How are Asynchronous Collaboration & Real-estate Optimization Related?

Posted on May 10, 2021 by wis_wp

If you’ve been working from home for the past year, you must have been conscious of the green dot next to your name on whatever collaboration you use. And for whatever reasons, you must have paid attention to the one next to your colleagues’ names too. It has a direct impact on your real estate cost optimization efforts. Curious?

That green dot once was a mere indication that a person is online. These days it’s transformed into the “I am available at my work desk” symbol. The difference might not seem like a lot unless you’ve felt the pressure of keeping it green, marking your presence, from 9 to 5 and beyond. That’s presence prison for you. 

While work from home has become the norm, the model of working hasn’t changed. So, the expectation of being at someone’s beck and call hasn’t gone away either. Admittedly, it doesn’t work that way when you are at home. There are parenting duties, household chores, and seemingly infinite disturbances that pull you away from your laptop now and then. Keeping that dot green all the time is, therefore, an unrealistic expectation when working from home. 

If presence-prison is something you can relate to, here is a solution that might interest you. It starts with few questions.

Understandably, a large majority would answer in negative. 

These points culminate in questioning the imposition of a 9 to 5 physical office work model on WFH. Most workplaces are struggling with WFH precisely because of this approach. 

Businesses need to acknowledge the shift of concept of work. It’s no longer a place. It’s a timebound activity to be done by each employee at her own pace. Of course, there will be work that will involve groups. However, it doesn’t translate to mandating all the people to be logged in all the time. It’s unrealistic and creates a lot of unproductive pressure in the organization. How do you let it off?

That brings us to the concept of asynchronous collaboration, which drives home the point that work is an activity. With that acknowledgment, you will be able to rationally assess the office space utilization, which will in turn impact your cost optimization efforts.

What is asynchronous collaboration?

asynchronous collaboration

Asynchronous collaboration is work that does not happen at the same time for all parties involved. There isn’t a pre-defined sequence either. With a host of workspace management solutions, it facilitates the functioning of a hybrid workplace in quite a few ways. Broadly, you may look at it as a hybrid workspace management tool.

While everybody puts in dedicated hours, not all employees are present or available at the same time. Here asynchronous applies to both communication and actual doing of work. 

Asynchronous communication does not involve real-time interaction. One of your team members leaves a document listing the dependencies that require your attention. You pick it up during work hours and deliver based on timelines. If you have a question, you insert a comment and assign it to the relevant person. 

Done conventionally, you will end up with at least two meetings, which may not be the most efficient way of doing it. Why?

As we know it, meetings often have people responding through the top of their minds. Not all responses are well thought, given the lack of enough time to craft one. Also, the discussion points might get lost, missed, or forgotten even as you religiously post that MoM (Minutes of Meeting).

The bottom line is – don’t rush it if it can wait. If you aren’t brainstorming or firefighting, leave that well-crafted note on Slack or the good old Google Document. It’s more efficient and leaves a historical context to check back on for future tasks, follow-ups, or delays. 

Not just that, asynchronous collaboration has several other advantages.

The pros of asynchronous collaboration 

Switching to asynchronous collaboration has a direct impact on the number of meeting you have in a day. 

Despite several pieces of research pointing out that meetings cost money, they refuse to go away. And they have made their way to the post-pandemic new normal, albeit with a different name. 

Zoom Calls and Google Meets, coupled with the now ubiquitous “let’s get on a call,” have been a constant source of fatigue. It isn’t the calls themselves but the frequency that causes more damage.  

Asynchronous communication can help your organization battle Zoom fatigue by allowing the response time to be set to an employee’s productive hours. With a tool like TeamBuzz, your employees can plan their workdays, set aside hours for tasks, monitor their productive and non-productive time, and do much more. At the same time, it allows employers and colleagues to set their expectations accordingly. Employees can focus on their work without having to worry about the green dot.

When you take the pressure away and provide people more autonomy over their time, it fosters a culture of transparency and accountability.

The other advantage that comes with asynchronous collaboration is a culture of documenting work. Documentation serves two purposes: 

  1. It structures the thought process by making people think before they ink. Documenting helps set the context, objective, and execution plan for any reader to reference back when required. Without having to dial up a colleague or spend time setting up a group call for clarification, it makes work more efficient.
  2. More importantly, documentation creates organizational knowledge that has multiple benefits. For starters, it can drastically cut down on the onboarding time for a new employee by providing ready reference material. 

The main advantage is the natural fit of asynchronous collaboration and remote work. When you try syncing individuals working in different locations, time zones, and environments, the organizational energy’s lost on replicating an on-premise working model. But is that the right goal to chase? Perhaps not. The resources, instead, can enable employees to be more productive and deliver results. A by-product of this approach is a change in perspective about the need to have a physical workspace. With a successful transition to an asynchronous approach, companies can switch to a hybrid workspace, significantly decreasing their office space utilization.

It’s not that asynchronous collaboration is not without a downside. It has quite a few.

The cons of asynchronous collaboration

cons of asynchronous collaboration

Asynchronous collaboration, while providing autonomy and freedom over one’s schedule, places a different set of expectations on the employee. The employees have to stay up to date. They need to consume all information that’s passively shared on the collaboration applications with a notification to boot.

With reduced meeting invitations and interactions, it transfers the burden of staying in touch with the organization onto the employee. Also, it amplifies the less desirable aspects of WFH, such as loneliness, lack of belongingness, and listlessness. 

The freedom to work at any time blurs the line between work and personal time. While the environmental shift has already blurred the division between work and home, asynchronous work can further exacerbate the problem. 

Increased monitoring of employee productivity is another likely fallout of allowing employees to decide their work schedule. However, an organization’s decision about monitoring depends on several other variables like culture, work, workforce, and overall experience. Nonetheless, it’s a possibility. 

How do you make asynchronous collaboration work?

“Whether one should move to asynchronous collaboration?” is a no-brainer. Planning to have a 9 to 5 model for remote work is akin to knowingly force-fitting the familiar into the unknown. 

Organizations and workplace managers need to acknowledge the differences between WFH and on-premise work in their entirety. It will provide the much-needed perspective to plan and execute a seamless shift to asynchronous collaboration.

Given the positives and negatives of asynchronous work, you need to plan a calibrated approach for the transition. Categorizing work based on expectations and dependencies would be a good place to start. For example:

  1. Synchronous and collaborative: Group activities that demand on-the-feet thinking like brainstorming, crisis management, or anything where real-time engagement is beneficial Hybrid workspace management tools like Slack, Teams, and so on should prove helpful.
  2. Collaborative yet asynchronous: If you have a culture of sharing daily status updates over calls, you could move it over to each team member filling in a cell on a shared spreadsheet. You could save a lot of time by doing it. You can have less frequent in-person meetings to keep the sense of belonging to a team alive.
  3. Independent, asynchronous work: Are you developing a program that requires deep focus or building a solution where outcome matters most? In such cases, you must share the progress and findings regularly.

Once you’ve categorized work, moving the asynchronous parts to the new model becomes easier. 

Conclusion

Employees are working in vastly different environments separated by distance, time, and realities. Focusing on synchronizing something so varied and diversified, HR and workplace managers are draining their energies into a bottomless pit. The organizational perspective about a physical office space gets stuck in time. Consequently, organizations end up taking a lot more space than their actual requirement and hurting their real estate cost optimization efforts. 

Today the focus should be on driving efforts and outcomes. It demands using technology that enables the functioning of a hybrid workspace. Chasing a goal that does not improve employee productivity and work efficiency is a misdirected effort, period.

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Posted under: Hybrid Workplace, Return to Work

Why Real-estate Consulting Needs Technology Partners

Posted on by wis_wp

The pandemic has impacted most industries. Commercial real estate, in particular, was hit badly.
Real Estate cost optimization has become the new focus area for most businesses. For instance, about a third of companies in the insurance, banking, and investment management sectors plan to optimize their real estate footprint this year.

Real-estate optimization

The resulting reduction in office space utilization is leading to a decline in US retail and office price indices by 4.1% and 0.5% YoY. Consequently, real estate consulting has also suffered.

Looking at the current situation, some might say it’s the end of the road real estate consulting. But it isn’t. If anything, 2020 taught us that businesses would go on, come what may. The demand for commercial space will also continue to exist; only its nature will change.

What’s changed?

The pandemic has forced a few changes upon the value proposition of the CRE consulting industry. Earlier the array of services included portfolio/asset management, workplace strategy, people engagement, and better workplace utilization.

Going forward, real estate consulting businesses need to factor in the changing requirements of their clients and sell them those benefits. For example, most companies are now actively looking to optimize their real estate costs. To that end, quite a few are exploring the option of creating hybrid workplaces, while others are prioritizing employee safety.

This shift in customer needs has to be responded with changes in the type of services. Commercial real estate (CRE) consultants should strive to meet the new needs replete with workspace management solutions, technology solutions that boost productivity and collaboration. Also, they need to factor in the differences that exist between various clients. The solutions would have to be accordingly modified.


What’s not working currently?

A recent Deloitte survey revealed that 56% of CRE leaders believed that the pandemic exposed the shortcomings in their digital capabilities.

Real-estate cost optimization

Source: Deloitte

Of the 200 participants, more than two-thirds do not have the required resources and skills for digital transformation. Only 40% can deliver a digital tenant experience – a prerequisite for business continuity as client companies extend WFH for their employees.

Even as the stats reveal that a change is a must, few companies are acting on it. Only 32% of US companies are redefining their approach and creating a roadmap for digital transformation.
Given the reactive approach, fewer companies have been able to develop a structured plan. Most lack the digital maturity to identify the gaps in their existing capabilities. As a result, their digital strategy focuses more on technologies and initiatives without considering the strategic value.

What needs to be done?

In the current scenario, a technology partnership could help shorten the learning curve and ensure business continuity. More importantly, it would offer a distinct competitive advantage. It would help CRE consultants deliver faster on changing client requirements. It’s a need validated by an increasing number of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) willing to partner with property tech companies. A whopping 58% of companies are actively seeking out prop-tech partners.

To stay competitive, real estate consultants need to focus on three main requirements of their clients:

  1. Real estate cost optimization
  2. Effective office space utilization
  3. Deployment of workspace management solutions

Additionally, they need to focus on elevating the digital experience of their current clients for increased engagement. For example, by providing real-time updates about facilities, automated desk/meeting room booking solutions, and other solutions for regulatory compliance, CRE consultants can address the employee safety concerns of their current and prospective clients.

How can technology partnership help?

Several real-estate companies are expecting a decline in rentals over the next year. They are also expecting an increase in vacancy levels. Adding to their woes is the implementation cost of health and safety measures. The cumulative effect of a decline in revenues and increased costs calls for the use of technology. Investing in technology will help real estate companies and their clients to preserve capital and create a differentiated experience for their clients in a buyers’ market.

An efficient tech solution can provide real-time insights into challenges faced by tenants and also resolve them faster. It will help them optimize costs by tailoring solutions to meet specific client requirements. It can also bring down maintenance costs significantly with IoT-powered predictive maintenance solutions.

With the right technology partner, CRE consultants can offer more holistic solutions to their clients. An ideal solution would include essential bits like tech for collaboration, better connectivity, and digital infrastructure that supports a hybrid working model.

Real estate players with large portfolios need technology to predict risks with a direct impact on profitability. Some of these include tenant-default probability, renewal probability, optimum market prices, and so on.

Taking a long-term view

It is tempting to use technology partnership as a hotfix given the advantages it offers. However, it is equally important to take a long-term view for multiple reasons.

Real-estate


The primary reason is that the behavioral transformation could outlive the pandemic. It’s been more than a year of both employers and employees working differently from what was once the norm. The longer the crisis persists, the greater is the chance that workspace formats of yesteryears may not work in the future. For instance, employees may never again want to be seated within arm’s length of a colleague. Desk booking, pre-entry health scans, reduced office density may become the new norm. So, choosing a technology partner with the capacity to evolve and cater to ever-changing requirements becomes a must.

The other reason is the regulations around office spaces could also undergo drastic changes to prevent the spread of pandemics in the future. The compliance requirements could acquire new dimensions like defining HVAC standards, deciding the area allocation for each person, new entry and exit conditions. All of which may be difficult to manage without technology.

Conclusion

The market has shrunk in terms of square foot requirements. But it has grown in terms of client expectations. CRE consulting businesses need to revisit their value proposition, looking at it from a client perspective. Adding customized technology solutions that address specific client problems in the post-pandemic world can provide a much-needed boost to their business.

Increased scope of CRE consulting services will not only attract new clients but can also elevate the overall tenant experience. Real estate cost optimization and workplace management solutions are two essential components of it. However, both require a considerable amount of time and investment to develop in-house. Therefore, a partnership offers the best way forward.

Workinsync offers a complete range of technology solutions that can significantly enhance the value of your services. It can help you provide a better and differentiated experience from the competition. A distinct competitive advantage is all you need to survive and thrive in a market that has shrunk and is likely to stay that way for some time to come.

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Posted under: Hybrid Workplace, Return to Work