Modern Workers Can Learn Important Lessons From the Way Real Estate Agents Work

In a lot of ways, the modern worker now finds themselves working in a similar manner to a real estate agent, either by choice or by necessity. 

 Person working from home

Real estate agents live in a world of always being on call. They're often subject to the whim of a client's schedule and needs, which forces them to work odd hours — like an all-day Saturday open house or a post-dinner showing — and display extreme flexibility. In a lot of ways, the modern worker now finds themselves working in a similar manner to a real estate agent, either by choice or by necessity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended traditional work structures, and while that's afforded many workers with an unprecedented level of choice about where and how they work, for many, that's also resulted in being glued to a phone or computer on weekends or at odd hours — the same way real estate agents often find themselves. We have our work email on our personal phones and Slack notifications on our smartwatches, blurring the line between the personal and professional technologies in our lives. But that's really nothing new for the real estate industry.

As a multi-decade leader of high-performing real estate teams and a longtime executive in the real estate industry, I've seen firsthand how successful real estate agents can navigate tumultuous and often unpredictable work hours, and there are a lot of lessons that the modern worker can learn from those agents.

Highly successful real estate agents create a schedule and have the discipline to follow that schedule. When I was working day-to-day as an agent, even when I was doing 50- to 60-hour workweeks, I was able to accomplish what it would take many other real estate agents 80 to 90 hours because I was meticulous in scheduling my time. As independent contractors, agents need to make that schedule themselves; there's no manager or company handbook giving them assigned hours.

With the rise of remote work, it's become equally as hard for all workers, who no longer have firm bookends of scheduled office hours, to schedule out their days. And with nobody actually monitoring your activity, it's easy to expand work into what time allotment exists. If you give yourself firm, scheduled time, you'll fill just that allotted time and won't let it continue to expand into the gray area you let exist between work and personal time.

Good real estate agents also know how to set boundaries and effectively communicate those boundaries. They let clients know the times they are available, and the best, most effective way to reach them during those time periods. It creates efficiency while also respecting everyone's individual schedules. Similarly, workers need to create and communicate boundaries to their managers and colleagues and let everyone know the best way to get their eyes on something quickly, whether that's a messaging app, email or a quick phone call. It's different for everyone, so that's why you need to be clear about what works for you.

As a leader, it's important to have regular conversations with your employees and bring these ideas to the surface, while also acknowledging that the rules of engagement have changed dramatically due to the pandemic. You need to be explicit in modeling some best practices and teaching employees how to implement strategies around building a schedule and setting proper boundaries while communicating effectively. It's equally important to constantly check in with your employees on how they're doing in following that schedule and setting those expectations.

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