Has the Workplace Changed Forever?
Working from home has become the norm under COVID-19. “Everyone has smartphones, iPads and laptops, and many homes also have fast internet access. The virus outbreak has greatly accelerated the use of these resources at work, and it’s changed the workplace forever,” says Richard Gerritsen, Yardi’s Regional Director for Europe.
He goes on to say that if the pandemic had happened 20 years ago, it would have been impossible to have so many people working from home. “This also applies to Yardi. Within 72 hours, we managed to get the vast majority of our 7,300 employees to work from home. We were only able to do so with the help of technology.” He sees this as a structural transformation. “In the Netherlands, we’ve been talking for a long time about working from home, flexible working arrangements and the future of offices. The virus outbreak has forced us to change our working patterns, and these changes are here to stay.””
Richard Gerritsen, Regional Director Europe for Yardi
So is our personal environment actually more advanced than the business world now?
“The smartphone has changed our lives and society. Over the last few years we’ve seen a radical transformation in the way we buy services and products and in the way we relax and communicate. Moreover, this technology has actually become affordable. In the past, technical innovations were largely embraced by the business world, but remained too expensive for the average individual. Now it’s the other way around, and home users are ahead of businesses”.
He mentions the digitisation of transactions as an example. “As a private individual, how often do you actually still sign a piece of paper these days? It’s become very rare, hasn’t it? And the ordinary consumer hardly receives any paper documents anymore. On the other hand, property transactions still involve massive amounts of paper – even though the technology has been around for years now, so that it could easily be digitised. Yet it was only through the pandemic that the world finally began to see that things could be done differently.”
So what is Yardi’s role in this transformation?
We are not just active in Europe. Yardi is an American company – and the U.S. is a country where numerous innovations are either born or further developed. Take, for instance, leasing a residential property – a process which has been increasingly automated and is now completely digital. There’s almost no human intervention at all. In the Netherlands, accommodation providers for (international) students do this, while housing companies are still a long way off. Housing companies will need to change their way of thinking.”.
This would certainly meet the expectations of their users, who are mainly the younger generation and therefore familiar with smartphones and other devices. “Companies often point out that there are so many people without smartphones, quoting that dear old lady who is a bit behind the times and not so keen on technology. Today, however, in 2020, a smart young student is no longer the exception. Things are the other way around now: an elderly tenant from the analogue world has become the exception, and the remaining clientèle would very much prefer to use digital channels.”.
Where in real estate would it be possible to take a great step forward?
““With processes of this kind, we often hear about the importance of the human factor. In my view, though, this human factor has now been redefined. Whenever anyone needs help, they must be able to get hold of someone who can help them quickly and efficiently. But does it have to be a human being? Not necessarily. Take, for instance, the viewing of a house, office or any other property: the estate agent unlocks the door, but if there are questions, they don’t always have an answer straight away. With smart lock technology and communication systems such as Alexa, it is now very common in the U.S. to view a property without anyone from the leasing office being present. Clients have three options: a virtual viewing, a viewing without human interaction, and being shown around by an actual agent – in that order. A survey in the U.S. has shown that 70 to 80% prefer either the first or second option. And the preferences of Dutch tenants are the same as in the U.S.”.
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