As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and white-collar workers finally return to their offices, the real estate industry, like other industries employing large numbers of white-collar workers, will face pressure from employees seeking more flexibility in where they work. to work.

Many industry employers have been at the forefront of the return to work (RAT) movement over the past year. Additionally, employers across industries are issuing return-to-work policies that address employee demands for flexibility. While real estate employers may feel compelled to adopt “office only” policies to model the back-to-work movement, the reality is that employers in the industry cannot ignore work arrangements anymore. flexible. The workplace has evolved during the pandemic, and that evolution will continue. Real estate employers need to focus on the needs of their customers and changes in the design and use of workspace, but employers shouldn’t forget about their workforce.

As many companies embrace the hybrid working model (typically, employees have the option of working both in-office and remotely), employers in the real estate industry need to ensure their policies include flexibility. As the commercial real estate industry strives to attract and retain top talent, it will be important to be able to compete with other employers in the industry by providing work schedule opportunities. flexible. Recent surveys demonstrate employee demand for flexibility. For example, see Future Forum Pulse (October 5, 2021), futureforum.com/pulse-survey: “The great executive-employee disconnect: Study of global knowledge workers shows the view of the office looks different from the top.

The best way to meet employee demand for flexibility is to have a well-thought-out policy. Now is the time for organizations that have not developed a comprehensive approach to flexible working arrangements to do so, and for organizations with such a policy to recalibrate. Over the past two years, companies and employees have experienced the seesaw of change as the pandemic has varied in intensity. At least the pandemic has taught businesses that they need to be able to pivot quickly. There is no doubt that circumstances will continue to change, but it is time to decide on an approach for flexible working arrangements.

Key stages of a policy:

First, make sure a diverse group of voices are involved in the process. Deciding where employees will work has broad implications for organizations. The ultimate approach should be supported by the entire organization, so input from a wide range of stakeholders is encouraged.

Second, make sure the flexible policy articulates the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Policies should be designed to provide flexibility for parents and guardians and to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities. Although the policy may articulate different approaches for different employees, these approaches should not create opportunities for “one-off” transactions with individuals that may lead to issues of favoritism or disparate treatment. For example, if the organization designates certain employees as “remote eligible,” those designations must be based on a business rationale, not just the wish of a particular employee. The business rationale may include determining that certain positions are independent contributors, whose tasks do not require in-person collaboration. Positions could be designated eligible remotely, for example, so that the organization can expand its network for recruitment purposes. The policy should include adequate safeguards so that leaders cannot provide flexibility only to favored employees.