Managing condominium buildings during an unprecedented pandemic have posed many challenges, but quick implementation of changes to protect residents, staff and necessary visitors have changed some services possibly for the better!
Adapting to a fast changing environment due to COVID-19 is a continuously evolving process and we continue to learn new challenges and solutions on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Adhering to government guidelines and protocols were prioritized, resulting in many positive impacts on efficiency of services, including further digitizing communication channels. Alternatively, negative effects include forced closures of sought after amenities and prolonged sanitization protocols performed by cleaning staff. In conclusion, continuous risk management will result in stronger management solutions and execution in future.
Planning for resident cases of COVID-19
Assessing, planning and mitigating for the possibility of resident cases or outbreaks is obviously a very important consideration. Having a plan in place allows for better management if and when active cases occur. Resident safety, including anonymity is highly important to protect a condominium community. To ensure on-going condominium safety the following topics have been a necessary focus of property management during this time.
Elevators – Concurrent with other high touch areas of the building, elevator cleanliness and social distancing rules are extremely important in light of COVID-19. Guidelines of no more than 2 individuals in an elevator are clearly identified by signage, through digital communication and have been properly adhered to by residents. Although minimizing elevator occupancy has an impact on increased wait times for elevator cabs, general traffic has decreased due to stay home measures and an increase of residents working remotely. Once public places and offices begin to reopen additional measures to decrease ques in lobby areas will need to be considered. Physical reminders such as 6ft decals on walkways are a great way to remind individuals to keep distance and keep themselves and others safe!
Garbage disposal – In light of residents spending more time at home throughout COVID-19 garbage disposal volume has dramatically increased. Management quickly realized additional support would be required, including increased recycling due to higher parcel delivery volumes. Cleaning staff activities are reallocated to higher volume areas requiring extra care, including garbage chute rooms and high touch surfaces throughout the building. Since amenities have been inaccessible to residents, dedicated time spent cleaning these facilities is now the focus of high touch areas including garbage rooms and managing extra disposal. Once amenities slowly reopen continued consideration and reevaluation of meticulous cleaning measures will help to ensure safety and sanitization.
Deliveries – Deliveries are a never ending phenomenon for condo concierge and residents. COVID-19 has led to changes in delivery practices by limiting physical contact by removing certain hands on procedures such as signatures. Moving towards a digital approach in all aspects of deliveries helps manage the on-going pandemic with as little interruption as possible. Electronic scanning of packages from courier services is a great way to implement a safe receipt of delivery and offers quick logging and organization for concierge. Automatic notifications of parcel deliveries are sent to residents to know packages have arrived. Limiting deliveries to individual units (including food delivery) removes any additional contact to surfaces and residents by delivery personnel. Moving toward a hands off digital environment streamlines logistics and increases overall safety through social distancing.
Amenities – Safe amenity environments are always a top priority for condo management but due to pandemic situations additional attention to safety and guidelines are evolving and increasing in importance. Extensive amenities such as large gyms, pools, party rooms and outdoor areas (dog parks) are sought after qualities by potential and current residents to enjoy. COVID-19 posed serious health risks to the safety of residents and resulted in some, if not all amenities to be inaccessible for a period of time. Re-opening amenities, mandated by provincial or municipal guidelines, still poses serious risks to residents, visitors and staff and requires extra planning and attention. Additional cleaning services are required to maintain safety and guidelines must be communicated concisely. Condo management decisions should reflect and communicate safe social distancing practices including but not limited to: recommended occupancy, hand sanitizing stations, suggested face mask use and actively enforce new procedures and guidelines. Amenity enjoyment and safety is a top priority to residents and will need to be reassessed often in an uncertain climate. Management due diligence relating to COVID-19 is a top priority to satisfy both the quality of amenity and overall environment with an emphasis on safety.
Visitors – Safety of all residents is a top priority. Social distancing is a proven method to stop the spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19. Management followed suggested government protocols and communicated guidelines to residents and common areas to limit visitors. An honor system of this guideline was in place and all communication otherwise was kept confidential to protect residents alike.
Communication & Services
Digital Communication – Communication with residents is always a very important aspect of property management, but in times of increased safety and awareness concise communication is crucial. Moving towards a more digital approach has been an occurring trend and has been kicked into high gear during COVID-19. Although some physical paper reminders have been placed in high traffic areas such as elevators, lobbies and entrances, virtual communication helps promote social distancing. Messaging on TVs has been almost strictly limited to COVID-19 safety measures to assure reach is inevitable. Open communication is also an important part of the process to ensure resident, board member and staff voices are heard as they apply to the safety of the community as a whole. Anonymous communication and identity protection when reporting cases or complaints relating to the spread of the disease or protocols provides a welcoming environment to maximize safety of staff and residents.
Contractors & Services/Employees – Visitors have been limited during this time to necessary visitors, which would include contractors and additional on-site staff to support COVID-19 safety practices. Clear communication of procedures on site helps to protect both visiting contractors/services as well as on site staff and residents. Any outside necessary visitors are required to wear personal protective equipment including masks and gloves and refusal to do so is considered a breach of community safety. The ultimate goal is to continue to provide a safe environment for all, with additional measures to address an uncertain climate. Management has mirrored suggested protocols by governing bodies as well communication from residents, staff, board members and management in order to map the best possible solutions.