Adapting to life and remote working during COVID-19
After leaving Barbados to travel to the UK for the summer to visit family, I realized quite quickly how different the two places operated.
Barbados had a relatively short lockdown - about 5 weeks of full lockdown. With a gradual reopening throughout the island. (We were allowed to visit the beach at certain times to anytime, the workforce adapted to social distancing and making the changes for some employees to go back into the office/ work.)
Protocols from the beginning were made law by the government and on the whole locals in Barbados adhered to the lockdown regulations and safety protocols post lockdown. From the beginning, we have had strict enforcement of wearing masks to any establishment. Even the children in schools must adhere (This made the decision to send back children to school easier for parents.) Most establishments check your temperature and there is constant cleaning and hand sanitizer happening. I visited a west coast restaurant and there was a lady cleaning all the common area surfaces, door handles, and even going into the washrooms after customers have been in to disinfect. Truthfully I’ve never felt more comfortable eating in a restaurant as I do right now. This gives everyone a bit more peace of mind whilst venturing out, to do so safely.
Although it wasn’t straight back to business as usual in Barbados - emphasized by our clients unable to travel - and a focus on virtual tours initially. There definitely was more of a bounce back to normal showings and meeting new clients on my return to Barbados in September - thank you welcome stamp! I think all of the agents have been absolutely flat out with these rentals and trying to list new properties for longer term rental that may have previously rented short term in the pre-COVID.
The UK however was quite different. There was confusion over mask wearing initially. Then certain places wore them and other places did not. Unfortunately most Covid regulations were not government law and not everyone took it seriously and adhered to these rules like the local Bajans at home. There was definitely an age group - 55+ that were taking it a lot more seriously. This became more evident with both mine and Andrew’s clients (one of our International partners at Knight Frank). I made a list of clients I wanted to meet up with whilst there and the majority were not keen at all. Opting for a zoom session or phone call instead. Simply put they were still sheltering and keeping away from face to face contact, to avoid any risk of catching and spreading Covid to themselves or their loved ones. Nearly all of these clients have their own companies and adapted to a hybrid working life of both working from home and safely from the office.
Andrew at Knight Frank updated me on how they were adapting within Knight Frank to this new way of working:
As far as International business goes, to begin with they had to navigate the challenges that arose from restricted international travel and the initial impact this had on their respective markets. But with the aid of the technology we have today, they were quick to offer alternative ways to ensure clients were able to view properties virtually through Matterport, ZOOM etc. The team established they work effectively remotely from home or away from office.
There was and still is the inclusion of a Team video call – a meeting every morning. This would initially cover sales updates and then move onto more about what people are seeing in the different markets around the world. This provided a sense of belonging and commandery – soaking up the firm’s ethos and being able to bounce ideas off each other.
It also meant each team member was able to advise clients on different market coverage across the world from Europe, America to the Caribbean and the rest of the world. It made the team feel like we are still being globally informed every day – increasing the teams knowledge even better than before.
Knight Frank have adapted to the new working environment and continue to focus on providing support and service to all their clients. They of course continue to respect government guidance and social distancing and follow strict hygiene protocols for our offices to remain open wherever possible.
Personally both Andy and I have really missed meeting clients physically on the ground as well as the issues with international travel for Andrew to visit the Terra Luxury team in Barbados and soak up the market here in person.
Overall we did find virtual calls with clients to be most effective in encouraging more face to face, although not physical, will help relationships strengthen.
This was particularly evident in a current sale transaction where, Andrew, myself and my colleague, Jeanie (the listing agent) organized a zoom call with the the purchasers and vendor to iron out issues that attorneys had brought to light. The purchaser felt a lot more reassured seeing the vendor in person explain clearly the history of property and how these issues had first arose. I am sure that this call salvaged a sale that could have easily fallen through the cracks due to a lack of confidence from the purchasers end.
Both teams at Knight Frank and Terra Luxury have changed their marketing strategy to a more personalized basis. Today it is not an estate agent you need, but a partner in property to advise you the best.