How Tech Enables Workplace Flexibility

While multifamily may not soon adopt a four-day workweek, automating tasks can lead to greater team success.

1870 Pacific. Image courtesy of Veritas Investments Inc.

Pandemic-era technology has ushered in new approaches to the workplace, including four-day work weeks in some fields. Given need to be on top of maintenance requests and prospect visits, many multifamily companies report they are not yet ready for a four-day work week, and don’t necessarily know when they might be.

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Still, eyes were opened to the possibility of greater flexibility during the pandemic. And now that it appears COVID-19 is waning, what many want in a post-pandemic work week is not necessarily the opportunity to take Monday or Friday off. It’s the flexibility to avoid being chained to their offices a full five days. Technology has made possible self-guided tours, freeing leasing agents from five-days-a-week tyranny. The onboarding of new residents can also be done remotely. Checking credit and inputting credit card numbers can be handled from a location off-site, with the new resident then being sent digital keys. The leasing agent can handle all this remotely, without entering the office.

Tech-enabled automation can save staff time in other ways. It can make possible chat bots providing answers to frequently asked questions. It can poll residents on their overall experience and what events and services they’d like offered.

Dashboard data

Most physical building infrastructure is now online and capable of being monitored remotely, helping free up some staff from traditional management duties. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors monitoring, for instance, HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, to name a few, can generate actionable data that can be accessed on easily-navigable dashboards anywhere in the world, liberating staff from office confinements.

“As we move into the future, more and more of the systems are being integrated as they come on board,” said Mary Clark, chief marketing officer for Brivo, which focuses on cloud-based access control and smart building technologies for multifamily properties. Consider for instance property managers with multiple buildings and multiple locations who need to gather consumption information and must obtain the information easily. “That work can be done anywhere given the data coming off the sensors,” Clark continued. “That enables the flexible work model people are seeking.”

At Veritas Investments Inc., a property manager of multifamily mixed-use assets with more than 700 California properties, management has begun evaluating both customer needs and employee functions in an effort to make decisions regarding in-office reporting.

Based on results thus far, managers believe allowing flexibility in where teams work yields benefits in productivity, delivery of resident services and employee satisfaction.

In multifamily, specific customer-driven processes and functions can make four-day work weeks difficult. Veritas Investments identifies these functions as including leasing, maintenance and resident services. Despite this reality, company Chief Operating Officer Jeff Jerden said Veritas would not rule out shortened work weeks.

“Like others, we are intrigued by the idea of a four-day work week, and may consider the viability of a compressed workday for employees who want it, such as 10 hours over four days.”

Tech-enabled flexibility

As Clark suggested, recently-developed tech tools can help bring flex hours to property management staffs. For instance, Veritas has found tools like Happy Co make it easier for onsite teams to visually report conditions in the field to the firm’s management team. Doing so enables speedier decision-making on repairs and capital improvements.

Brivo technology. Image courtesy of World Red Eye

The company’s own internal platform, Veritas Drive, has facilitated automation and workflow enhancements that touch every aspect of operations. “Within that umbrella, we created a maintenance management solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to efficiently route technicians in the field, and automates every aspect of the maintenance-ticket journey from request to completion,” Jerden said.

“The only manual part of the process is when a maintenance teammate greets a resident at their apartment and performs the requested repair.”

Of course, tech tools also hold the promise of reducing staff hours spent overseeing time-consuming tours of residences and amenities. In Miami, development firm PMG has become the first in its class to offer potential buyers at E11EVEN Residences YUPIX meta technology. Using virtual reality headsets, the technology streamlines the process of touring, buying and customizing a residence. Donning the headsets in a development’s sales gallery, prospects enter a 360-degree full-sensory tour of units before the development capturing their interest even breaks ground. The 3D computing and data transmission technology collects prospects’ behaviors and remarks, analyzes them and furnishes tailored suggestions for finishes and other unit details.

Marketing automation

Marketing is another area that can be automated to bring malleability to property management office hours. Automating marketing can create a “one-stop shop” that not only generates time savings but can potentially drive better results for multifamily staff.

For example, property owners can establish guidelines calling for a fresh Facebook ad to be placed every time a vacant unit becomes available. But rather than create an entirely new ad for each unit, data specific to the newly-vacant unit can be fed into a standardized template, allowing even non-marketing staff to confidently pull together risk-free, accurate advertisements with quickness and ease.

Spencer Smith, vice president of marketing at Evocalize, reports that using marketing automation, its client EXIT Realty reduced the time its agents spent managing online marketing from nine hours to nine minutes a week. That enabled staff to focus their efforts elsewhere and work toward a dreamed-of four-day work week.

That four-day week may not be doable in today’s multifamily industry. But it’s certainly true the post-pandemic world will bring greater flexibility, and likely happier staff.

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