Americans hate their jobs. Real estate pros don’t have to

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It’s no secret that since the pandemic, the sentiment between the cubicle crew and their managers has put office culture in separate corners of the stratosphere regarding the “right” way to work.

The recently published 2023 Gallup survey of the State of the Global Workplace explored several pain points of modern office life, and the results were clear: Employees are frustrated, and more than half are actively or passively looking for better job opportunities.

  • Forty-four percent of employees said they experienced a lot of stress. This is the second year in which worker stress has reached record levels.
  • Fifty-one percent of currently employed workers said they are watching for or actively seeking a new job.
  • Forty-one percent of employees said that culture and engagement could make a difference in their job quality.

Shifting away from quietly quitting or moving over to a new job, employees are voicing their concerns louder than ever for higher pay, better schedules and the health care benefits they need.

From Hollywood writers to blue-collar autoworkers, 2023 was the year workers struck back. Data experts estimate roughly 453,000 workers have gone on strike thus far in 2023 as employees across industries fight for better wages and working conditions, CNBC reports.

Office workers are pushing back against management. They are becoming more vocal about long hours, unfair wages and trust in their team.

Brokers may wonder how they can keep their agents happy, engaged and motivated to tackle what many experts believe to be one of the most challenging years in real estate history. Staying on top of employment trends may help brokers understand where agents are and how to keep them from looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

Keeping good marketing experts, transaction coordinators and general office staff is a battle for many real estate brokerages. Understanding the current state of work culture, instead of fighting against it, may prove to be your team’s saving grace in rocky times. Here are a few ideas on how brokers can make work more enjoyable for their teams in 2024.

Come back for the culture

Managers have been begging or even mandating office comebacks for the remote workforce, trying to tempt them with the idea that the culture is what adds value to employees’ careers.

Major players in the real estate industry, such as Redfin and Compass, say that it’s time for agents and employees to return to the office. Many major companies are demanding that remote workers return or be terminated.

“I see the home office as the killer of culture and the reduction of potential and opportunity,” Robert Reffkin, Compass CEO, said at 2023’s Inman Connect New York.

If you’re going to have agents and staff be in person, consider what they truly need and what will encourage them to come into the office, outside of mandates.

There seems to be a stark contrast with office environment aesthetics. Either a dated corporate wasteland or an attempt to make it Instagram-worthy, perhaps so that younger workers want to come in and take selfies of themselves hustling for their social media platforms.

Broker bet: Lean into creating a space in your office where your team can shoot photography and video. This is one place where I feel real estate differs from the real working world.

Agents are heavy content creators, and they need a space to help them create. This will be a huge value add for the team and a good incentive for them to come back to the office, if you want them to spend some time there.

Be healthy, but on your time

There is a renewed effort to talk about mental health from HR teams, but for many employees, it quickly turns into the ultimate gaslighting scenario.

Workers are asking for better pay and more support staff to share the workload but are told to do yoga and make sure they take their vacation time instead of being offered real solutions to deep-rooted problems in the organization.

When employees ask for higher pay, they often mean, “If you expect me to do X, I’m going to need a lot more money than this.”

  • If you expect me to work these hours …
  • If you expect me to work alongside these people …
  • If you expect me to meet these performance goals …

Stress is another major factor where employees are pushing back. They are maxed out and have been since the pandemic. Burnout plays a significant role in how employees push back against unreasonable management expectations.

  • Over 38 percent of workers report feeling burned out.
  • Fifty-seven percent of people who are burnt out report being less productive in the past 12 months.
  • Forty-seven percent of people who are burnt out report producing lower-quality work.

Broker bet: Be mindful of the generic health and stress-relief advice you are giving. Instead, be available to help with problems. Too many agents complain their brokers are not available or invested in them and their well-being. Get authentic, open your door and listen to your team.

Generational gaps: The pizza party isn’t cutting it anymore

Finally, it must be mentioned that different generations work differently and require different types of management styles. The overly prescribed “Let’s be a good team” mindset falls flat with younger generations.

Millennials, Gen Z and the upcoming Gen Alpha will not work like their Gen X and boomer counterparts. Late-stage capitalism has created huge gaps in wealth and assets, and these generations have figured out that the carrot that older generations are trying to dangle in front of them will never yield a fully funded retirement or even wages that meet the rising cost of living or an affordable rental, let alone a starter-home.

Late-stage capitalism describes the unrealistic perspectives of the wealthiest 1 percent. In the same vein, it highlights how the middle class is largely oblivious to the struggles of the poor, according to The Balance.

@captainmooseknuckless I WISH!!! 😭😭😭 context: I’m asking each generation what the rent for their first apartment was. HUGE DIFFERENCES. inflation really needs to be addressed in this country!! we Gen z are suffering!! #boomers #genz #genx #millennials #inflation #rent #babyboomers ♬ original sound – 𖤐

Younger generations prioritize work-life balance and recognize that being completely wiped out after a day of corporate fun is not the life they want for themselves or their families. Gen-Z workers favor transparency and authenticity. Millennials want to be engaged in jobs — emotionally and behaviorally connected to them.

Younger generations also have a strong sense of social justice, are sensitive to DEI issues, and are quick to point out the error of boomer ways, and that doesn’t track well with management. Instead, many think, “These kids are lazy!”

“I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: Call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow. But I have studies! I have statistics! I have quotes from respected academics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof,” Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University, told Time Magazine in a 2013 article entitled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.”

No, they have just figured out that being the most productive worker bee doesn’t necessarily pay like their managers think it does, and they apply the appropriate amount of energy to the task at hand. They also will not use their personal resources to pour into workspaces. They watch every dollar because the current state of their finances demands it.

“Millennials only have about 6 percent of all U.S. wealth — or $7.8 trillion — after subtracting liabilities from assets. In comparison, boomers have 53 percent, Generation X has 28 percent, and the Silent Generation has 13 percent of all wealth,” according to Yahoo Finance, August 2023.

Workers want tangible incentives they can see make an impact on their livelihood. Not pizza parties, company swag and promotions in the title without pay increases.

Broker bet: Look at your bottom line and ensure you are offering equitable splits to your team. There shouldn’t be a huge divide, and if someone has been on your team for a few years, you should evaluate their split to make it better for them based on the increase in the cost of living.

If you have hourly or salaried staff, make sure that you regularly research market-rate wages, protect their breaks and make sure that your agents don’t overwhelm them and run them out of your office. The number one reason I have heard for numerous admin staff quitting is that they have an endless parade of agents asking them to do work outside their hired scope, and they are frustrated that they can’t focus on their actual jobs.

Brokers, you know this is happening. Don’t turn a blind eye to it. If you really want to wow your team, consider hiring an agent concierge who caters to their auxiliary needs and frees your admin staff to do what they were hired for.

Remember that building an office environment that folks want to come to also means that you must ensure that the people in the space are pleasant to be around. Workers are reporting that they are more unhappy at work than ever before.

If troublesome characters run amok in your office space, it can impact the morale and appeal of staying with a team or brokerage. Please don’t argue with your team; listen and solve the problems they complain about. This could be the easiest fix for office culture wars, so we can all do the work and not let the work do us all in.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram.

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