Reducing the Risks Of Managing a Remote Real Estate Team

home office with a computer screen image of man giving thumbs up

Did you know that approximately 42% of the labor force in the United States is working from home right now? There were many benefits of having your team work remotely from home before the COVID-19 pandemic. But, in today’s circumstances, reducing the number of people gathered at the office helps reduce the risk of spreading the disease, while also protecting staff and clients.

A Stanford study found employees who work from home are some 13% more productive than their counterparts working in the office. Other research has shown offering flexible work practices increases job satisfaction, decreases the number of sick days and prolonged breaks taken by staff, and reduces attrition rates.

The Harvard Business Review says virtual meetings can be more effective than in-person meetings if done correctly. You reduce the socializing time  ‘around the water cooler,’ and many staff thrive in the work-from-home environment, where they can focus on their work without distraction. 

Movement towards a work-from-home model does require a new level of thinking beyond the traditional workplace mindset. For some business owners, this is a big shift. 

Check out these tips, designed to help you work effectively with your remote real estate team, while also reducing the risks . . .

Keep Your Team Updated On COVID-19 Requirements

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a major issue in the United States and the world. Your remote team needs to know how they should be dealing with clients and prospects under your brokerage. Keep them educated and informed about the changing government regulations around COVID-19, and your adjusted work practices for open houses, meetings and general COVID safe planning. This will help to reduce the risk of non-compliance, decrease your chances of possible fines or litigation, and limit your vulnerability as a real estate brokerage. 

Set Expectations Clearly (and from the start) 

One of the main reasons managers are hesitant to allow salaried or hourly staff to work from home is concerns over productivity. What if they don’t put in the required hours? What if they blur the lines between work time and family/leisure time? 

Managing a remote team requires a high level of trust — trust in your team’s ability to do their job effectively and efficiently, even without supervision. Setting expectations clearly from the very beginning will ensure your team understands what’s required. 

This means upfront discussions about the level of communication expected and how often staff should check in with the office. Staff must also be aware of your policies and procedures and risk management framework. 

Be Goal-Oriented and Collaborative

Being goal-oriented is helpful to keep your salaried and hourly remote team accountable. Ways you can do this include:

  • Provide clear guidelines about work outputs expected
  • Set key performance indicators and targets and have sufficient performance management frameworks in place 
  • Encourage a structured work day
  • Ensure your team members don’t feel isolated working from home, by ensuring they’re supported and have the resources they need to do their jobs well

With all of your team members, it’s important to foster a collaborative environment and a shared vision with regular two-way communication. This will keep your team motivated and on board to achieve the company’s goals and objectives.

Consider Workplace Safety and Liability Issues

Ensuring your team has a safe environment at work can be a challenge. But, how can you ensure your team members, while working remotely in their own homes, all have a safe working environment? What happens if one of your team members injures themselves in the course of their work, but in their own home office? 

This is a gray area and your obligations will depend on:

  1. Whether your team members are employees or considered independent contractors. 
  2. Your state. For example, the state of California requires workers’ compensation coverage for real estate agents, even if they’re working for you as independent contractors. You can check the laws in your state here
  3. The likelihood of injuries considered to be in the course of work. For example, if a team member trips over a hose on the way into their home, it would be difficult to argue this is a work-related injury. However, if they sustain a back injury from sitting at a workspace which is not optimized for ergonomics, this could potentially be considered work-related. 

Be Proactive

Real estate brokers need to be proactive in managing remote teams. You can minimize your risk exposure by following these steps:

  • Provide your team with information about setting up an ergonomic workspace and safe working practices. For long term work-from-home arrangements for employees, you might consider providing standard equipment that will ensure the safe workspace basics are covered (e.g., office chair, footstool, computer riser, etc.) 
  • Undertake a workplace inspection to ensure the safety of your team members’ workspaces where possible (however, with COVID-19 restrictions, this may need to be a virtual inspection) 
  • Have procedures in place to manage situations when remote work-related injuries occur
  • Good record-keeping is essential — that means keeping details of safety briefings, trainings and other information you send to your team
  • Ensure you have workers’ compensation insurance if you need to have it by law to cover your team
  • Review your cyber security measures to protect important company data and information systems from threats
  • Review your insurance to see where you stand with coverage for your remote team

Speak to CRES

If you’re looking for superior real estate coverage, look no further than CRES. With CRES Real Estate E&O + ClaimPrevent®, you’ll have Team Coverage, Cyber Liability coverage, and more specific-to-real estate protection. 

You’ll also have access to pre-claim legal services 7 days a week, to help you prevent claims before they happen.  CRES also offers Business Owner’s Policies and Workers Compensation Coverage for your real estate brokerage

To find out more, contact the CRES team at 800-880-2747 for a confidential discussion today. 

This blog/website is made available by CRES Insurance Services for educational purposes to give you general information and understanding of legal risks and insurance options, not to provide specific legal advice. This blog/website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. Claims examples are for illustrative purposes only. Read your policy for a complete description of what is covered and excluded.

Originally Published August 12, 2020

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