Exploring a Remote-Work Model for Self-Storage: How Might It Impact Employers and Staff

The workplace has drastically changed as job-seekers increasingly expect options to work from home, at least part-time. Could the trend toward remote working impact the self-storage industry? An industry recruiter shares insight for employers and employees alike.

Lisa Pyle, Partner

April 25, 2024

5 Min Read

At the beginning of my recruiting career, I was taught to determine how far and long of a commute a job candidate would have if they were hired for a position I was promoting. If the office was too far away or it took too long to get there, the applicant would generally not be interested. In fact, it was sometimes a primary reason that a person wanted to leave a job. Still, commuting was the norm back then. Employees had to drive to work and interact with peers every day. 

Fast forward to 2024. Instead of desiring a shorter or easier commute, job candidates are often not interested in an opportunity unless they can work from home at least part-time. If they have to report to an office daily, they may eventually change positions for one that offers more flexibility. Generally speaking, at my firm, we promote each position to 30 potential candidates before finding one who is qualified and interested. I tend to find that if the role requires the person to go into an office daily, that number jumps to at least 60.  

March 2024 marked four years since COVID lockdowns were first issued, ultimately redefining the way many employees worked. The work-from-home phenomenon spread like wildfire through multiple generations. Initially, there was panic about the technology, finding childcare and setting up a home office; but as the dust settled, people came to appreciate the improved work-life balance that gave them additional time for family and friends, household projects, and hobbies. 

Whether it’s a CFO with 20 years of experience or an analyst with only two years under their belt, employees who have embraced the work-from-home culture are not going back to traditional daily office life if they can help it. In fact, there are now many college graduates who have never even had to go into an office. Though there are companies that want their employees to commute and return to the workplace, that concept is completely foreign to some job candidates. 

The question you’re now wondering is, what does this mean for me and my self-storage business? If you’re an owner, you’re concerned about hiring and employee expectations. If you’re a manager, you’re maybe hoping it opens new doors of opportunity. Let’s explore the notion further. 

New Hiring Challenges 

There is certainly value in collaborating with peers in an office setting. A lot can be learned from your teammates and mentors, not to mention the connections that can be made with members of your work family. Those relationships are not quite the same when your only interaction is through a computer monitor. However, the payoff for the at-home worker is the work-life balance provided by a hybrid or fully remote business model. 

Promoting a full-time self-storage office position can be challenging today. If one employer doesn’t allow working from home, another probably will. Recruiting is essentially a numbers game. You just keep promoting the open position until you find someone who enjoys daily, in-person interaction. The potential obstacle is it may take longer to find that person. Secondly, and even more important, is that you can miss out on some very talented people who are holding on to their home office with all of their might. 

I can say that I’ve seen highly successful real estate professionals function in both a fully remote environment as well as a hybrid role. If you hire a responsible, experienced person with initiative who takes pride in their job, you should not have any issues. The freedom a home office provides is truly empowering to some employees. They thrive when they don’t have a commute to navigate or the distraction of the common interruptions inherent within a shared office. 

That said, some roles just aren’t well-suited for remote work, even part time. Self-storage manager may be one of them, depending on your operational model and the technology you use. Also, some employees genuinely prefer to work in an office every day; however, it’s less than half of the applicant pool among office-based employees. What I’ve observed is that for roles that are commonly remote or hybrid, approximately 30% of the available candidates will still go into an office five days a week. 

In short, it isn’t impossible to attract candidates to a full-time, in-office role, but the search can take longer, and you’ll miss out on talented individuals who currently have—and are not willing to give up—the ability to work from home.  

Work-From-Home Tips 

If you are fortunate enough to be allowed to work remotely, you should understand what constitutes a productive home office. First, you must have a space designated specifically for work, preferably with a door. If you have kids, childcare provider is imperative during your work time. It’s also important to establish guidelines with your family to limit interruptions. Mentally, you need to be at work, not doing laundry or making dinner.  

Also, get up early and get ready for work as though you are going into an office. Pajamas are not allowed. Though your commute may be a flight of steps instead of a 40-minute drive, you must still make a mental shift and be fully engaged in your job. Save the dinner prep or grass-cutting for your lunch break. 

Being a Good Employer to At-Home Workers 

If you have a trustworthy, productive employee, they’ll appreciate your faith in them to work independently. If you’re concerned about a lack of in-person interaction, schedule specific days for everyone to be in the office together. This helps create a balance that satisfies the needs of both staff and employer. Being open-minded and offering this kind of flexibility increases the talent pool when you have an open self-storage position. If a candidate has a history of working remotely, that’s even better, especially if they have strong references because they’ve proven they can be effective in a home-office setting. 

Employees who have never been required to report to an office and those who have embraced the flexibility of working from home will likely not return to the days of commuting. The privilege of working from home is now a real selling point for some employers and positions, while companies that are more rigid and want traditional office employees face more obstacles. Once you consider hiring a fully or partially remote employee, you open the doors to a much broader selection of experienced self-storage professionals. 

Lisa Pyle is a founding partner at Real8 Group, a national executive-search firm specializing in real estate. She has established a prominent niche in the self-storage industry, positioning Real8 as a leader in recruiting. For more information, call 724.835.4200. 

About the Author(s)

Lisa Pyle

Partner, Real8 Group LLC

Lisa Pyle, a partner at Real8 Group LLC, has more than 20 years of experience in executive search within the real estate industry. She’s been working with self-storage clients for several years, placing talented mid- and senior-level executives in the areas of property and asset management, development, construction, and finance and accounting. To reach her, call 865.224.8900, ext. 103; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.real8group.com.

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