Leadership and Rethinking Work
An industry panel discusses the changing dynamics of office work in real estate and beyond.
By now, it’s apparent that some version of remote work is here to stay for a dominant number of firms. Remote and hybrid work can solve serious employee issues like flexibility, commute times, and even productivity. However, the new work arrangements are not without drawbacks.
Moderator Mary Lynne Boorn (USC Price) invites Allison Lynch (Compass Ventures), Amalia Paliobeis (AvantStay), and Brandi Popovich (SoLa Impact) to bring insights from their unique perspective on hiring and retention, adaptive management styles, office space, and to discuss lessons learned in distributed work environments.
Included in the discussion:
- The new costs of mandating an entirely in-person work week
- How remote environments impact mentorship
- Crucial in-person activities for employees and employers
- Strategies for preserving company culture
Links to mentioned resources:
- So we'll go ahead and get us started today for our Lusk Perspectives. And first I'd like to introduce our wonderful group of panelists. Amalia Paliobeis, Brandi Popovich, and Allison Lynch. We have their bios posted. So rather than use up valuable time for our moment together, I will allow our guests that are attending to look at their bios on their own. So we'll go ahead and start diving in. I'm excited about today to talk about the future of leadership in this changing environment and what really the future of work looks like, particularly for diverse groups and what we can do to support people as they move forward with their careers and their businesses in this new environment. So we had a great prep conversation, this group of women. And so we're very excited about talking about these big pressing issues that many of us are grappling with as business professionals and as leaders. So I think just to kind of kick things off so that we are all working from the same general direction is really, I think we all assume that we're all on the same page when we think about how work has changed in this post COVID environment. But I'd like to kind of throw that open to the group first, just to, some of it may be seem very obvious, but I think it would be useful for us to kind of just get out into the foundation of the discussion. What do we mean by that? So when we say that the workplace has evolved that being a professional has evolved, what do we mean when we say that? So I think I'll just go ahead to avoid blank spaces. I'll throw that open to Amalia, just to kind of get us going. But obviously this is very much an interactive conversation as we had before. So feel free to chime in.
- Sure, I think from my perspective, and I've worked in both the traditional real estate industry and now the real estate startup space, the workplace has definitely gotten not only more remote-heavy, but also more kind of employee-oriented and really thinking about what do our employees want and need and how to support them. So it's a little bit of both and it's also balancing like, okay, if they really wanna work from home, how do we make that happen? And can we make that happen full time? And then if we're gonna do that, how is that gonna be successful? Because there's ways that that can not turn out to be successful too.
- That's a great lead off comment. Brandi, for your firm, do you feel that?
- Absolutely, I would say for us, what we've realized is the vast majority of people are doing quite well working remote as well as coming into the office from time to time. But inevitably you do have some that probably need a little bit more coaching and mentoring in order to be productive in a remote setting when that does occur. But we're fortunate to be working in a hybrid scenario, which is fabulous.
- So Amalia, I think you raised a really important point when you said, and I think you said it very articulately when you said very employee-focused. And I think that that raises really important concepts about the nature of work. We think about it before, it was like, from a business perspective. So I'm an employee and I work for the business and what can I do for the business, and how do I keep my job and how do I get promoted? And obviously those concerns exist today too. But because of labor shortages, because of the importance of great training and knowledge, I think that's really essential. So what does that mean for these businesses as they're kind of altering the model, do you think in terms of like employee-centric and really that's open to anybody to talk about too.
- I think any of us could talk that the cost of retention is probably a loss of an employee. And in lots of the surveys that we've all seen, employees are leaving firms or thinking about leaving. So you have to focus on retaining them, which is being intentional, engaging them in meaningful work, as well as looking at them as whole people, not just, as you said, Mary Lynne, them focused on the work. There are surveys out that say that stress level for employees is higher than it was during the pandemic for women. In the Cruise Survey, it's worse now than it was before. And that stress is a leading reason people leave firms and that you've gotta address wellbeing in how you look at your talent pool.
- Yeah, and I think that's-
- Or we're going to... Oh, go ahead.
- No, go ahead.
- I was gonna say, or we are at risk of having the same gap in real estate that we have that comes from the period after the great recession, when a lot of people left the industry, we're at risk of having a second gap if we don't focus on those retention items.
- Yeah, I was just gonna add to that and say, that's why it's really important to have great managers and help build great managers and mentor them because then they'll be able to really understand what is it my employee wants from a career trajectory perspective. Can we help support them? Is it that they want more flexibility at home? Is it that they want to learn about something adjacent to what they're doing. And then that way you can kind of, they feel heard and you can hopefully retain them a little bit longer or have them on a path where they can stay versus just, my employer doesn't care about me and they wouldn't even care if I left kinda thing.
- Yeah, and I think what we're realizing is that we have to meet people where they're at and when you're at different levels of your career, you need different things. It's almost what I've experienced in my conversations and a little bit with the group that I work with at SoLa, is when you're more junior, we're losing that ability to simply absorb from senior level executives when you're not sitting in the office. But that being said, most of the senior executives would be perfectly happy they're very productive working from home all the time. So we are trying to marry those two needs. And again, at the end of the day, to your points is we absolutely have to think about it holistically and meet people where they're at versus, I'm the corporation and I'm dictating this. It's not gonna work anymore.
- So Brandi, you raise an important point. So when we think about different groups at different places, kind of two different things came to mind. So I'll kind of do part A first, you started to talk about it, but let's delve into that a little bit more. I mean, what does that mean? Because obviously we are a group of women we're talking about these diverse groups, both from a professional perspective, maybe from areas of diversity, from age, from experience, et cetera. So let's dig into that part first. I'd like to kind of hear more about what you guys think about. What does that mean when we think about like meeting people where they are, where would they be or how does it affect them differently, yeah.
- I'll continue. And then I want you guys to dive in. For us, so you've got the career level piece of things in terms of differentiators, but then you also have, when we're talking about women in the workplace, it doesn't matter if you're a senior executive or if you are in the beginning of your career, if you're a caregiver of any sort, whether it's to children or to parents, there's a whole other level that comes into play with your work life. And it's not balance, I call it work-life flexibility. And I think that that is what has become incredibly important in this post COVID world, as everybody's starting to rethink priorities. Is people no matter where you're at, need work-life flexibility. So you've got your early career people who are desperately wanting mentoring, and then you have people mid-level and senior level who've already had the great benefit of having mentors that are now like, oh, I can cruise along and sort of do my thing. And that I'm actually much more productive when I'm at home. Unless, of course, you're sitting at the kitchen table and you've got a three and a five year old hanging from the chandeliers behind you because that, or I guess I should say three and four year olds, hopefully the five-year old is at school. So that's... I've had some of our staff tell me that COVID actually help them be more present as a parent, and they're not willing to give that up. And so they're fine coming into the office two days a week, but there's no scenario where a five-day a week plan would work for them. And then you have other, and I'm speaking more to the female side of things, and then I'm gonna stop and let everybody else talk. Maybe in a normal scenario prior to COVID, you would've thought when you had your children, you know what, I'm gonna exit the workforce for a few years and be a full stay at home caregiver for my children. And then you reenter maybe once the kids are mid-elementary school. Now with COVID because we have work-life flexibility, hopefully some of those women who would've left don't need to, because there's more flexibility with some of the organizations, like if the organizations are getting on board with the fact that, oh, somebody can be productive and have flexibility and it works. So we're retaining some people that we would have lost prior to COVID, if that I'm hoping I'm making sense.
- I also think that the other line that I'm seeing coming out of COVID is I'm chair of ULI, we have a very large board and we have been meeting on Zoom, and we're trying to get back to some in-person meetings. And quite honestly, I'm hearing from more men, well, I have to work out whether I will not have to do drop-off. And some of these are men I don't think were doing drop off pre-pandemic. However their personal lives are balanced, but I'm hearing that from men as well as women, which I think is a positive change. And certainly, wanna accommodate people. But I think people have gotten used to all that flexibility. So we have to bring it into our workplace and afford it to everyone on our team. Being conscious when you sit down in a conference room about who's not in the room, is that their remote day? And are you ensuring that they're not missing a meeting? If you're the leader or not the leader, you have to say something to ensure that person. 10 years ago I had a woman who worked for me, who went on to have three children while she worked for me. And we had informal flexible Fridays that you could work remote long before we had Zoom. And I unintentionally kept scheduling meetings on Friday and she lived 10 minutes from the office and she would come to the office. And when I realized it, I was like, why didn't you say anything? And she's like, well, and I was like, you just have to tell me. And that was 10 years ago and I was another woman. And now I couldn't make that mistake at all. I mean, the employee wouldn't accept it. She was, obviously she stayed and she went on to have three children. So I figured out how to not schedule meetings on Fridays, but it takes some thought on our side of the equation as leaders and managers.
- Yeah, and I think the thing I would add to that too, is the flexibility that parents have gotten during COVID, we should just make sure that we're also letting junior people have that flexibility too. So like one of my direct reports said, oh, there's a really great 4:45 workout class that I'd love to go to. I said, go. Like, you know what you need to do, you can leave early, I'm leaving early one day a week to go take my kids. And so just letting them have that flexibility, as long as you're really focused on saying, this is where I want you to go in terms of the day and what you need to finish or the week. And then they feel like, they're just not getting told what to do all the time.
- [Amalia] So it's building the bus. Oh, sorry.
- Oh, no, you're fine. So that's interesting comment that you make, because I think we mentioned this a little bit on our prep call, but we talked about, this kind of big aha that many of us had during of COVID and working remotely that two important things. One is that we could be productive while being at home. And the other important thing was that we could work collaboratively being remote, both obviously key aspects. But one thing that came up during our conversation was, what does it take for us in terms of managers? And what are some of the kind of concrete things that may have to change? So Allison, you bring up, being very aware of your employee schedules, where I think in the past, it was kind of up to the employee to be like, excuse me, right? And now we're seeing kind of reversal in part because of expectations after COVID, in part, because we're trying to retain our employees, et cetera. But so that has changed. So let's talk a little bit about that in terms of the actual kind of managerial styles that we're engaging in now.
- Well, I think that one of the things we have to be careful of is not the work places we're designing, have to support the A players. And a lot of the stuff to what Amalia was saying was designed around people who maybe are the B and C players, like you have to be present at all times, et cetera. And I think that requires for all of the team players, it requires having really clear goals and responsibilities for the people on your team. And you have to meet with them on a regular basis. There's a architect I know here in LA, who is a staunch, everybody in the office, five days a week, and then suddenly was forced to try it out. And he found now that he only has to go in one day a week and he power meets with his teams, but they have really focused sessions and people are really clear about what they're gonna work on in the coming period of time. And it's easily measurable. Now that is architecture. There are a little bit more firm deliverables around that work. But I think that's part of it. You have to have clear deliverables and responsibilities and it's about communication.
- Yeah, I just started implementing when I was at Common, so a couple years ago, something called a Manager Read Me and my manager did it. And I thought it was really helpful. What it does is literally outlines everything, the manager's roles and responsibilities, what the team's roles and responsibilities are. But also here's what I expect from you. I expect you to respond to Slack within the day. I expect you to respond to emails within 24 to 48 hours. If you need me, here's how you can reach me. Don't text me at night. You can call me at these hours. So it's very, very clear. So there's no miscommunication, or I didn't know I could do this. I didn't know how to do that. And then it just eliminates a lot of what usually is a friction with remote management.
- I think communication is key and I'm a big fan, especially now over communication. We've implemented onboarding guides because when you're onboarding in a remote scenario, you need somebody who can help you along the way, because you're not in the office. You can't turn to somebody and say, who do I ask for X, Y, Z? And so that has really helped. And then also what we are, to everybody's point, what we're telling our managers over and over again is you have to set clear expectations. We can no longer expect anyone working with us on the team to be a mind reader. It doesn't work. Especially in a remote setting, you can't just walk down the hall and say, you know what? I thought I understood what you were talking about, but I don't. So can you give me some clarity? Now, with everything being scheduled on Zoom, you really have to get it out there. And I think that managers need to take more time and sit back and think, okay, when I started in my career, what did I really know versus what did I need to learn? Because I think once people get more experienced, there's a lot of things that you take for granted that you know and you just think that everybody else on your team knows this like, well, of course this is an eight. You should absolutely understand this. Where it's no, you need to again, meet them and realize they still need to learn this. They need you to mentor them, communicate with them, explain to them exactly what it is that you're asking of them so they can be successful.
- That's a really interesting point. And one thing that I think I'm hearing all of you say is that it's actually requiring more of our managers and leadership. And kind of a theme is evolving here, that leadership and management look very different in this kind of environment. So one of the ideas that comes to mind is the importance of very clear communication, but also very clear metrics about what that looks like. So I'm curious if anybody has some good examples, because as we said, like Allison, you mentioned, maybe with architecture, there's kind of some more deliverables, right? Amalia, I think you raised some good points about kind of that system. But if we could maybe dig around that a little bit more, some examples for the audience about, what are some models like, best practices about like, how are we thinking about this in terms of really how we interact with both going up and down the corporate hierarchies.
- I think the old fashioned, we called it one-on-ones at work which was, I met once a week all of my direct reports. And we had an open running list of what those items were. And during the pandemic, at one point they fell off 'cause we were just trying to stay afloat. And as it continued, I went back to using that. Like it was the time I would make myself available to those people who reported to me to talk to me about stuff that was going on in the real estate portfolio they managed. But it was also my way of keeping track of items in their portfolio. I knew what items they needed to be moving forward. And I set aside that time in my schedule for both parts of that, right? It wasn't a, I'm not checking up on you because it was a conversation and it was, sometimes they would show up and say, "I have this problem, I don't know how to solve it." And that was the way I did it, on a 60-property portfolio, trying to keep my finger on all the metrics. I could look at occupancy every month, but that doesn't tell me what I need to know, how much trouble are you having getting the least with Ross negotiated. I need to hear about that lifetime so I can remove the obstacle for you. So that's a strategy I have used successfully and was used at what, up and down the vertical.
- Yeah, I think it depends on the role. But one thing that I found helpful was, for example, if you're in a production role or you need to close say five deals a quarter, is taking it up a level and saying, okay, if you need to close five deals a quarter, how many deals do you need to look at? How many people do you need to talk to? How many do you need to underwrite? And then you can compare quarter over quarter and see, is it just a market situation or, Hey, we're seeing a huge drop off. Like we're underwriting the same deals, but our underwriting standards have changed and it's making it harder for me to get to my five. So it kind of helps you become a better manager to see either where they're having trouble or where there might be like a process broken or market changing so you can't just say, oh, you didn't hit your five and that's it, kind of thing.
- Brandi, in terms of your organization and obviously your role in helping the team and the managers and hiring on all that, do you see people who tend to succeed more in this kind of environment and those who struggle more in this kind of new role that we're talking about?
- Definitely. And I'm trying to think if there's commonalities. I would say that what we have seen is the vast majority of people who tend to be extremely successful in a hybrid or fully remote situation were self-motivated to begin with. And the people who are struggling with it are those that probably needed a little extra prodding along when we were all in the office five days a week where it's almost as though, like, if you wanna work out, it's better to hire a personal trainer that holds you accountable to like, okay, you've gotta show up and you're gonna work out every day. And so there's a lot of people that are like that, where the showing up to the office every day really help them be accountable. And when they're at home on their own and sort of nobody's watching, you don't have your personal trainer sitting there making you work out, it's easy to all of a sudden we call it squirrels. It's very easy to get distracted by different squirrels that pop into your life, whether that's, oh, I need to binge watch the last two episodes of something on Netflix or it could be, "Oh, you know what, I'm gonna go and do this right now. And instead of actually working. But it's the people who are normally self-motivated have really thrived in this environment. To what Allison was saying, it's the A players. And it's the group that still needs more mentoring and more help, and that are less self-motivated that are struggling.
- So that brings up an interesting point. And I made a note to myself when we were talking about kind of mentoring and some of the, a lot of the time it's new people, both to the organization, but also to work. Some of the more junior members of the teams, the young leaders, whether they're women or from diverse backgrounds or from really any aspect of the professional world. And I'm curious about, sometimes because people are so, especially younger folks are so used to working kind of in a remote environment, they're super comfortable with technology, but they may not even know that they need to be mentored. So setting up those relationships and those kind of, as we said, like this base structure of this is how we're gonna work, and these are the expectations. But beyond that, when we think about kind of what does mentoring mean? Especially as we're thinking about labor shortages and how do we kind of grow this next generation of leaders, what does that look like? So let's talk a bit about kind of what mentoring means, and I think you can approach it both from currently what it means, and also from your own perspective of what were some of the mentors and mentoring roles that either you had, or that you've received in this process. And as I said, I'll just kind of leave that open to the group.
- I'll start, and then follow in. For me when I was first starting working, I loved going in and sitting at, and thankfully, she'd let me do this. I had an owner that was just brilliant at what she did. And she was an executive recruiter. And I would go and just sit in front of her desk and listen to her talk. Maybe it would be an hour a day. I'd listen to her on the phone with clients and candidates. And I learned so much just from absorbing and I feel like, so there's that type of less formal mentoring. Then I know that ULI is brilliant about setting up very formal mentoring programs. And I think that people can really learn from those. And then Amalia, you were talking, I just murdered your name, I apologize. You were talking about the round tables, the lunch and learns that were also really important. So I think that those are sort of three different ways that I've seen that work very effectively with mentoring.
- Yeah, I think that it's really important, especially for larger companies to have those lunch and learns with different departments so that the more junior people can get a better idea of what is it that everybody does. And then if you run into an issue, you say, oh, I know who owns that department, or I know who I can talk to. And then also just learn a little bit more about it. I think when I look back at my mentors, I never really had formal mentors, but a ton of people who I talked to for an advice, a lot of champions, a lot of managers who were my champion, who helped me kind of grow within a firmer company. But I think the most underrated mentor is a lot of just your peers and being able to talk to them and say, Hey, this is something I'm going through. And like, how do you think I should go about it? And that is really helpful because they're not your manager. They don't have to worry about, anything related to your employment. It's more of really, truly helping you out with that situation.
- Well, and that's an interesting point that you raised because I think we've been talking a lot about kind of this top down management of like, what does it mean for me as a manager setting up very clear metrics, which is a theme that's kind of recurring of like, it's requiring more of managers to really be very intentional around, what are the deadlines, what are kind of breaking out the tasks more specifically? I mean, I think to my own prior life in development, where we would look at the project as a whole, but I may not get into the nits about these very detailed things. I relied on my employees to like come to these team meetings and talk about the different issues. And so I think, what we're finding is that these needs for very clear metrics and really breaking the workout into more step by step tasks is essential. But you raise such an important point about the peer groups, because I do think that's something that can get really lost in the remote environment because you may or may not be in the office at the same time as your cohort, right? You'll be there because you've got a meeting with your manager or you've got your team meeting. So I think that's a crucial thing that is kind of new to the conversation today that you're bringing up, which is very valuable.
- It's interesting, 'cause as Brandi had pointed out, ULI has a lot of mentoring programs and we launched a program for people between 35 and 50. And it's a self-directed program where they've been put in pods and they're gonna mentor one another. And we were shocked at their response. I mean, we usually for the young leaders, we have a mentoring program and we probably have 150 people in that program at all times. We had 133 applications and we had people call us who missed the deadline to be sure they could get in. And part of it was the ability to have a conversation around a lot of the work-life flexibility balance issues that Brandi talked about. They're having those conversations with their peers to get advice on how to navigate it. And so that's an interesting part of the dynamic, how are you doing it and what are you doing? And it could be the professional side or the work life. It could be the life side of it as well, giving some advice. And we were really surprised by the positive response. And my only other mentoring suggestion is, similar to Brandi, I sat in someone's office and learned a lot by just listening. And so as a leader, I think that's inviting someone on your team to come to a meeting that they might not be scheduled to participate in, or take them to a lunch that they wouldn't normally, maybe it's not their lane, but maybe they'll learn something that coming to lunch, either how to do lunches with other professionals, what to talk about, or the conversation itself might be interesting.
- One thing that we had also talked about a little bit is, we're kind of all in this group and we all have kind of embraced this idea that ultimately, this new work environment is here to stay, but there are some who believe that perhaps it isn't, maybe things will go back to the way that they were. And so I guess I would ask the group, I mean, not to kind of like beat it down, 'cause that creates already a bias, which I've already done. But if we think about it in those terms, what do we say to that? If we're talking to kind of a very broad audience here of business owners who have had businesses a certain way for certain amount of time, we're talking to people who are like Amalia that in like startups and new tech who are much more kind of already thinking about and embracing and bringing in best practices from maybe tech who's been at the leading front of this. So how do we kind of help some folks that maybe were thinking, Hey, it's gonna all go back and what do we say about that?
- I will start. So at AvantStay, we're fully remote, which actually I personally don't like being fully remote. So I work with my team at least once or twice a week in-person. I do believe that you can get a lot more done, it's more efficient and it's just easier for me. We like it that way. So that's kind of the way we go. But to go all the way to the other side of five days a week, you must be in an office, I think there's a lot of ramifications of doing that. I think one, you limit the pool of people that would even apply to work for you just because they could be farther than a 30 minute or 60 minute drive away, and they can't do that. Or you're limiting those people with caregiving responsibilities. LAUSD, the schedule is 8:10 to 2:30 So if you have care in the afternoon, you still have to get them there at 8:10. And how are you gonna get to the office every day? It just, it's a lot. And I think you open up your pool of talent if you're able to be much more flexible.
- Well, I think the other part is, are the people who need to be informed. I mean, there are surveys that JLO has done on 10,000 employers globally that demonstrate, it's here to stay, hybrid work, and we have to commit to it. And if you look at the research numbers, something like 40% of people, if they were forced to come into the office five days a week who are currently working hybrid, would quit. And I know Brandi works in the talent acquisition side of the business, that would kill us if you lost 40% of your workforce over that issue.
- Richard, I see you have your hand up. Did you wanna add to the conversation or ask a question?
- I wanted to ask a real estate related question based on this part of the conversation. Is that all right, Mary Lynne?
- Of course, absolutely. I was gonna say, you need to raise your hand.
- Well, okay, well .
- Come on in.
- As a Y-chromosome person, I'm just making sure that I'm not being typically male. But this conversation makes me think that the modal work arrangement will be people going in somewhere between two and four days a week. And I don't know where between two and four it is. But in terms of the space at work and how it's designed, this has important implications for the demand for office space. So do you imagine that if people go in two days a week, we're gonna be hoteling all of our space or you imagine that people really want their own space in the office regardless of how many days a week they're in? And really if you're in tech, for example, office space is cheap relative to everything else you're doing. So I guess I would like the panel to comment on what they think the arrangement of office work will look. So not whether it's hybrid, it's gonna be hybrid. Exactly how hybrid, I'm not sure. But are people assigned space or are they not, and what does that space look like? Then I'll shut up.
- Well, I would say, and Brandi has a different view or experience, but I was fascinated at the Roses and Lemons Awards today that the three office buildouts that occurred, two of them had been done by construction companies, but the visuals of all the spaces were all big, common tables and communal workspaces and very few offices. That's the design aspect, which I think influenced by the designers is telling us that's how best to collaborate. But I think then there's human nature. And I think Brandi can probably speak to human nature.
- This has actually been hilarious with us going back to the workplace about six months ago. So Allison, I absolutely agree with you and the way that a lot of offices are getting themselves set up is more of a hoteling situation to your point, Richard. Where we have laptops that we bring back and forth between work and home, and you have a docking station, you've got two screens. You could literally go and sit anywhere at the SoLa offices and function. However, human nature plays a huge, huge role in this. And when we first moved in, people who literally were only coming into the office once a week, initially, maybe once every two weeks, they were starting to put sticky notes with like their name. And I called it being territorial and sort of, this is a little bit off color, but peeing on their space. Like this is my space. And so I had to send out an email and explain, unless you're in the office four days a week, you cannot claim a territory. Now, that being said for the people who are coming in more consistently, which is really kind of three plus days a week, they go to the same space every day. But what I've explained to everybody and what we're sort of trying to implement is, that's fine if that's your spot and nobody else is sitting there and that's where you feel comfortable. However, if you're not there, anyone else can sit there. And so that's more what we're trying to implement more so than anything else. So human nature, they wanna go to the same place. They wanna know like, okay, this is where I'm going. However, we're trying to keep it fluid where people understand that if somebody else is sitting there when they're not there, that's okay too. So it's been very interesting. I had to take lots of sticky notes off of some of our offices when we first started. It was hilarious.
- Well, it's funny you talk about that Brandi, because literally just on Wednesday night of this week, in my master's courses, we have a design course that we run on different typologies, and Wednesday was office. And we had a couple of leaders from Lincoln Properties that came in and showed different design elements and talked a lot about office from that very specific place, Richard. And they were talking about, how office was already kind of changing, going into COVID of being more about the brand. So your office design being something about how you're putting yourself out to the world and tech definitely at the forefront of using office then to attract and retain employees. And they said, this is only increased, and of post-COVID not so much in the branding part, but it circles all the way back to our almost initial comments about, we are really now talking as leaders about how do you attract and retain employees? And the physical space then becomes a conduit of this, right? So an extension of this. And so I think that what they were talking about, and it's very much in line with some of the comments is that the space itself is very different. And while a lot of designers are saying, just all open, all open, you do need a variety of spaces because we're talking about also a lot of these small meetings, right? So it's a lot of team meetings or you have to be able to have, and it was something Brandi and I had on my list of things I wanted to make sure I talked to you about today. But how do you create culture and how do you kind of organize a company? So again, it's almost like the flexibility we talk about with work, also has to be in the flexible space. But I think Richard, you may have also been getting at like how much space is left over. I'm having feeling that that's also part of what you're talking about. Oh, you're on mute.
- People are constantly asking me how much office space will we need in the years to come. And I'm trying to... So unlike, so retail, I actually, this is something I'm probably shouldn't be proud of, but like 15 years ago, I said, we are so over retail, lots of is gonna die. Office is just, it's that human element that makes it really hard to forecast because in a sense, we need far less space than exists right now. If people really are only gonna, let's say on average, they're going to work three days a week. That means 40% of our space is unnecessary. Okay, it's a little growth. But if what people need and Brandi's metaphor was quite wonderful and will stay with me for some weeks to come. If people need to put down a flag is how I will put it. Then in a sense, the demand for space is gonna be greater than what's needed. And we look at this here in the US, in the housing market, almost all of us who have lived in a house for more than 25 years have more space than we need. The kids have long... I'm embarrassed by this, but it's gonna keep happening. I live in a five-bedroom house, that's ridiculous, but I don't wanna move, it's my house. And so in terms of understanding these dynamics about the demand for office space going forward, it's not just the economics that we need to get. It's the sociology of how people interact with their space that we need to get. And I don't think we know the answer to that.
- [Allison] Yeah, and part of-
- Oh, sorry, go ahead, Allison.
- No, I was gonna say, I don't think we know the answer. And I think the other part is that some of our buildings are not gonna be adaptable to the lifestyle workstyle that people have. I'm in a building in Downtown today that has literally, I'm on the sixth floor and it's open to the outside and there's fresh air coming into the suite am in. You can't do that on every building and there's gonna be a demand for more of that, about the quality of the space. Sorry, Brandi on the speaker.
- Oh, no, that's quite alright. I mean, the only point I wanted to make is what we are trying to do is educate people that are coming on board now, you have to be flexible with where you sit. Whereas what we are running into is people that are more seasoned in their career and are more used to a traditional office setting get a bit more, they have more concerns wrapped around, well, where is my space? Where do I sit? Do I have an office? Whereas most everyone else is pretty flexible about it. It's oh, okay, yeah, as long as I have somewhere and I can have two monitors and it's gonna work. So I see a lot of our teams gathering at these communal tables, which works really nicely. It's a much better setup than being in an office because they can all gather around each other's screens and have conversations and work through some development or acquisitions puzzles together where that would be less conducive in an office setting. But so it's the more senior members of our team that get a little bit more, they need more definition about where they're supposed to sit when they come to the office.
- Yeah, we had a comment from one of our audience members, Carrie Wilfong. She wrote, "Likely similar bank branches "with a smaller footprint "and a more deeply interactive spaces "and then some places for independent work." And yeah, I think we're all kind of saying we need to like have little places and big places. And interestingly, again, it's that physical that's kind of mimicking and supporting the other, right? That the physical mirrors kind of what the workplace and some of the expectations are around that. And also heightens this issue that, it's all about competition too. So when we got to the place where we were talking about, how do you attract employees? How do you retain them? Those screws get tightened when we think about, we need really an educated workforce, we need the A players. So we kind of like divvy up the things we've said, right? I mean, we're talking about if you have to have really, the best benefit is the A players, because this environment is not really as supportive to the B players. And we're thinking about how do you make B players A players in this environment, but challenges, right? There's fewer workers, they're going to be more picky and they have the ability to choose. And then the space too. So everything's becoming more competitive. If you own office, you've gotta be positioning yourself so that you can be attractive to tenants because there might be more office than what's needed. So how do you position yourself from an office perspective physical space. And for employers, how do you position yourself to be more competitive, again, to attract and retain the employees in this kind of very flexible work environment and that raises really key issues. Allison, uniquely because of your situation with ULI, you're obviously privy to some of these conversations. From that kind of leadership standpoint, do you hear conversations around these types of things, is that kind of made its way out into the mainstream and how are leaders really interacting with this?
- Well, I think we have to look at leaders from a generational perspective. Many of the leaders I interact with at ULI are senior leaders. And I also interact with young leaders and from the young leaders, I hear work flexibility, why do I need to go to the office five days a week? Why do I even need to go to an office? And I hear from the other side that they want people in the office five days a week. And trying to find the right navigation of those two topics, I think is a challenge for all of us because I know a firm, one that was looking to say, you have to be five days a week and they literally had no candidates to consider. I mean, they had to, it took them almost a year to realize that that was how it was gonna work, that they weren't gonna get a candidate if they said they had... And it was an accounting role, especially. Like the accountants think they could work from home forever. And I think senior leaders are concerned about culture and the onboarding process. And I think that as the whole conversation we've had today, about the ways that needs to change is what people need to start focusing on. And that conversation is a little slower to accept when you're a senior leader who wants people in five days a week. And I think there's some challenges ahead because I think people will move around for those opportunities based on the young leaders I'm talking to and mid-career professionals. They're going to choose flexibility over, it's not all gonna be about salary.
- Amalia, I know we mentioned this during our prep call, but let's talk a little bit about that kind of onboarding and culture, because you've kind of witnessed that with a couple of different firms over time. And how is that, maybe how does it work? How is it evolving? What have you seen that maybe succeeds? And if you can kind of dig into that a little bit more.
- Yeah, I think it's tough, especially if you're fully remote, but there's different things that can be done to help facilitate it. So one of them is quarterly or half yearly off sites with the team. So they could actually bond and get to know each other. I think you absolutely need that in-person experience because part of the reason why you work is, especially where you wanna work is 'cause you wanna work somewhere fun. You wanna enjoy what you're doing. And a big part of that is enjoying who you work with. And so if you're staring at a screen all day, it's not that awesome. So that's a huge part of it. There's other ways you can do it. I don't know how many people in the real estate industry use Slack. I'm sure it's gotten, yeah. So Allison's giving me the thumbs up. But there's different things like one thing called Donut where you can implement it and it basically auto connects everybody in your org. Or you can just say, this department will auto connect. And so every week you could have a little coffee chat with somebody new. So you get to know different people. And it's automatic and it sets up a Zoom for you. So there's different ways that you can do it. And like the lunch and learns that I mentioned so that everybody feels a little bit more connected. And then having those kind of monthly, all-hands or all-team meetings. So people are more in tune to what is happening at a company level. 'Cause you get really siloed if you're remote, like what's happening, how can we kind of stay all inclusive and just keeping more all up by really giving people praise when praise is due and recognizing it across all team members. I think that's huge.
- Brandi, how about you guys in terms of how you operate and introduce culture and kind of bring new folks in? I know we talked about this a little bit in our prep call.
- As I mentioned early on, a big part of when we bring people on board, we do like to onboard them in-person now to the extent that we can. And we do pair them up with an onboarding guide. We also, we do the coffee talks once a month, which has been fantastic because it pairs you up with someone that you normally might not have any interaction with. And Allison made a point on our prep call about, it can't just be about food and that's true. And so each department does, if not just annually, at least twice a year an offsite with their team. And now what we've started doing is inviting one or two people from other departments along with that team. So you're starting to interact and have cross collaboration that's not work-oriented. Employee appreciation, we do happy hours. Our team is very social after the awkwardness of getting back to the office in a hybrid scenario where everybody had to remember how to be around each other again. Once that happened, we created a softball team, which was absolutely a blast. I didn't get to any of the games. It was down in the South Bay. We lost every single game, but everybody had so much fun that they're now asking, like, what's our next thing. So now we're doing a bowling league. So anybody, and we're putting that in Pasadena. So a different group of colleagues can join that if they want to. We do a non vetting, non gambling oriented version of an NFL, pick 'em. So you pick, and there's who's gonna win each week. And so there's a pool and there's prizes, but again, there's no betting, no gambling.
- Fantasy football.
- Sort of.
- Fantasy football
- But without the money that goes into the pop for fantasy football. So we've just tried to create very different ways. We've had family days. We were organizing a family movie night, we'll have food trucks come on board. I know that's food oriented, but still we... And we're trying to utilize our campus. We're lucky in the sense that we have lots of indoor and outdoor space. So we try and kind of utilize all of that. Back during COVID when we were mostly all remote, we even brought in a mobile gym. There was a gentleman who had this gigantic monster truck that had gym equipment in it. And he would set up a whole hit fitness program and we'd run around the parking lot like crazy people and people really like that. So we're trying to get as creative as possible to meet lots of different people to get them excited about being there. And we're not a tech company, so we can't have massages every day or Manny Pettys or whatever, play Ping Pong 24/7. That's not what we're doing. But we are trying to figure out once a month or at least once a quarter, what we can do to get everybody together.
- Well, and what I'm hearing from kind of all of you is that there's no silver bullet, right? And we talk about kind of this broad range of, what does, 'cause I guess I'm also in wrap up mode, but what does this new work environment mean? I think the answer to sum up is, it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, right? So what is flexible for one person may not be for another, depending on what you're trying to balance in your... Or balance maybe not is the right word. We got rid of that word, Brandi. We said, we're going to integrate them. We're gonna, huh.
- I said, work-life flexibility.
- There you go, work-life. So we're working and flexible in terms of integrating your home and your work-life, regardless of what that means, where you are in kind of your career trajectory normally, or I shouldn't say normally, but often associated with your age and where you are. And flexibility, obviously, we're a group of women talking about this, clearly ties back to, in many ways this really ultimately can benefit women. So when we were kind of coming out of COVID and I'm very sensitive to say, oh, this is a women's issue. It's not a women's issue, it's an everyone issue. But you can't deny the fact that post COVID, the people that were most negatively affected in terms of this kind of being overburdened and overworked and trying to juggle it all were the women. Many women left the workplace. And given the need for talent and the need for workers, we overall, as an economy will be hurt if we don't take full advantage of those who are all available. So when we think about kind of flexibility and what does that mean, I think it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But there's many different ways to address it as well that we're finding depending on what resources your company has, what steps they can take. But the big thing is you have to try, right? You have to try and reach out to your network to see what other people are doing and how they're doing it. Because I think this is something that is evolving and we're only going to know what the answers are as we go forward. So we have two minutes left and I will not be the one to end it. So are there any other further kind of comments takeaways like for the audience, what's the one thing you want them to hear?
- Well, I do wanna plug, I had the pleasure of taking a class called, Worklife Integration by Stew Friedman at the Wharton School. And he is fantastic. That is more kind of on the employee side, but for any managers or senior leadership that are kind of looking to find ways to get creative, I think that's a great place to start. And he has a book and a few other things.
- And I think... Allison, were you gonna say something? I'm sorry.
- All I was gonna say is, we also need to acknowledge in one year, 24 months, we made a massive structural change to how we work and we need to try things and we need to try and fail, and we need to try and succeed to your point about trying. And I also think we need to consider employee wellbeing in the mix of things that we didn't talk a lot about that today, but the stress levels of employees and their wellbeing and their health are going to be things younger employees are looking for. So I think we need to give time to that as well, yeah.
- Great, well, you all have been wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time and being with us today. It was a true pleasure getting to know all of you and having this conversation at Lusk for everyone. So thank you very much, and you all have a great weekend.
- Thank you.