April 14, 2020

Digital Connections – Our New Reality


OUR NEW REALITY by Ari Abramson, Vice President, Acquisitions

In 2019, my work for CRC took me on approximately 150 flights and led me to spend 100 nights in hotels. I know which TSA agents at BWI are friendly, which airports have remote rental car parking lots, and where to find the fastest Starbucks in a dozen different cities in the Southeast. But for the past month or so, I – and millions have others – have been grounded.

We are currently under a “shelter-in-place” mandate and are challenged to work from home. COVID-19 is an enormous global humanitarian challenge. The world is a different place today than yesterday and just from last month for that matter. We have been blocking-and-tackling professionally and personally to remain safe and continue forward on all fronts. Many of us are working from home for the very first time.

For me, this is a complete change of pace, as I typically spend my week traveling (running) through the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast portions of the country searching for potential multifamily investment opportunities and maintaining our relationships with in-person meetings with other owners, operators, investors, developers and investment sales brokers. But social distancing has changed that routine. Now, I camp out in my basement “office” and try to learn a new routine to maintain organizational connectedness, ongoing critical activities, and interactions with friends and family. There is no sugarcoating the effects of the virus, which has already had devastating consequences for people all over the world and may get much worse in the months ahead. We have all experienced the loss of vacations, birthday parties, life milestones, and religious events. And we have watched with horror and heartache as millions of people lose their jobs, the death toll climbs, and families are forever changed.

However, as the VP of Acquisitions, I’m always in search of a bright spot, a silver lining, and a half-full glass. I’d like to share some transformational POSITIVE effects that have reshaped my life – and our household – over the past few weeks.

I’ve been on a consistent and steady stream of Teams meetings with CRC colleagues and Zoom calls with my external business relationships to share market insights and try to understand the implications of the pandemic on future multifamily investment and on-going operations. These professional conversations have naturally expanded to include more open personal conversations about our respective families, personal health and our free time interests. I’m seeing the lines between business and family converge as these conversations have a more personal tone. Of course, Teams or Zoom calls allow us each to have small glimpse into our respective home offices, living rooms, and kitchen tables which provides a very intimate personal look into the lives of our colleagues. This personal exposure further connects us (on a virtual basis) and deepens established relationships.

Working from home has also required me to share space with a new set of “coworkers,” my wife and two children. In my house, Zoom “bombs” often come in the form of little heads appearing on the screen making smiley faces. But, I’ve enjoyed the new work-life balance with my family and have grown accustomed to our new daily routines. In our pre-COVID-19 routine, I primarily parented in the morning and rushed the kids to school and then in evenings (often over FaceTime on weeknights due to travel) to put the kids to bed. Now, our family eats three meals a day together and enjoys frequent biking adventures or backyard sports. I know that I’ll soon return to my road warrior status and will look back on this unprecedented time at home and appreciate being part of my kids’ daily adventures.

We’re still working just as hard, but the amount of time we have in which to work is just less. With young children in the house, my wife – who also has a full time job – and I juggle. I used to have complete autonomy over my calendar – if I needed to be in Charleston on Tuesday, Orlando on Wednesday and Raleigh on Friday, that’s what I did. But today, not only can I not travel, but I need to help my son with his reading assignment and make sure my daughter is connected to her Google Meet-Up virtual class. I must be present in their daily lives in a way I never was before. And it’s exhausting. But it has also made me more efficient. I’ve exercised more consistently than I ever have. I plan my day, prioritize my to-dos, and work as efficiently as possible, seizing full advantage of every open window. We are still getting our work done in a timely manner and representing the company well either on the front lines or in our virtual communities
or properties.

I can’t wait to leave the house, to see each of you around the office or when I visit your property. I am right there with you – feeling the same emotions, facing the same challenge, reading the same news stories – and trying hard to appreciate the good. Amid the stress and the juggling, I try to take a moment of fun for myself every day and allocate time to fully focus on my family. Even though this time is tough, we can be together, create memories and remain positive. Stay safe, healthy and HOME.