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My New Normal: Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum

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.

Jason Tenenbaum's new normal is newer than most — it entails a new position and a new location.

The Prologis vice president accepted a new role within the firm and was in the process of moving from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Miami when shelter-in-place orders started to take hold. He said he didn't have a lot of respect for working from home before the quarantine, but has been surprised at how productive his team has been and how connected he feels to his colleagues. Bonus: Those moving boxes came in handy to fashion a standing desk at home.

My New Normal: Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum
Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum working from home.

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

Tenenbaum: Coincidentally, right as shelter-in-place happened, my girlfriend and I were in the process of moving from Hoboken, New Jersey, to Miami, Florida, with our dog Murphy. So life has been very different from what we had planned or anticipated, but we’ve done our best to make our lives as comfortable as possible during this “new normal.”

We’re doing a lot of online shopping, much like the rest of the country, so our spare time is spent decommissioning moving boxes, unpacking newly arrived purchases, and ultimately breaking down more boxes.

Keeping healthy is also a big focus of ours during these times. Some things that we started to do during quarantine have been intermittent fasting, workout videos from Instagram and frequent walks with the dog. It is extremely important to take breaks throughout the day as the separation between work and home has very blurred lines. This said, I do enjoy the morning commute across the hall!

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

Tenenbaum: I think we’re all anxious to start interacting with friends, family and colleagues. However, we need to continue to stay diligent and remember we are still fighting an invisible enemy. I know that Prologis will open offices when it’s safe to do so and in a very limited capacity (under 50%).

Our teams are definitely very excited to get back and visit with customers, but we’ve also been very successful in responding to customer needs by leveraging digital tools for video meetings and practicing social distancing.

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

Tenenbaum: My biggest concern is bringing home the virus, which is why I plan on continuing to social distance and follow proper Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.

Also, as life begins to get back to normal, I am very much looking forward to enjoying a refreshing beer at a nearby watering hole!

My New Normal: Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum
Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum and his dog, Murphy, working from home.

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

Tenenbaum: Previously, I believed the term “working from home” always had finger quotes around it and was a way for people to avoid work. Now that we have been doing this for a few months, I believe our teams are working harder than ever and I actually feel more connected with many of my colleagues. The ability to have virtual meetings and collaborate in new ways is pretty remarkable.

Also, I did not plan for a work-at-home lifestyle as we moved to Miami, so have had to be creative with my home workstations. I typically work on a fold-up plastic table (with a floral tablecloth to add color to the ambiance). I’ve also made a makeshift standing desk using an oversized box and sometimes work on the couch.

Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about right now?

Tenenbaum: I am hopeful the country will remain resilient and we will treat each other with more respect.

With every challenge comes some sort of opportunity. And to say we have had a challenging start to 2020 would be an understatement. From the coronavirus to the protests surrounding George Floyd, our country is in the middle of a major transition and growth. But I don’t see our country breaking, I see our community coming closer together.

I think back to the days after September 11 when every house on the street had an American flag flying proud. You couldn’t find an American flag in stores anywhere, just like we couldn’t find masks and toilet paper after the onset of the coronavirus. Every person I see wearing a mask is a reminder of how we are all working to fight this disease together.

Moving forward, I think we will be much more thoughtful. Maybe we won’t shake as many hands — if any. Any hug will be a meaningful one. 

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

Tenenbaum: The changes brought on by the pandemic will permanently transform the way real estate professionals operate. We’ve become more accustomed to using technology to stay connected, and have experienced firsthand the efficiency of working from home and the absence of long commutes.

The changes will also most likely mean less business travel. The industry as a whole, I anticipate, will also have fewer in-person conferences and events. Webinars and video meetings will remain to supplement customer touch points and communication channels with peers.  

We’ll see an increase in demand for logistics real estate in the long term. Our own research found that 400M SF or more of total additional U.S. logistics real estate demand will be created in the next two to three years as companies adjust to higher e-commerce volumes and higher inventory levels. This will also make last-touch facilities increasingly important as delivery service levels escalate from days to hours.

Overall, COVID-19 represents a headwind to the lengthy global economic expansion that will likely affect real estate in the near term. However, logistics real estate is likely to prove resilient, owing to its essential role in facilitating daily consumption, as well as bolstered by structural tailwinds such as e-commerce, and healthy operating and investment fundamentals prior to the outbreak. As the volatility subsides, supply chain adjustments should generate positive long-term demand, via rising inventory levels, accelerating e-commerce adoption and diversified manufacturing locations.

My New Normal: Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum
Prologis Vice President Jason Tenenbaum working from home.

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

Tenenbaum: We are following all regulations from government authorities regarding the containment of the coronavirus, as well as guidelines set by the World Health Organization, the CDC and other public health organizations.

Generally speaking, Prologis is taking a conservative approach to reopening offices. We plan on opening no sooner than at least two weeks after each home city, state or country has allowed office work space to reopen. And we expect office reopenings will occur in a phased approach.

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

Tenenbaum: Over the years, we have been investing heavily in technologies that allow remote work, which has made the transition to this “new normal” more seamless. 

We’ve also elevated our internal communications to an entirely new level, making sure all employees are constantly updated on all things COVID and that their questions are addressed quickly. At a time when things seem so uncertain and there are so many unknowns about the future, our focus is on creating a fully transparent working environment.

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

Tenenbaum: The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the industry in many ways, but the source of demand for most logistics real estate users has not changed: Many items that flow through supply chains are tied to basic daily needs such as food and beverage, consumer products and medical supplies. E-commerce adoption is increasing, as shopping online has become a habit for more people and in more product categories — accelerating an existing secular trend. In fact, Prologis reported that e-fulfillment operations accounted for nearly 40% of new leasing in March and April, and our research team anticipates that e-commerce adoption and higher inventory levels will generate more demand for logistics real estate.