As COVID cases drop, what could a return to the office look like?

by David Kitai26 Mar 2021

The end of the pandemic is in sight. The news of faster-than-expected vaccine rollouts, dropping case counts, and the lifting of some restrictions is giving the whole country hope for the end to a period many of us are desperately wishing to see the back of. While we’re hoping for a return to normal, so much has changed in terms of the way the mortgage industry now operates that when mortgage pros start walking into the office again, there will surely be some distinct differences.

To find out some of what mortgage pros can expect as offices reopen and what mortgage companies are now providing to their employees, MPA spoke with Larry Silver (pictured), the CEO of Superus Careers and a 20-year veteran of the mortgage industry. He explained some of what we’ve already seen in terms of office reopenings and expectations around remote and in-person work, and highlighted how the flexibility of working arrangements that have typified the pandemic will play out in mortgage job markets. He also noted how keen some companies and employees are to return to the office and share in the energy and culture that made their workplace exciting to begin with.

“It’s role dependent, but a lot of companies have started to share their reopening game plans,” Silver said. “The industry as a whole has realized that there’s good talent outside of their geographic areas. They made a decision early on after going remote that they would hire people with the intention to stay remote full time, especially after they saw how productive we can be in a remote world.

“I think about half the people are excited to get back into the office, but the other half are looking for remote opportunities because they found that they were very productive and enjoyed that environment. Some people, after finding they’re going back into the office in two months, are starting their job searches.”

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Silver believes a hybrid model is likely to emerge. Processing and servicing staff, he explained, are likely to remain more remote as their work is somewhat more individual in nature. Sales and originations teams, conversely, are more likely to go into the office. Sales teams often thrive off an office culture and rely on collaboration with one another. In Silver’s experience, it’s originators who are most keen to get back into the office.

Office reopenings also represent a chance to align new hires with the company’s processes. Silver noted that even as companies have hired new staff to work in remote roles, they might have been operating on different systems or standards of service. Returning to the office may offer a chance to smooth out the bumps of remote hires.

The office itself is likely to look different, too. Silver noted that the ‘sardine can’ model of tightly packed cubicle rows is likely to be abandoned. Offices are more likely to be open-planned, with greater space between employees and more communal space for meetings and collaboration. As offices are reopened, clients are likely to start making visits. Even as cases are coming down, signs of COVID vigilance will be key to ensuring comfort. Things like non-invasive temperature checks on entry will show clients and staff that their wellbeing is still a top priority.

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Silver expects that even on the sales side, flexibility will be a hallmark of our new offices. Four and three-day in-office workweeks will become the norm, giving staff the energy boost of collaborative office work, with the convenience of skipping a Friday commute. While much remains uncertain, Silver is especially confident that once offices are reopened and the pandemic is truly behind us, mortgage pros will hit the ground running.

“I think they’re just going to jump right back in the saddle,” Silver said. “This business is so fast paced, and there’s so much going on that I don’t think there’s going to be much of a change when they return. They’re just going to get in and they’re going to get to work.”