absolutely anywhere is a must – it’s the basis of being able to work remotely.

When it comes to cloud-based file storage, often a lot of debate ensues because of security concerns. Many cloud storage facilities, including Google, have been hacked, so this is something you need to keep in mind.

Weighing up security, functionality and cost is going to be one of your biggest challenges. Going with something as popular as Google means finding information about it, learning how to use it and setting it up is super easy, it’s also very cost effective.

In terms of remote users, Google is also a big winner, with applications like Drive Stream enabling your team to access their cloud-stored files from their desktop (rather than a browser) exactly as they would any other file. No dramas, no hassles!

But is it secure enough? Do you know your legal obligations and requirements? What do you do if you experience a breach (which can be human error as much as a hack or something more serious)?

The same can be asked of other popular solutions like Drop Box and Egnyte.

At the other end of the scale, there are systems like Tresorit, which literally dared hackers to try to break into it and claims to be impenetrable. But how does its functionality and ease of use stack up?

As you would with any software, ensure you acutely understand your needs, then hunt for the best solution. For something as important as file storage and sharing, if you don’t feel confident, call in the pros.

Internal communication

A lot of employers worry that internal culture will suffer or die out completely if everyone isn’t in an office together, face-to-face.

And yet, we have international companies with teams spread across countries, that still manage an inside joke and a giggle!

Facilitating communication is a big part of maintaining a good culture when you have remote workers.

Options range from comprehensive systems like Microsoft Teams, to internal business social media equivalents like Yammer, to simple yet highly effective and popular options such as Slack.

Again, assessing your needs is important. If you have a small team, something like Slack will do the job very well, while Yammer might be overkill. If you have a big team, you may need a platform with more features.

Accounting software

If your finance team is working from home or your non-finance staff need access to check payments, manage invoicing, input timesheets or anything to this effect, you will need a cloud-based accounting software package.

The good news is, there are a lot of them to choose from. The bad news is… there are a lot of them to choose from!

In this case, you do have some internal expertise, so work closely with your finance team to assess requirements and select the best solution.

Hardware

When it comes to setting up for remote working, so many of us get caught up in the software – all the exciting and advanced platforms we can use to make our virtual workspace as functional as the Jetson’s futuristic sky-high apartment.

But without the right physical equipment to work from – what’s the point of great software?

A laptop – that is fast enough and can handle some decent processing – is a given for any remote worker.

You might also want to consider docking stations for in the office if you enable hot desking, or even in the home, so your team has the option to plug that little laptop into a much bigger and clearer screen.

Additionally, ensuring your teams have mobile devices – phones or tablets – that work with your selected software is really important. While most solutions make themselves available on any operating system, some app stores, for example, are more expensive and complex than others, so may not be available.

Given agents are also often in the field, a mobile device with a good screen size enables them to access, for example, property data and reports, on the go, so they are always well-equipped for every client or potential client they meet up with.

Lastly, with agents spending most of their lives on the phone, a headset is a must-have, though for some reason, it is often overlooked. A good headset can be quite expensive, but there are plenty of options at varying prices on the market.

Becoming a work-from-home-friendly employer is an important step for companies looking to be employers of choice, but it’s not something you dive into overnight if you want the experience to be a positive one for everyone. Plan, prepare, and only then, roll out.

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