The New Home Etiquette

By Chris Dietz, executive vice president global operations at LeadingRE

Published by PrimeResi (subscription required)


The devastating COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in mandates requiring much of the work force to work remotely until the virus can be slowed, and this certainly applies to real estate professionals. The impact means the world of work has changed – for the short-term and perhaps forever – as countless offices and shops close their physical premises for weeks if not months. The good news is much of the tech that underpins remote working, such as the video-conferencing service Zoom and workplace apps such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, are reliable and relatively intuitive.

Even with the correct tools, there are many other challenges we face when we switch from an office to home working. Plenty of people fantasize about working from the comfort of their own home, foregoing their commute in favor of more sleep, family or exercise time. But working remotely is a double-edge sword. Whether it’s a pile of laundry that suddenly looks more appealing than your bosses’ to-do list, or a quick Netflix binge, staying productive at home can take a little extra effort. It can also quickly become lonely or isolating for those used to working with people in their career, like property professionals. Here are my top ten tips to successfully work from home during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

  • Keep motivated
    Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are common issues, especially for jobs such as real estate agents which require working with people every day. If you are on a team, make sure to check in regularly just like you would in the office. Create to-do lists to keep yourself organized and share the status of your lists with your manager so they know you’re on top of your work. It’s a good idea to set up regular check-ins via phone or video conferencing like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. And remember to stay in touch with your sphere in meaningful ways. A chat with a client to see how they are doing not only strengthens that relationship, but also reminds them of your value.
  • Maintain regular hours
    Set a schedule, and stick to it. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps maintain work-life balance. Working irregular shifts can be draining, and that applies to remote workers, too. That said, working remotely sometimes means extending your day or starting earlier to accommodate others.
  • Set ground rules
    Set ground rules with other people in your home on how you will share the work space. If you have children who come home from school while you’re still working or are attending “virtual” school classes, they need clear rules about what they can and cannot do. Additionally, just because you’re home and can attend to household responsibilities doesn’t mean other family members or housemates should assume you will always do it.
  • Schedule breaks
    Know your company’s policy on break times and take them. It’s important to give yourself adequate time during the day to walk to away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks is standard for most employees.
  • Be flexible and adaptable
    Many people will be working from home for the first time during the Covid-19 outbreak and may not realise all the equipment they need as soon as you start working from home. Some companies have a budget for home office equipment, but at a time when most businesses are controlling expenses it may be best to make do with what you have. Talk to colleagues or friends who are used to working from home to learn new ways to operate. For example, instead of scanning a document for signature, use a program like DocuSign. Take business calls from your computer or your cell phone. Adjust to working from your laptop screen instead of dual monitors.
  • Keep a dedicated workspace
    In an ideal world, remote employees would have not only have a dedicated office, but also two computers, one for work and one for personal use. It’s more secure for the employer, and it lets you physiologically separate your work and personal lives. But not everyone has a separate office in their home, and keeping two machines isn’t always realistic. Instead, dedicate a space in your home for work use only. This will help keep focus and also make it easier to switch off at the end of the day.
  • Resist the urge to multitask
    This may seem like a convenient time to catch up on chores around the house, but it’s easier than you’d expect to get distracted. Don’t let chores distract you from being productive. If you meal prep or pack snacks ahead of time for the office, do the same at home so you don’t get preoccupied in the kitchen. You probably don’t watch TV at work either, so try not to leave it on, even if it’s just background noise.
  • Let there be light (and some fresh air)
    Since experts advise to cease contact with others, you’re likely going to spend a lot of time indoors. Open your windows to let in as much natural daylight and fresh air as possible, and take short walks (maintaining social distancing)— and be sure to wash your hands as soon as you return home.
  • Get dressed
    It’s hard to get motivated if you’re still sporting pyjamas at your desk. Make it part of your routine to get up, shower and dress in clothes appropriate for your video conferences. You’ll feel motivated and more ready and able to work.
  • End your day with a routine
    Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a business messaging apps, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. yoga class. You might have a simple routine such as shutting down your computer and turning on a favorite podcast. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.