Now that the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic has regressed, managers can spend more time sorting out the minute details of their hybrid schedules.
The hybrid working world has made considerable strides in the 2020s, largely by necessity as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies worldwide needed to adopt a hybrid model and let employees work from home to stay afloat.
Now that the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic has regressed, managers can spend more time sorting out the minute details of their hybrid schedules and ensure that commercial spaces are used effectively.
Here are three ways companies are adapting the use of their retail and commercial spaces in the hybrid working world:
1) Finding New Uses for Commercial Spaces
Empty retail and office spaces have been one of the negative consequences of transitioning to a hybrid workforce. Companies are paying for commercial property but no longer need it because most of their employees work from home. They could try to sell the property, but low demand and high-interest rates make a successful sale extremely difficult.
Instead, many businesses are finding alternative uses for their empty space. The most logical first step is to get a building inspection and determine the best applications for the space. For example, a room with exceptional lighting and access to many electrical outlets could be a development and training area.
Other common applications for empty commercial spaces include private events, professional photography studios and hot-desking for overlapping hybrid schedules. People who work in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays can use the same desks and computers as those who work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Businesses can also rent out their commercial buildings to other companies who have more need for the space. A triple-net lease makes the tenant responsible for getting insurance and for maintenance. This arrangement frees up more money for hybrid business needs, such as website development or investment in digital tools.
Overall, occupancy, vacant buildings and changes in use create coverage gaps in commercial real estate.
2) Embracing E-Commerce
E-commerce sales in the U.S. topped $1 trillion for the first time in 2022.Online shopping—also known as e-commerce—has emerged as a popular alternative to in-person shopping. Consumers primarily bought non-essential items online before the pandemic, but today many people purchase everything online, including insurance.
E-commerce offers a different personal experience than in-person shopping, but it has many benefits for retailers and consumers. Independent agents can use e-commerce to identify buying trends faster and more accurately. They can track a prospect's activity, including the time spent on each webpage, how much money they're willing to pay and which products they're most interested in.
Highly digital agencies grew faster than their less digital counterparts in 2021, according to the Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance “2022 Agency Growth Study." Agencies that adopted digital tools at a low and medium pace grew their revenue an average of 10% year over year, but high digital adopters grew 17% year over year—a 70% higher growth rate than other agencies.
3) Using Digital Collaboration Tools
E-commerce covers the client-customer relationship in the hybrid world, but what about employee relationships? Working from home is still a strange concept to many hybrid team members. Disconnection is widespread due to the lack of face-to-face communication. In fact, disconnection is the top reason why employees say they plan to leave their remote or hybrid job, according to a study by Airspeed.
That's why it's crucial for businesses to include collaborative communication methods so staff can get valuable face time and interact with co-workers. These three digital tools have been the most influential:
- Instant messaging apps. Instant messaging apps like Slack, GroupMe and Discord allow the entire workforce to stay connected via their smartphones. They can even create different chat rooms for each team or department, which is hugely beneficial for marketing, finance, legal and underwriting teams.
- Video conferencing. Workers can hold meetings and socialize with their peers on video conferencing platforms like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. These platforms are also useful for important calls with policyholders when in-person meetings aren't available.
- Cloud-based storage. Storing essential documents on a cloud such as Google Drive or Microsoft Office makes project collaboration much easier. Employees can create, edit and share their work from anywhere in the world. Confidential insurance information is also safe and secure on cloud-based storage.
These tools help businesses maintain a sense of camaraderie between employees in a hybrid setting. Hybrid workers who are engaged at their jobs are more likely to stay with their organizations, resulting in an 18% improvement in turnover, according to Gallup. They also allow for better communication between insurers and policyholders regarding sensitive topics.
Rose Morrison is managing editor of real estate and renovation at Renovated.com.