THE TRUE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THIRTY PEOPLE CAN’T GO TO THE OFFICE AND START WORKING REMOTELY.
Do you remember when you would get up early for work and then commute to the office? It seems like it was a long time ago, but in reality, it has only been six weeks. The days of “running late” don’t happen often. There is no traffic. You have not seen the faces of your co-workers in so long that you’re starting to forget what the face of the guy downstairs in accounting looks like. Are we nostalgic or are we reluctant about creating a new norm?
Have video calls via Zoom or Google Hangouts made the world of remote virtual meetings seem normal? The answer is… Yes! Viewing others from across the conference room table is not a problem. It’s a real look at what is happening across the globe. “Remote capability is no longer a workforce based nice-to-have function. It is now part of the business continuity and contingency operations platform. Remote capability needs to be secure, resilient, and scalable on short to no notice in today’s world,” says Eric Barish, Vice President for Enterprise Telecommunications. Companies that traffic in digital services and e-commerce will make immediate and lasting gains.
The truth is, before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had used Google Hangouts twice at most and had not even heard of Zoom. In more than five years, I had never used the camera on my computer. Now, I use it two to three times a week for business meetings and work happy hour events. I watched the Saturday Night Live skit where the “staff” had a video conferencing meeting and actually laughed out loud because I could so closely relate to it. Not everyone knows how to use this technology and during almost every meeting, there is at least one person who doesn’t realize we can see them eating (or worse) and hear everything they, and others are saying during the meeting. Everyone is on a steep learning curve and to keep business operating at a rate higher than ninety-five percent, we don’t have any time to waste.
It is not just the workforce that is affected – students are also navigating a virtual classroom, many for the remainder of the school year. Lucy Panagos, a senior in New Haven, CT who is planning to attend USC in the fall says, “having online school makes me feel like I’ve been transported to a parallel universe, where disease has riddled the world and the human race is dying. Reporting to classes online during the week takes away some of my favorite aspects of school – being able to interact with the people you wouldn’t call your “friends” but who are critical to the school atmosphere.”
At MD2 Property Group, our property management operations continue without any major interruptions. We are using these tools to conduct board meetings and empower colleagues to continue sharing a space with each other. The number of my FaceTime calls with other colleagues have increased by two hundred percent in just the past five weeks. It is exceedingly useful to have tools that allow us to communicate just as easily as walking over and popping into their office. But similar to what students are experiencing, these tools take away from the critical atmosphere of building visits where property managers visit the staff and perform building inspections to ensure routine cleaning is being done, building mechanicals are operating as designed, and residents are enjoying the best residential experience possible.
Virtual tours for apartment showings are great in theory, but they cannot take the place of actually seeing a unit in person. People attach value to the feeling of physically sharing space with another person. The truth is we are nostalgic and we are reluctant to let virtual meetings be the absolute future of business. Because of the ways I am using this technology today, my vision of future normal business operations may be split between these two ideas. Dawn Dickstein, President and Co-Founder of MD2 Property Group says, “Unfortunately, this pandemic has given us no choice, but to rely on modern technology. We would not be able to function without it. I look forward to getting back to the office and conducting business “the old-fashioned way,” but I see ongoing use of this “virtual reality” as well.”