Jason Gesing said Thursday during Inman Connect Now that companies going remote need to replicate the kind of casual water cooler interactions that happen in real life if they want to succeed.

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The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenge for real estate companies big and small this year, but Thursday afternoon eXp Realty CEO Jason Gesing said the key to working in a socially distant world is helping agents feel like their not actually remote.

Gesing offered his advice during Inman Connect Now, a virtual event that included panel discussions with some of the real estate industry’s most influential players. In Gesing’s case, he said that when the pandemic began sweeping across the U.S. earlier this year, his company was well-positioned to weather the storm because it already operates without physical offices. That meant that while other firms were scrambling to go virtual, eXp Realty was already there.

Of course, eXp Realty operates an entire game-like virtual environment. But even for companies without that technology Gesing said the key to remote work is trying to replicate the casual, serendipitous interactions that would normally happen in an office. In other words, in real life people don’t just have formal meetings; instead, they bump into each other at the water cooler and in the hall, having both business and non-business conversations in the process.

Companies that want to succeed in a virtual world, Gesing said, should look for ways to facilitate those kinds of interactions.

“The agents don’t feel like their working virtual,” he added of his own company.

Credit: Inman

Gesing went on to say that between 60 and 70 percent of eXp Realty agents get into the company’s virtual world at least once a month. Some agents log on far more often than once a month, and earlier this year eXp Realty held its first-ever company-wide virtual conference. Gesing described the conference as a success.

While in the virtual environment, eXp Realty agents can participate in training sessions, meet with team members or socialize.

Gesing also said eXp Realty’s ownership structure has played a role in helping the company build a successful remote business. Agents at eXp Realty get company stock when hitting various milestones, and Gesing said agent ownership of the firm has helped its sense of cohesion and community.

The result, according to Gesing, is that the company has “figured out how to build community without the cost” of traditional office space.

The payoff from these efforts for eXp Realty has been significant. This month, for example, the company’s global agent count rose to more than 40,000. Gesing also noted Thursday that figuring out how to master virtual business operations has driven a rapid expansion into new countries in 2020.

“In the five countries we’ve entered this year, nobody on staff has been to them,” he said. “I think that is just a demonstration of what is possible when you can untether yourself from brick and mortar.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

IDX Real Estate