For the first time in a long time, we can start to look to the future with hope, we might finally be seeing the back of this pandemic. But what may be here to stay are some of the changes made in business and society as a result. I heard a segment on the radio the other day where this was being discussed and the host said he’ll never get on the tube in London again without a mask on again, which seemed like a very valid point. This got me thinking about the changes we’ve made in order to keep going throughout this crisis and how they may shape our business going forward.
Some of these changes are simple and were underway already. Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in our digital offering, to ensure we’re bringing as much information to those interested in our properties as early as possible. By equipping our listings with clear, professional photos, floorplans, and 3D tours wherever possible, we can ensure that those coming to see our properties are fairly sure of their opinions of them before we even cross the threshold. I’ve talked at length about how reducing the number of viewings may seem counterproductive, with a lot of agents bragging about the number of people they show each property to, but that simply isn’t the case. If we only have those that are truly interested in a property coming, we can be more efficient and avoid wasting applicant’s valuable time, when they could be off doing other things than being dragged around properties that aren’t for them.
This is something that we have seen really come into its own, where people have been nervous to attend properties when thinking about a move. We can speak with them in detail about the property, with a lot of information in front of them. This has led to some people even securing a property without ever being there but has also allowed applicants to be very sure of their thoughts about a certain property before going, minimising the number they have to attend. This is an area I think will continue to grow and certainly be here to stay.
In keeping ourselves compliant when the office has been open and also being able to continue working when it isn’t, we’ve needed to insist on people only attending the office with a pre-arranged appointment. This includes applicants, tenants, landlords, contractors, and anyone else that may need to see us in person for any reason. What this has meant, as well as having a record of who has been in the office and when is that we are always ready for what that particular person is needing from us. It means we have keys ready to go for those that are collecting or information prepared for more valuable discussions than we may have seen before.
This increased efficiency is certainly a valuable addition to our workflow and whilst being in the office in tracksuit bottoms because you know no one else is coming in that day might be going out the window again going forward, we will be aiming to continue requiring appointments to attend the office in the future. In doing so, we can be sure the right people are present and the right preparations are made in advance of the appointment.
Had you asked me a year ago about how well we would function as a business working from home, I’d have said we would really struggle. Being a public-facing business, even since leaving the high street, there has always been the feeling that we need to be present in the office, even when working on things that don’t necessarily need outside input. I’m not sure whether this is a bit of how I’ve always seen it, the need to answer the phone, or that niggling feeling in the back of the mind, that there might be questions to ask of others in the team to achieve the task at hand.
But, what we’ve seen in reality is a team that has really excelled in the most difficult of circumstances! The phone is being answered, tasks are being completed, and deals are being agreed. We may be slightly less agile in busy periods than we might be in the office, but the levels we are managing to hit when all working from home have been nothing short of exceptional. What this makes me think is that going forward, the traditional 9-5 might fade from view for us as a business.
I’ve long wondered whether writing blogs like this or working through tasks that I take on solo in a similar fashion, I may have been able to address them quicker out of the office environment, which is fraught with distractions and other tasks to complete. The year of home working may have shown that actually, for us as a business, flexible home working may be extremely useful. There are always tasks that require the office, and viewings will be carried out from there, as that is where our keys are stored, but there may be a call for being more productive solo working away from that busy environment.
What we’ve seen over the past year is that where we have had to adapt, we have. We have achieved a level of productivity that we can be proud of when times have been tough. But going forward, why should we dial things back to the way they were before when these changes have been so successful? I don’t think I’m saying that this is the perfect way to work by any means, but the lessons we have learned over the last year will certainly shape the normality we forge in the future and the ways it will be different from the way we perceived normal work to be in the past.