In recent weeks, I’ve felt myself moved to champion the cause of returning to the office. Sure, this decision isn’t right for everyone. But I also believe it’s right for more people than are willing to admit it. And to those people I have a simple message: don’t get so comfortable that you regret it. Because there’s a certain palpable synergy that can happen in the office environment. Strong performance, brilliant ideas, and expert talent combine in ways that rarely translate through emails and video calls. In my industry, it can mean everything.
A Passing Grade Isn’t Enough
As the CEO of a company with the admittedly ambitious goal of restructuring the entire real estate industry, I can’t afford the luxury of miscommunication. Neither can the thousands of clients that my firm services a year. These are people that have scraped and saved for over a decade to pull together the down payment on their dream home. Are they going to understand when a minor error costs them big? The very nature of the real estate industry demands excellence. And that doesn’t mean a passing grade of 93%. It means a solid 100% every time without question.
How can I confidently ensure that my firm’s principles of excellence are being followed to the letter when all of my agents and staff are scattered remotely? Can I really expect seamless coordination between agents, attorneys, MLS coordinators, videographers, photographers, and social media teams if we’re only strategizing in Zoom meetings? Is it possible? Sure. But hitting 100% every time without a hitch in those conditions is a long shot. And even the tiniest error could cost a client their dream. That price is just too steep for me.
The Unique Benefits of Working in the Office
When you work side-by-side with your colleagues, you easily find a vital point of connection. Working in tandem, you get a feel for each other’s strengths and how you fit as a team. Strategy can often feel intuitive in this environment. It’s challenging to find these points of connection working from home. For some positions, it’s practically impossible.
I’m a firm believer in the Four Cs of Success:
- Competition – Not just with others but with yourself; constantly improving on the person you were yesterday.
- Collaboration – This includes everything from scheduled meetings to unplanned huddles.
- Consistency – Showing up daily with the same intentions.
- Creativity – Making innovation a priority and working spontaneously with the resources at hand.
In my experience, trying to achieve the Four Cs remotely won’t produce the same high quality results.
I’m very familiar with the studies showing increased productivity from employees who choose to work from home. In positions like data entry and customer service, it’s easy to believe these numbers. But success in this industry isn’t about being a production powerhouse. It’s about quick reflexes, making the right decisions in a timely fashion, and strategy. It’s also about growth. With management in close contact, your points of growth are easier to identify and nurture. If you’re interested in building a career, this kind of coaching is absolutely essential.
An Employer’s Responsibility to Help Their Staff Feel at Home
I also believe the responsibility to create a comfortable, nurturing environment for employees falls on the employer. You want your employees to return to the office? Then make it worth it. I’ve put a lot of work into making my firm, JohnHart Real Estate, an office with magnetism. I don’t want my staff or agents to dread coming into the office. I empathize with that feeling and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Of course, helping a burgeoning staff feel at home in the office is easier said than done. It takes planning and investment. It means that you, as an employer, may need to put your vacation on hold to put your profits back into the company. At JohnHart, we call that “profits for purpose” (more on that here). We put that money into developing our agents and staff. But we also invest in their environment. For example, all of our offices feature state-of-the-art coffee machines. Our campus office even has its own cafe with a dedicated barista. I don’t want my staff starting their morning sitting in a Starbucks drive-through waiting on their latte. I want them excited to come to work to start the day right with their latte waiting for them.
Sure, it takes more than coffee to recreate the feeling of home. But the investment doesn’t stop there. Our campus office also features a full gym with his-and-her showers. We have an outdoor terrace with scenic views and a daybed for lounging and relaxing. We have a library that feels like a family room, complete with comfy chairs and couches. All that’s missing is the family. And that actually brings me to the most important part.
The Evolution of the Work Family
A major element of what makes us feel at home is our families. For a lot of us, family is the whole reason we even go to work. But a job shouldn’t take you away from your family. In fact, I believe it should give you even more family. A lot of companies profess this “second family” mentality. But these are empty words if they aren’t backed by action.
At JohnHart, we like to hire people with whom we’d want to share a meal. This isn’t a hypothetical statement. We really do share meals together. Sometimes it’s at our desks as we buckle down and work together to make a miracle happen. Sometimes it’s a fully catered lunch. Sometimes it’s an award dinner. Sometimes it’s a casual meal at my very own home. And sometimes it’s not a meal at all, but a trip to Las Vegas. This isn’t just team building. It’s recognizing our shared human experience with people we respect and cherish. Can you achieve that same depth of feeling through remote work? Someone maybe could, but that person isn’t me. And I’m pretty sure that, deep down, many would agree with me.
When we work together in an office, we’re allowed the experiences that feed and nourish our souls. We find that special connection that finds us fostering and developing strengths as a team. Are there benefits to working from home? Of course. But for many of us, those come at a cost. While working from home can feel more comfortable, it’s not always the right choice for building a career. But if employers strive to help their employees feel more at home in the office, then we can build long-lasting careers together. And this enriches our lives no matter where we’re sitting.