Rob Johnson is a Vice President at Colliers Houston. His core areas of focus are office and industrial tenant representation, with a primary focus on occupier advisory services including lease, purchase, sale, and structured finance of real property. Rob spends the majority of his days creating solutions for clients based on their strategic goals, both industry specific as well as real estate focused.
Rob has been with Colliers Houston for just over two years, but has been a tenant representative for 12 years. Colliers Houston is a commercial real estate firm that services all aspects of commercial real estate from office and industrial to multi-family and retail as well as investment and disposition of all of the aforementioned. One of the primary reasons Rob was attracted to Colliers was the high standards every individual holds themselves to, and how the team reinforces those standards by supporting each other. This applies not only to the level of success that they expect of themselves and each other, but also to maintaining a high level of integrity in everything they approach.
Adopting to the Newfound Remote Workforce
As with most businesses, 2020 proved to be a year of both quick solutions as well as careful planning. Many of Colliers’ clients, including IronEdge Group, adopted a remote working solution when government mandates steered businesses in that direction. Colliers Houston transitioned to a remote work environment for a period, a move that forced them to integrate existing technology solutions, some of which had not been critical until remote work was mandated into their daily routines.
From a real estate perspective, some of their clients decided that a work from home solution was not conducive to their business and pushed to bring their workforce back into their offices. Conversely, some clients have shared their desire to implement a more nuanced approach by integrating remote work and in-person office collaboration into their business plans. With COVID-19 vaccinations rolling-out to the general public, and a full year implementing remote work strategies, the future of the commercial office market is likely to be a new paradigm incorporating new designs for office layouts coupled with a remote work component.
Colliers Houston transitioned to hosted Exchange and Office 365 late in 2019, a decision that was almost prophetic in its wisdom. While many veteran team members were not familiar with the tools that would allow remote work to be easier and more productive, over the course of the spring and summer Colliers was able to bring everyone up to speed. The necessity to become familiar with the tools available created a situation where even the self-proclaimed luddites in the office embraced the technology from Teams chat to OneDrive.
When COVID-19 led to a retail shut down, Colliers Houston found a creative way to support clients from both an advisor and consumer standpoint. They ran a social media campaign to give away gift cards to client’s restaurants or stores, having the owners share a few sentences about their business and how consumers can still offer their support. The campaign moved beyond just clients and is for the Houston retail community as a whole, using the hashtag #SupportHoustonRetail. Now that restaurants and retailers are opening in Texas, next steps include shopping and dining at clients’ places of business.
Colliers has adjusted to a predominately work-from-home environment like the rest of the world, but their workforce has always been somewhat mobile, and it was not a difficult shift to remote work. Their systems were already in place and other than more convenient workstation setups for our support team, little adjustment was required. The team has fully embraced Microsoft Teams and Zoom for “face to face” meetings with good results. The lack of interaction in the office has slowed the flow of information and spontaneous brainstorming between team members —a real loss that technology has not been able to fully replace. To enable working from home, computer equipment was provided for all staff, including monitors, docking stations, webcams, etc. All employees were given free access to Headspace, an app with more than 1,000 hours of content designed to manage stress, sleep better, exercise mindfully and remain focused. Headspace has a variety of content designed to improve your mental health and wellbeing. All employees were also given free access to Harvard Managementor, which provides Change Management, Crisis Management, Global Collaboration and Stress Management training.