RICK HAUGHEY, HOST:
Welcome to the NMHC Executive Roundtable on the Future of Work. I'm Rick Haughey, Vice President Industry Technology Initiatives at NMHC.
SARAH YAUSSI, HOST:
And I'm Sarah Yaussi, Vice President of Business Strategy at NMHC. For those of you who were able to join us for the 2020 Virtual OPTECH Conference, you'll surely remember our closing keynote speaker, Claire Haidar.
Claire's the co-founder of WNDYR & Pattyrn, two companies focused on shaping the world of work through AI-driven data analysis of how and where teams work. Pattyrn is transforming organizations to work in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago.
Anyway, there was so much interest in Claire's presentation that we asked her if she would come back and continue the discussions she started at OPTECH. And fortunately she'd said yes, so we were excited to be here and have her facilitate, what we think will be a very informative roundtable discussion with some NMHC member leaders about the trends influencing the digitization of work and how company leaders can identify the appropriate strategies and tools to establish a healthy and highly valued remote workforce program.
HAUGHEY: Yeah, and we have a great group of industry leaders assembled for you today for that roundtable discussion. Our expert panel brings a wide variety of perspectives. Reflecting how the changed workplace has impacted just about every aspect of our organization, from HR, to technology, to the corner office.
I'll just run through our panel of experts alphabetically, first is Angela Gibbons, she's the Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Bell Partners. Peter Kim is the Chief Information Officer for Weidner Apartment Homes. Scott Wesson is the Chief Digital Officer for UDR. And finally, Joanne Zabriskie is the President of BH Equities.
For those of you not familiar with NMHC, we're the leadership of the apartment industry through research, advocacy and events like our OPTECH Conference, which is our annual tech and operations event, highlighting industry best practices, emerging trends and model innovations in business and property operation.
NMHC brings together prominent owners, managers, and developers who help create thriving communities by providing apartment homes for 40 million Americans, contributing 3.4 trillion with a T, annually to the economy. And our council wants to remind you that this webinar is provided for informational purposes only.
With that out of the way, I'll hand it off to you, Claire, to kick off the Executive Roundtable today. Thank you.
CLAIRE HAIDAR, HOST:
So the very first thing that I want us to do to position this conversation is, I want us to take a step back and actually realize that there's an entire spectrum of remote, blended, fully virtual, completely in-person company, okay. It's not a black and white scale. And so what I want us to do is I want us to actually position the entire conversation there. And as organizations, I want us to actually put ourselves on that spectrum so that we can understand where we feel we as an organization lie.
Before we go and talk about the ideal future of work and where we going and theoretical pieces of that, I want us to get really practical.
And so I want you to look at these five different categories, and I want you to tell us where you feel you as an organization start. And where you feel you're moving towards, or if you think that you are going to have to stay in the position where you are right now.
PETER KIM: Currently Weidner Apartment Homes, I believe we are right around the Survivor Starter phase of the spectrum.
KIM: You know, I think we have two different workforces. We have our associates that are out in the field, working at the properties that is more of an in-person position. And we do have our corporate and regional office staff, where there is some flexibility for some remote work options.
The approach that we've taken was really just following the state governance of, you know, the COVID phases that each state is in. So right now for our corporate office, here in Washington State, we're currently at 25% in-office. So, the remainder of the week everyone's working remotely, or some people are working remotely maybe a hundred percent of the time right now.
ANGELA GIBBONS: I would say we're in the midst of between a Survivor/Starter so, when all, when COVID did hit, we're very similar to what Peter described is that we had our site associates who were onsite and needed to be onsite. And then our corporate office, we did take everybody out initially. And now probably over the last five or six months, we've been coming back to work on a staggered schedule. So we have half of our group on one week and the other half the following week with some of our associates who do not feel comfortable coming into the office, they can work remote.
We have different phases, so we're in phase one. We're getting ready to go to phase two. And when we go to phase two, we want more of our associates to come in back into the office, but we've heard a lot from our associates that they liked the flexibility.
And so as we start to look to bring everybody back, how do we manage through that? So we've been working through and putting a proposal together that we would like to allow our associates to work a couple of days a week remotely because we've proven it to be that people can do the work and we can still hold them accountable.
SCOTT WESSON: We're looking at two very distinct workforces between corporate and our front line. And obviously in corporate, you know, we're here in Denver and we've been at 25%. We are now at 50% and we expect some of those are gonna be lifted.
So in corporate, you know, I would say that, you know, we're very much in that, you know, Adopter phase and even technically, I would say we are in the Leader phase. I think mentally we are in the Adopter phase. So a lot of what we're trying to do, we've fully have the capability of doing it remotely, but there's a lot of questions about, do we really wanna work this way, even if the technology provides that for us?
JOANNA ZABRISKIE: In our corporate offices we're solidly Adopter moving towards Leader and, you know, envisioning what is the workspace going to look like going forward? Is it a place where people come and work or is it going to be more of a place where people come and collaborate and have amenities and spend times together as a team?
I think what we've found corporately is we can honestly be more productive perhaps when we're not in the office and not being interrupted, but we're missing part of our culture. And how do we keep that piece along with the productivity, along with the flexibility that work from home provides.
Onsite, we're probably between a Survivor and a Starter and corporately between an Adopter and the Leader.
HAIDAR: Has there been any discussions amongst your leadership teams and the teams on the ground of staying fully virtual, as you were in the height of the pandemic?
WESSON: I think we've looked at that as a difficult challenge because we've got different leaders that have different styles and many do like to put their eyes on people every day and have that, sometimes it's for collaboration, sometimes it's for innovation.
There's been a lot of conversations about, you know, how did you even do that during COVID? You know, how do you just drop in, you know, without freaking people out electronically?
ZABRISKIE: We started pre-pandemic, pretty spread out anyhow, all of us have assets throughout the country. We have three major office areas, one in Dallas, one in Des Moines, one Atlanta and some regional offices.
So, we started, Zoom meetings it was Go to Meetings now it's Zoom meetings, because we were all spread out and COVID, like it did with many other things, accelerated our adaptation to that technology. Teams and departments need to structure their work time together, dependent on what that need is. And so that may be different for an accounting team or different from a marketing team. Maybe we don't need a holiday party. Maybe we need these teams to come together from around the country and spend two to three days in some type of collaborative meeting.
And we need the office space to do that more than we need accountants to come in every day and plug in, in the office. So we're looking at all systems right now and thinking, how do we take the best things that we learned from COVID and apply them going forward.
We've done three surveys now, over the course of the pandemic, just asking people what they think about working from home, what they think about coming back.
GIBBONS: We've been having discussions on, what will work or not work, or like I said, and I think we've been grappling with the cultural piece of it. We're continuing to have conversations, and I think for us, we're exploring multiple things and then trying to figure out what's the best for us.
And I think we, you know, I envisioned we'll go one direction, but I envisioned that we'll have to tweak things because I think another thing is, in my role, we're also recruiting talent in, and that talent, they want that flexibility and they want that, you know, they want to have where, can I make my schedule, you know, I wanna come in some, but I wanna work remotely.
KIM: Remote work or telecommuting is fairly new to our industry, right? It's not something that's been around and we obviously were thrown into it. And I think many of our organizations or companies in the industry adopted fairly well. The question is what lies ahead? You know, what is the benefits of offering a flexible work schedule? You know, do we allow employees to relocate if they want to work a hundred percent of the time.
A lot of the surveys that we sent out and feedback that we've received, it's a mixed bag of results, right? A lot of our associates are feeling burned out, right. You know, they can't escape work at home. You know, some of the things that we're looking at is some of the HR and legal policies as well. You know, we've been getting a lot of questions on, hey, will the company provide ergonomic chairs, ergonomic desks, you know, furnitures for the house. So it seems like there's a lot of, you know, HR related policies that we need to research as well.
HAIDAR: I want to share with you that we actually have this as a set of questionnaires that we gonna make available to you, but also to the broader NMHC community where you'll actually be able to take your leadership teams through it.
Because it's something very interesting that we've seen when we do this work with companies is that the leadership teams are very, very solid. They've actually aligned in terms of where they place themselves on that spectrum. And one of the first key takeaways that we need to realize at this inflection point that we find ourselves in is that, we're not all as aligned as we think we are.
It actually is gonna take a few more iterations of conversations at management team level and at leadership team level to actually align on what that is.