By Alex Robinson, CEO and Co-founder at Juniper Square
With the hope that widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine brings to reopening our country also comes the opportunity for companies to decide how to integrate their use of commercial office space with remote work moving forward.
Throughout the pandemic, technology has made significant advances, enabling us to stay productive during the biggest crisis in the last century. We’ve persevered through the necessary shift to remote work, and now that we’re on the other side, there’s no going back.
Industries have realized the immeasurable value and benefits of remote working. Employees report higher productivity and enhanced wellbeing due to flexibility in geography and the added time to focus on health, wellness, family, hobbies and additional priorities. From our perspective at Juniper Square, it is possible to create a win-win situation where employees benefit from the flexibility and time savings of remote work, and companies benefit from higher productivity, happier people and the expanded ability to recruit talent far and wide.
Yet, the question of how to best incorporate remote work post-pandemic remains. Challenges around company culture, team collaboration and socialization are lingering. At Juniper Square, we’ve given substantial time and energy in deciding to become a digital-first, hybrid company, keeping physical offices in two major metropolitan cities, San Francisco and Austin, but moving our headquarters to the cloud. We offer a window into our research, solution and employees’ response in an effort to help our customers realize their potential for a remote or hybrid workplace.
Key research: Employees want flexibility
While our employees continued to work remotely, Juniper Square assembled a team of senior executives to reimagine a workplace strategy that would enable us to stay competitive, attract top talent, and meet employee and customer expectations post-pandemic. We investigated trends of leading technology companies and looked internally to our employees to gather feedback on their well-being, productivity, collaboration needs, workplace culture and work location preferences.
Our survey of more than 200 employees returned the following key learnings:
Flexibility and geographic mobility matter
- Nearly 70 percent of Juniper Square employees temporarily or permanently relocated during the pandemic and 65 percent reported that having the option to work outside of the cities where our offices are located– San Francisco and Austin– is more important now than it was pre-COVID.
- 90 percent stated that flexible office attendance — mostly to cut down on a daily commute — will be important going forward.
Remote work helps individual productivity and well-being
- Productivity was not deterred by the shift to remote work, with 75 percent reporting they are equally or even more productive.
- Nearly 80 percent reported feeling productive, able to balance work with family and other priorities, and personally fulfilled while working remotely during COVID.
In-person activities drive team productivity, connection and job satisfaction
- Despite reporting an increase in individual productivity working from home, 64 percent reported that in-person collaboration helps teams function better. And nearly 70 percent cited face-to-face collaboration and in-person activities with co-workers as key contributors to job satisfaction.
- Our employees also said one of the biggest downsides of working from home is that it makes it more difficult to connect with co-workers, with 78 percent saying the lack of in-person interactions made it harder to build new relationships and 52 percent saying they were less effective at maintaining existing ones.
Juniper Square’s solution: A digital-first, hybrid workplace
After considering the research and employee survey results, we decided that a digital-first, hybrid model is the right approach for Juniper Square. Our goal is to give employees flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable. At the same time, we believe that offices play a critical role in enabling collaboration and helping to create a sense of community and culture within the workplace. Our new workplace strategy has four components:
When communicating and collaborating, everyone at the company thinks “digital first.” This approach levels the playing field for remote employees and ensures all employees have access to information regardless of location. We’re also committed to making substantial, ongoing investments in the technology and infrastructure needed to accommodate virtual work as well as physical workspaces. To help employees stay productive while working at home, Juniper Square provides a standard work set-up for use in their home office, a monthly stipend to cover internet and other home office costs, and a one-time allowance to purchase additional items needed for home offices.
Community Hubs, not Headquarters
We have reimagined our workplace into three hubs – or clusters of employees – with physical offices in San Francisco and Austin, and a third hub in the cloud. By virtue of declaring the cloud to be our headquarters, no one physical office is advantaged over another. Our employees’ career growth will be a function of their performance, not their location. We will eventually include additional physical hubs to provide more work flexibility to current employees, attract talent in new geographies, and ensure we have the right people in the right locations to respond to client needs.
Talent from Anywhere
One of the great benefits of embracing digital as a first-class work experience is that we can now recruit employees from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada where we are set up to do business. The only constraints on location for our employees are that the employee has to be willing to keep a common set of collaboration hours from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. PT and that we are registered to do business in the state or province where they want to live. We are excited by the potential for greater geographic diversity to impact our goals of building a more diverse and inclusive workforce at Juniper Square, and over time expect to be able to tap into the full potential of our global workforce. As evidence of the impact that recruiting into the cloud provides, of the nearly 200 people we have hired since the start of the pandemic, more have elected to join the cloud than both of our offices combined.
Even with all of the advantages of remote work, we recognize that humans are social beings and the ability to develop connections with colleagues, brainstorm and learn from one another is crucial. As a result, we expect our team leads to host in-person gatherings for their distributed teams at least twice per year, and we host community events for our clusters of cloud employees who all live in the same geographic area. Looking ahead, Juniper Square is redesigning its office spaces and hiring a new director of workplace design who will be responsible for ensuring that its offices provide a collaborative, safe place for employees to work and that the hubs are connected and function well together.
The response: Where our employees are choosing to work
As we gear up for the official start date of our digital-first, hybrid workplace on July 1, we are excited by the response from current and prospective employees. When we asked our employees to commit to a workplace hub, the result was a distribution across the three hubs that is in alignment with our plans. Of all current Juniper Square employees, 47 percent elected to work in the cloud permanently一representing our largest hubㅡ37 percent selected the San Francisco hub and 16 percent of employees selected the Austin hub. Interestingly, of employees residing in the city of San Francisco一meaning, within easy commute distance to our offices一20 percent elected to be based in the cloud. We saw a similar pattern in Austin with 18 percent of those living within a commutable distance choosing the cloud.
As companies rethink what a return to office-based work will mean, we don’t expect there to be a one-size-fits all solution. For forward-thinking companies, there will be an evolution that mirrors talent migration patterns and work preferences. One thing remains clear, the commercial real estate industry is primed with the opportunity to start reimagining its workplace and appeal to a new generation of talent.
Alex Robinson is the CEO and Co-founder at Juniper Square, the market-leading provider of investment management solutions for the commercial real estate industry. Founded in 2014, Juniper Square is transforming the private funds industry with easy-to-use software that streamlines fundraising, investment operations and investor reporting. Designed specifically for real estate, Juniper Square is trusted by more than 800 investment sponsors to manage more than $1 trillion in real estate investments. Learn more at junipersquare.com.