As we enter the 10th month of COVID in the United States, there’s no denying that consumer habits have shifted, small businesses have pivoted, and most employers and employees have embraced some sort of remote work option (to whatever extent their industry allows). 

We’ve all had to make changes to our daily activities in some way — big or small. Change can be challenging, but it can also be a great thing.

For years, I had a deep belief that proximity is power. I liked to have my team (particularly my leadership team) around me at the office. Although I had started to loosen the reins on this “work from the office” mentality, the pandemic solidified a change in my perspective. Sure, some positions require in-office operations, but not all. 

It’s easy to see how working remotely works for marketing, coaching, financial advising, media and other service-based industries. So, what about real estate? A service-based sector, with one massive physical product.  

When it comes to my real estate expansion company, we’re already largely remote, as we operate in 30 states. Do my president and director of agent services (who serve these locations) need to do it from an office in Vermont? Nope. At least not every day.

However, the teams we serve are still broadly heading into their respective real estate brokerages every day. Why? Because of the culture, connection and consistency that comes from in-person meetings (even if they are 6 feet apart and masked). 

A few years ago, brick-and-mortar real estate brokerages came under attack as a thing of the past. Virtual brokerages were all the rage. But I don’t think it’s an either-or situation here. The future of real estate brokerages is a hybrid, cafe-like model.

Brokerages will provide the physical space, a cohesive culture, and the training and technology from which agents can build. Think of the new brokerage model like a Capital One Cafe. In theory, you can do all banking remotely now, but Capital One saw the benefits of creating a hybrid model.

A place for people to work, connect, do their banking, enjoy a cup of coffee and attend financial workshops. The same holds true for a real estate brokerage cafe — they might be smaller than brokerages of the past, but they will still make an impact. 

These cafes will have space to connect with clients and colleagues, to attend training, to participate in company and community events, a quiet place to do focused work, to participate in a yoga class or workout, and, yes, enjoy a cup of coffee.

I know talking about creating or enhancing physical space right now seems strange. But the pandemic will not last forever, and we, as leaders, need to be thinking months and years ahead.

When we can safely come back together, how will the future of office space and brokerages look? I know many agents and staff are looking forward to returning to the office and the structure and routine working outside of the home creates.

I know many who even miss their commutes (a time for reflection, catching up on calls or listening to a personal development book). And while agents and staff might not return to the office full-time, even after we’re back to “normal,” they can still benefit from a landing zone and a launchpad. The cafe model is it.

 Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Adam Hergenrother Companies, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s holistic approach to business here.

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