Commercial real estate professionals are well aware of the power of social connection. Social connection is the experience of feeling close and connected to others. It involves feeling loved, cared for, and valued, and forms the basis of interpersonal relationships. Spend any significant time in the industry, and the importance of a strong network becomes abundantly clear. Connected systems of contacts and resources are what make the CRE world go round, and part of what keeps investors afloat in uncertain markets.

Conversely, commercial real estate’s critical role in social connection cannot be ignored. Buildings and event spaces are the places where networking happens: meetings held, ideas shared, plans made. How the CRE industry leverages those spaces to increase social connection matters. “Phoning it in” when it comes to CRE can mean developing beautiful buildings that wind up empty. Acting with intention, however, creates scenarios which benefit everyone from investors to occupants.

In today’s market, expectations are heightened: builders, property managers, and tenants are all beginning to express interest in socially responsible CRE practices which keep community, responsibility, and connection in mind. What can you do to stay on top of these new demands?

Social Connection And Commercial Real Estate

Take a stand

As demands shift, it’s important to remember that the desire for change is typically aimed at making the industry better. What are some areas where you believe CRE could improve? If you’re not sure where to start, here are three topics currently in the CRE spotlight:

1. Diversity

We touched upon diversity in an earlier post about How Women are Breaking Into, and Changing the Face of, Commercial Real Estate. And while women are making important strides, it’s important to note that diversity is not only about gender.

More diversity in CRE in terms of race, culture, language, age, ability, and beyond is key to making the industry and its products stronger, more relevant, and accessible for everyone. Many organizations have already begun to work together to form mentorship programs and diversity initiatives. The work is ongoing, and likely will continue for years to come. The increased inclusion, of course, will create stronger social connections.

2. Sustainability

Sustainability is a hot social responsibility topic in CRE today. While LEED may have spearheaded US efforts towards environmental sustainability in the 90’s, the movement has grown exponentially even in just the last two decades.

Prioritizing energy efficiency and sustainability in CRE doesn’t just help the planet; it also increases property revenue and attracts consumer interest. Commercial real estate organizations in communities concerned about climate change, in particular, must consider all options for sustainable planning, development, building, and usage of their properties.

CRE organizations are supporting sustainability in various ways. Some match employee donations, while others offer the option to spend a working day performing conservation volunteer service. And, of course, in-office practices such as reducing paper printing and using energy efficient electronics help as well. There are many ways to center sustainability in CRE, and workplace initiatives are just a start. By connecting with team members and community members to encourage a joint effort, major strides in sustainability can be taken.

3. Community Development

Finally, community development is a current commercial real estate focal point. Easily encompassing diversity and sustainability, which often concern the communities CRE operates in, community development also extends to servicing the unique needs of the surrounding population. This, of course, requires deep social connection.

For example, buildings could be designed with space for public use in mind. Public-private partnerships can be formed to work out how properties can benefit communities and still be profitable. Unused building spaces may be utilized (or new spaces created) for community events like art shows, food or supply drives, educational opportunities, wellness classes, or anything that contributes to the community in a desired way.

The “desired” is key here: it’s important to ask community members what they feel will be most beneficial. Assuming something is needed creates the same problem as building properties without intention: the result is empty space. Making a genuine social connection with the surrounding community is key to success.

Make A Plan Social Connection In Commercial Real Estate

Make a Plan

While the above issues are currently front and center in CRE, they are certainly not the only areas where growth can and should happen. Input from colleagues and team members about observed issues in CRE should inform decision-making conversations. This may not only reveal more relevant areas of improvement, but can lay the groundwork for team member buy-in to any resulting action plan.

Once goals have been established, whether based on issues discussed above or with colleagues, it’s time to focus on solutions. An overarching guiding culture, rather than a limited “program” that team members scramble to meet numbers on once a month, tends to be more successful.

If the mission is truly important to the team, it will show. This is why identifying the right causes to fight for is so important. Social connection can’t be forced. Having goals that colleagues are truly invested in will help that connection come naturally and voluntarily, as it should.