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Half of managers eye Summer-Fall return to office, and long-term flex work

Member Survey. March 19, 2021

Almost half of real estate investment managers are earmarking a partial or full return to the office by the Summer and Fall, according to a NAREIM member survey.

While a quarter of NAREIM members said they were already back partially or on a volunteer basis, 46% said they were looking to return between July and September. Of the 46% who were targeting a Summer-Fall deadline, almost half said they were looking to a return in July or August, while 39% said they were planning a return in September or after Labor Day.

Vaccines: Whether to require vaccines to return has been a key topic of discussion in planning returns. While almost two-thirds of members said they were not requiring vaccines to return, many were strongly encouraging employees to get vaccinated or were still deciding on policies.

WFH: One big question on everyone’s mind is work-from-home, and whether it will stay for the long-term. More than 96% of NAREIM members participating in the survey said flexible schedules would be offered upon a return to the office – whether on a case-by-case basis or for all employees. 

Of those offering flexible schedules, the results revealed:

  • 50% - Yes, flexible schedules would be allowed on a case by case basis, subject to approval

  • 25% - Yes, 1-2 days per week

  • 12.5% - Yes, 3-4 days per week

  • 12.5% - Yes, 5 days per week

The results: More than 28 organizations participated in the NAREIM member survey focused on return to office strategies between March 9-16, covering return to office strategies, vaccine requirements, flexible schedules, and annual investor meetings.

Download your copy of the Return to Office Survey, here.

Key highlights from the survey also included:

  • Personal health and higher risk of infection remain the leading concern among employees in considering when to return, followed by safety in the office

  • Vaccines: For firms requiring vaccines to return to the office, vaccination cards will be required, but with exemptions for pre-existing health conditions, disabilities and religious beliefs 

  • Safety in the office: Many Covid-related measures implemented in the office prior to work-from-home will continue upon a partial or full return, particularly social distancing and mask wearing. Deep and extra cleaning will continue to be adopted widely, with many firms also saying desk capacity restrictions and cohort/alternative schedules will still be maintained

  • Visitors: Just 11% of firms are saying no to visitors, but the remainder are allowing visitors with restrictions

  • Annual meetings: 54% of firms are planning to be virtual in 2021, with 36% still to determine whether to be online, in-person or hybrid. Just 3.6% of firms said they were holding in-person annual meetings, with 7% saying they planned a hybrid meeting.

Questions remaining:

Among the concerns remaining for NAREIM members are challenges to employee morale and maintaining company culture, particularly as firms consider long-term flexible schedules and work-from-home policies.

One member highlighted challenges of remote working when employees made permanent moves to different cities. Another added: “How do you maintain culture without everyone being in the office on a regular basis?”

“My answers to these questions could shift every 30-60 days. We all want a crystal ball,” one member concluded.

Download your copy of the Return to Office Survey, here.

To see the submitted answers, please click here. Note, all responses are anonymized to both NAREIM and NAREIM members.

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