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Rising Realty's Chris Rising On How To Manage A Team During A Crisis

As some companies' employees are forced to work from home due to the coronavirus, Rising Realty Partners CEO Chris Rising has some words of advice: Don’t try to make your new remote work environment simulate still being in the office.

“Working remotely, working with technology is not the same thing as working with paper,” Rising said during Bisnow’s Managing A Remote Team webinar last week. “It’s not. It’s not the same thing as sitting in the office, trading papers and notes. It is a different discipline.”

Shifting to remote work may mean some reprioritization. 

“You have to rethink what you want to accomplish,” Rising later added. “A business exists to perform tasks where you can get paid. You can’t lose sight of that.”

Chris Rising with his family.

The coronavirus, which causes the contagious respiratory illness COVID-19, has upended the workplace.

As part of a greater effort to halt the spread of the disease, many state and local governments have enacted orders urging people to stay home. Employees deemed nonessential have been scattered, forcing managers to rethink how to communicate with their teams effectively, keep business efficient and remain afloat during what some say is an unprecedented time. 

“We are living in a crisis that none of the [current] generations has ever seen,” Rising said. “You’d have to go back to the 1920s with this kind of isolation. This is unprecedented.”

Rising has been an advocate of technology since his days at Duke University and Loyola Law School in the 1990s.

He said while technology can make things easier, it can also complicate things. One of his biggest pieces of advice: Don't run your business solely by email. 

“If you think you can work from home and deal with everybody through email, you will fail and fail spectacularly,” Rising said.

He gave three reasons: You cannot hold someone accountable by email, you can't search effectively, and you don't have an interactive system to save important documents that other people can access.

“Email is a piece of the puzzle,” Rising said, adding that for his company, email is only used as a way to communicate with outsiders, not for internal purposes.

Rising said his company uses Asana, a project management system that allows users to track tasks toward a goal.

For the past five years, he has also used Zoom videoconferencing, which has seen its user rate go up since the global pandemic. He said having a clear agenda that people can follow and engaging the team are the most important things to do during a videoconference.

“It is a failure of a meeting in my view if every person has not been engaged at least once during a discussion on Zoom during a meeting, because people will just tune out,” he said. 

Rising Realty CEO Chris Rising and Bisnow West Coast Vice President Michael Guimond discuss how to effectively manage a remote team during a Bisnow webinar on April 2.

With so many people working from home, Rising also issued a word of caution: There will be security threats. Although his company has not been breached, he does have firsthand experience with the risks. 

His fourth-grade daughter's online class was hacked by someone spewing offensive material. His gym, which uses Zoom to host live workouts, also was hacked. 

He said one of the most common mistakes is companies publicizing meeting information but not protecting the meeting with a password. 

As for the office landscape post-COVID-19, Rising, whose companies oversee a $1.5B portfolio totaling 5M SF of commercial real estate in Southern California and Denver, said while people are going to be more cautious — wearing masks and being careful with what they touch — it is hard to replace the human element of working side by side with someone. 

“How do you mentor someone [remotely] on a daily basis?” he said. “Some of the most impactful conversations I ever had as a young lawyer, as a young broker, were those one-off conversations because I was around someone.”

The work landscape is changing, Rising said. The long work hours in an office that the baby boomer generation once heralded as someone's commitment to work are over. People will work remotely and can still work in an office, he said.

One thing still remains: Humans need human connection. 

“We work at places because of the camaraderie,” Rising said. “We are social people. We like to be around people.”