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My New Normal: Ackman-Ziff COO Andrea Jang

This series aims to capture a moment in time, talking to men and women in commercial real estate about how their lives and businesses are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Jang had just gotten her feet under the desk in her job as chief operating officer at Ackman-Ziff when the city — and the world — was upended by the pandemic. She started in the role at the end of January, and Jang has been working from home like most of the city since March. Although her dress code may have been relaxed, she has remained committed to routine and has focused on creating a positive message to share with the team each week. In her downtime, she’s been unwinding with strolls in Central Park and home yoga classes.

Ackman-Ziff Chief Operating Officer Andrea Jang

Bisnow: Describe your work-from-home life and what you are doing in your spare time. 

Jang: While my dress code has certainly relaxed, my work-from-home life has been fairly structured and similar to life pre-COVID. As a leader, I find it helpful to begin each week by thinking of a positive theme and message to convey to the team. This mental exercise also helps me stay grounded during this time.

Additionally, I make a habit of eating and getting some caffeine in my system before morning calls and/or Zoom meetings. This routine helps put me in a working mindset — I acknowledge this is certainly a luxury that most young professional parents do not have. In my spare time, I have been doing yoga workouts from home and enjoy walks through Central Park and the Upper West Side with my husband.

Bisnow: What is your company’s return-to-the-workplace plan?

Jang: We will follow state and local guidelines, as well as monitor recommendations from the CDC and OSHA, with regards to screening, physical distancing and best hygiene/cleaning practices in the workplace. We have already communicated to our employees that they can continue to voluntarily work from home if they are not required in the office.

Bisnow: What will reopening businesses and workplaces look like for you personally?

Jang: I look forward to taking an active role in reopening the office and ensuring it is safe and clean for all those who choose to work in the office. Personally, I look forward to a post-COVID-19 world that supports more personal space at restaurants and bars and the ability to enjoy shopping in stores that adhere to occupancy guidelines. New York City is a city that lives and breathes retail experiences.

Bisnow: How will you manage the homefront as stay-at-home restrictions ease and businesses reopen?

Jang: My husband and I will continue to support local restaurants, stores and farmers markets with the numerous food and beverage deliveries we receive each week! I am truly thankful for all the essential workers who have worked tirelessly during this stay-at-home period. 

Bisnow: What is the state of your business at the moment?

Jang: Fortunately, our business continues to perform well during this pandemic, as we continue to close complicated transactions for our clients across multiple asset classes and geographies. While working remotely and at the height of the pandemic, we were able to relaunch a loan sales and restructuring business. From a health and well-being perspective, all employees continue to be in good health.

Andrea Jang

Bisnow: What was your impression of work from home before this got started? What is it now? 

Jang: When work from home first began, I was concerned the team would not feel comfortable interacting through videoconference. However, our team quickly embraced all the technology tools available to us, as we realized how efficiently we were operating our business by collaborating virtually and storing our information in cloud-based platforms. Overall, I am proud of how quickly our firm has adapted to new ways of working together and doing business with clients and lenders remotely.

Bisnow: How is your company fostering community and maintaining its culture from a distance?

Jang: Both internally and externally, we have been leveraging virtual communication tools and social media channels to stay in touch with employees, clients and lenders. We’ve hosted and participated in webinars, virtual happy hours and are supporting organizations committed to promoting diversity in commercial real estate, such as REAP.

We have also partnered with women in the CRE industry to launch WiRE Respond as a way to give back to front-line workers and homeless mothers during this terrible pandemic. Going forward, we aim to partner with other organizations and hospitals in need.

Bisnow: How do you think the coronavirus could permanently affect the way real estate does business?

Jang: COVID-19 has made working remotely and in person much more fluid. I believe once a vaccine and/or effective suppression remedies are widely available, people will feel comfortable socializing in person, but social engagements may become less of a business requirement and more of a luxury. From a deal standpoint, this pandemic has forced us to be even more creative and flexible in finding “needle-in-the-haystack” capital sources for our clients. To succeed post-COVID-19, companies will be held to a higher standard.

Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about right now?

Jang: As a society, I’m most hopeful that we emerge from this pandemic more socially aware and respectful to those who hold essential jobs, and we continue to strongly promote diversity, inclusion and equality within our communities and the commercial real estate industry.