For most remote teams, time is on their side to ease transitions. But, in our current climate of crisis, many businesses are struggling to adapt to a completely foreign workday. To help with working remotely in real estate, we’ve pooled some strategies from remote teams and from BoomTown’s own Director of Talent, Chris Taylor, to help you stay engaged and productive.
Get the Right Tech Tools for Working Remotely
If you have a dedicated IT team, pull them in for recommendations, or leverage some tech-savvy team members and decide which service you will use for Calendar syncing, communication, and video conferencing. Think through what equipment each team member will need, who can provide support, and build an action plan.
Quick Collaboration Tools
If you’re not currently using a cloud-based calendar system, now is certainly the time! Google Calendar and Outlook are leading options that are user-friendly and help your team stay in sync and up-to-date on everyone’s status while working remotely. Google’s suite of tools also offers spreadsheets and docs that can be shared and edited in real-time to make collaboration from afar a breeze. Email is helpful, but real-time chat communication is crucial. Make sure you’re equipped with messaging capabilities so team members can chat throughout the day and get answers quickly.
For real-time work, Slack is a very important part of what we do, and we have a number of channels so we can not just communicate but stay on task with what we call ‘stand up’ meetings. Teamboard is very important for us because that’s how you update your calendars and let people know when you’re available. With the Google options that we have, every time we set up a shared calendar and anytime we set up a meeting, it automatically sets up a Hangout option.
Virtual Meetings and Video Conferencing
Nothing quite beats digital face-to-face time for replacing in-person meetings. Select a video conferencing system to host your meetings and add a personal touch to your communication while you’re working remotely. Current favorites are Zoom (limited free plan with subscription upgrades), Google Hangouts (free) and Bluejeans (subscription with a 30-day free trial). Create your account and set up login credentials for every member of your team.
We always encourage people to use the Google Hangout option for meetings so you can see people face to face — I think that’s huge when someone has got their laptop and they can actually see who they’re talking to and be able to work together in real-time in whatever document or worksheet they’re working on.
Make Sure all Real Estate Agents Have the Right Tools
We often take internet access for granted, but take an audit of what people have in their homes, and make sure they have a plan with enough data to support video conferencing and heavier use.
Note from our IT expert: In order to make sure you protect your company data and information, discourage your team from using public internet unless they use a password-protected private internet provider or a VPN.
Each agent needs their computer, headphones, and a camera (usually laptops are equipped with this functionality) for their home office. It may be worth investing in some good headsets that block out surrounding noise and are comfortable to wear for long periods of time when working remotely.
Test your Tools and Develop a Company Support System
During BoomTown’s “Project Remote” transition, we created a dedicated channel for tech support. Whatever communication platform you choose to use, designate a support specialist to manage any issues that may arise.
Once your team is setup appropriately in their homes to work remotely, test out your conference capabilities with the team. Schedule an all-hands meeting and iron out any issues before leveraging your tools for client-facing tasks.
Create a Productive Environment at Home for Working Remotely
Part of the advice I give to managers is, if you go back and think about before we thought about remote [workspaces] as a large concept, you had people who’d talk about being flexible employees and some of those would work from home. But, you need to know what’s expected of every employee. [You need to explain] what are you expecting from them and not be afraid to communicate that. You have to provide the technology and invest in collaborative tools.
Help agents design a space that they feel good in.
Many people are facing big obstacles to creating a quiet, dedicated workspace at home. Kids are home, space, quiet, and time are commodities. Remember to be patient with yourself and your team! Do what you can with what you have.
Create a schedule to signal when you’re capable of being online and dedicated to work-related tasks.
If you’re a leader who has multiple people working remotely, schedule some check-ins where people are getting into the [remote] system and know there are points throughout the day and the week where we’re going to be meeting up, just like we’d do in an office situation. Encourage people to do more than just instant message. If there’s an issue that needs clarification, if there’s a misunderstanding, pick up the phone. And that could be using your cell phone or calling through Slack or calling through Google.
Develop clear expectations and set goals for the day or week with timelines.
Goals (especially SMART Goals!) are crucial for keeping everyone on the same page and moving forward. This will help team members stay in front of what needs to be done and accomplish tasks when they can.
Do not be hesitant to manage people and set clear expectations of, ‘This is what I’m going to need you to do,’ and ‘We may need to work through obstacles that you see because you are remote.
Remember that We’re in this Together
Times are uncertain and emotions are high. Help your team members and remember that we’re all new to this unprecedented environment. At BoomTown we’re used to having some all-remote teams, so we wanted to share our learnings and takeaways to help you fast-track a transition. Stay tuned for more ideas and check out how we can work together to keep your business moving forward and your employees engaged.