Dear Diary: Snapshots from 1 year of CRE work-from-home

Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Research
  • Apr. 15, 2021
IMAGE: Lex Perry is responsible for marketing, communications and research for Colliers Canada. (Courtesy Colliers)

Lex Perry is responsible for marketing, communications and research for Colliers Canada. (Courtesy Colliers)

A little over a year into the pandemic and thus, the “Great Work-from-Home Experiment”, I’m sharing with you some lighthearted excerpts from my journal.

These “Dear Diary” entries depict a year in the life, as my team and I navigated unchartered (and not so lighthearted) territory in the last 12 months. I’m willing to bet my ring light that most – if not all – other marketing leaders reading this column can relate.

Read on to learn some of our sources of pain, panic (sometimes) and pride in the last year.

Friday, March 13, 2020

We’ve shifted to working from home. Talk about a big and fast change. First order of business? Make sure my team is OK and supported. We’ll do daily standups to help us stay connected and engaged. I’ll make sure all my team members have proper cameras. We got this.

We need a tried, tested and true method of distributing COVID-related information. So . . . how fast can we do a COVID updates takeover of our intranet? Overnight. How do I know? I went in there last night and did it myself. I hope I didn’t break it.

Monday, March 23

How fast can we write and release a research report on the pandemic’s effect on the industry? About a week.

How fast can we build a dedicated COVID insights webpage? Virtually overnight.

We have an amazing Marketing, Communications and Research team.

Now if only I could say I can put together a COVID strategy overnight. . . . Does anyone really have a plan right now??

Monday, March 31, 2020

I miss being with the team in person. The vibe. The banter and connection. Even the disruption and interruption.

Thank goodness for MS Teams.

I got asked for a plan for next week. Yup, let me get right on that. Let me find my crystal ball that lets me see past tomorrow.

Thank goodness the Communications team rolled out – in January – a COVID communications program providing updates and protocol information. Weekly message from the CEO? Check. Weekly message from HR? Check.

Speaking of messages, OMG my MS Teams messages just won’t stop.

Published our article on obtaining rent relief. Another quick turnaround.

We’re releasing a lot of information and materials . . . so we’re rolling out a regular communication on all the COVID collateral we’re putting out, so our people are in-the-know. But how do we know they’re in-the-know? It feels likes there’s so much at stake, and we can’t afford to miss an iota of information or take a single misstep. #underpressure

I wonder how my team feels about our daily calls? My toddler asked me to wipe his bum during a video call today. Did I change my shirt from yesterday? I need to shave.

April 14, 2020

Let’s get (more) digital! Digital client presentations. Digital brochures. Custom property websites.

You know how we’re connecting with clients during these unprecedented times? You hold a webinar on the hotel market. And you hold a webinar on subleasing during the pandemic. And you hold a webinar on office real estate values. We’re the Oprah Winfrey of webinars!

You know what I realized as I watched webinar after webinar and saw all these Zoom backgrounds? That I was tired of my same old Zoom background. So I sent out an email on our new branded Zoom backgrounds, complete with best practices for presenting on video – including fashion (Lose the hoodies!), grooming (Tame that beard!) and camera angle (No one wants to look up your nose!) tips.

In-person property tours are out; virtual tours are in.

What’s the best video editing software to use?

Matterport cameras are sold out – Wait, what?

Need to accelerate the search marketing budget. Need to increase Google search and social sponsored spend.

I guess we can cut the entertainment and travel budget. Just call me Captain Obvious.

April 30, 2020

Timely thought leadership pieces are critical right now. We published our article on processing rent relief. Our reports on Rent Relief and Response are getting great response. Our clients need more of that.

I can’t get the MS Teams ring tone out of my head. We’re tired of MS Teams.

We’re forging ahead with that award submission. Is it safe to get our entries printed??

Are we in a sprint or a marathon? It’s a marathon that we’re running at sprint speed. It’s a marathon with no finish line in sight. How much longer will this go on??

May 15, 2020

The team is doing what they do best, to help our experts and clients.

We’re going a step further and sharing our marketing best practices. We produced a brochure and video on Property Marketing During COVID-19. We’re working on a brochure and video on “Smart Marketing Solutions in a Virtual Environment”. We’re working on a series of videos featuring our marketing leaders sharing best practices for effective property marketing. . . . We’re recording it using MS Teams. . . . Did I say I was tired of MS Teams? I love MS Teams!

Yay, we got more Matterport cameras!

I’m worried about the team. We’re operating as a leaner group with leaner resources. We’re juggling the demands of work with our personal responsibilities, all while working remotely. I hope they’re doing as well as can be expected. It’s hard to tell not being able to see them in person.

Do they miss me too?

May 18, 2020

I’m truly humbled. Members of the team came together to spearhead a grassroots community outreach program to combat food insecurity among Canada’s most vulnerable populations. This pandemic is impacting us all, but it’s certainly hitting others harder. Puts things in perspective.

May 25, 2020

It’s time to return to the office – for some of our offices and clients. We started reopening our Canadian offices while our people everywhere continue to work tirelessly to support their teams, serve clients’ needs and keep business moving.

Our internal Return to Office task force, consisting of our Senior Leadership, Communications and HR teams, did a remarkable job creating our internal Return to Office strategy. We need protocol posters for the offices. Lots of posters. We need stock images of people NOT touching, NOT shaking hands and NOT standing close together. I feel for our design team. But I’m also happy I no longer have to look at that darn image of everyone huddled, their hands on top of one another’s, ever again. Ever.

We also need a day where we’re NOT in back-to-back meetings, NOT forbidden from taking washroom breaks in between, and NOT constantly “on” for the camera. Now I know how Will and Kate feel – I can’t keep up. So I’m setting a zero-meetings day for our team.

June 15, 2020

Having successfully reopened a few of our offices, we’re now using what we know and what we’ve learned to help our clients make a safe and smooth comeback to the office too. We’re providing them our Back to Office Guide.

August 5, 2020

No more webinars. I love podcasts. You love podcasts. Let’s produce a podcast.

Remind me to send a note to the team banning the phrases “now more than ever”, “unprecedented times” and “the new normal” from all materials.

Note to self: Ask our Workplace Advisory team about the Future of the Workplace.

It’s time to prep for a brand refresh.

Did we really just launch a new service line in the middle of all this?

We’re publishing a series of articles on the Future of the Workplace.

I’m back in the office and I miss the team. I’m starting to talk to the walls.

September 16, 2020

I’m excited. I’m bringing on a new national leader of research. I can’t wait to work with him and the team on further upping our thought leadership, research and data programs.

We will elevate our game. Deliver even more value to our people and clients. Help them win more.

But first, I have to get him a computer. Remotely. Wait, what?

October 26, 2020

I feel the chaos is abating. Am I actually breathing now?

We launched our new brand campaign today, focused on what we see – and do – differently – to help clients. It feels good to pivot to a new and strategic initiative versus simply being on reaction mode.

That was a big lift for the Marketing team, in a tight timeline. And we’re getting such positive feedback.

Again, so proud. And thankful.

November 13, 2020

Talk about a feel-good moment amidst all the curveballs this year has thrown our way. We won the awards we’d entered. Now I need to make a virtual victory speech. I’d better get a haircut.

December 15, 2020

It’s 10 days ‘til Christmas. No holiday office party this year, obviously. Note to order Uber Eats gift cards for everyone.  At least I don’t have to worry about getting people home safely. But I’ll miss the prawn tower and charcuterie spread.

A virtual team celebration it will be. Does BYOB apply in this scenario? Could Uber Eats deliver me a prawn tower?

January 19, 2021

What a way to start off the year. I learned today that we’ve won more awards. I’m starting to blush.

I’m also starting to shake. We’re two weeks away from the brand launch. This project has so many moving parts and will impact the entire business. The team has been working around the clock to make it all happen.

A brand refresh is fresher the second time around. We were set to launch last April, but paused when the pandemic hit, to focus on the health and safety of our people and clients.

But we’re ready to go now. Our updated branding reinforces what we do and stand for, including our unwavering commitment to help our people and clients succeed, no matter the circumstances.

February 3, 2021

We did it.  We launched our refreshed brand today. What a lift. What a win. What a team.

I’m capping it off here. I’m simply amazed at how well our whole organization has operated in this disjointed environment amidst – I’m gonna say it – uncertainty. I’ve become allergic to that word, but I swear, it works here. Looking back on the last year (Has it really only been a year?) we’ve been able to up our collaboration and capabilities, working remotely, with leaner resources, in tight timelines.

I can see it now. We all return to the office and give a three-week timeframe for a project, and we hear: “Say what? You did it overnight during the pandemic!”

In all seriousness, while I don’t know exactly what’s ahead, I do know that if we stay agile, support one another and foster culture, the team will be up for the challenge.

I know ours was. And I couldn’t be prouder or more grateful. Thank you.

P.S. I think my ring light just broke. Wait, what?



Lex Perry is responsible for marketing, communications and research for Colliers Canada. A bona fide innovator and outstanding communicator, Lex has a demonstrated track record of successfully designing and implementing…

Read more

Lex Perry is responsible for marketing, communications and research for Colliers Canada. A bona fide innovator and outstanding communicator, Lex has a demonstrated track record of successfully designing and implementing…

Read more




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