March 17, 2020
Part 2: Property Management & COVID-19
In Part 1, we examined a few common questions and offered up some resources for multifamily property management firms concerned about COVID-19 in their workplace, and in their communities.
Recently, at an Royal Bank of Canada’s office, dozens of employees went into self-isolation at home after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. In the same day, BDO Canada confirmed that a downtown office was cleared, and all employees were sent home to work after a staff member there tested positive.
As cases of COVID-19 increase across Canada, companies are quickly having to come to grips with how to keep employees safe and yet find ways to still work together, either while in the office or during periods of self-quarantine.
Spread the Message, Not COVID-19
When someone in the office (a tenant dropping off a cheque, or an employee) has COVID-19 and coughs, sneezes or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, possibly be inhaled into the lungs, or left on desktop surfaces. It’s also possible that employees could catch COVID-19 by touching these surfaces or items, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
The World Health Organization advises that you “brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home.”
Many organizations are encouraging proper handwashing hygiene and coughing etiquette by putting up posters, and ensuring that there are plenty of disposable tissues, anti-bacterial hand sanitizers, and closed lid bins for disposal. Discourage employees from using other workers’ desks, phones, or other work tools and equipment.
Designate an area or room where someone who may have symptoms can go until they can be safely transferred to their home to self-quarantine, or see a medical professional. Ensure that masks are on hand for this person.
Rethink the Meetings
Before the next office meeting consider whether or not it is 1.) needed, 2.) could be held via teleconference or 3.) if in person, could it be scaled down so fewer people attend?
If a meeting is required, forego the usual shaking of hands, and opt for a simple hello instead. Prep the meeting room with tissues and an alcohol rub/anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. Open doors and windows if possible, to ensure good ventilation.
Promote Online Rent Payment
Property management firms that have the majority of their rent payments online are protected. Tenants can pay their rent online, and do not have to visit your office, protecting both your tenant and your staff. Rent payments can go through, even if your office needs to shut down for a week or two, or run on a skeleton staff. However, those taking cheques are at huge financial risk in case of lock-downs and bank closures.
Ensure Online Collaboration & Teleworking
A company is only as good as its people, and how they work together. Property management software enhances collaboration between teams and better coordination of tasks. If your building is locked down, or operating on reduced staffing levels, then things like at-a-glance dashboards, digital records, communications tools, and anywhere/anytime access will play a huge role in managing your business and ensuring revenue.
Obviously, a digital maintenance portal that does away with paperwork that is passed from hand to hand is crucial to keeping your property running efficiently. During this time, it is a good idea to heighten the cleaning of common areas and alert your tenants to how you are addressing the issue.
If you have a pool or spa on the premises, here is what the US Center for Disease Control says currently:
“There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs. Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Update: Since the original publication date of this post, it is now advisable to close all non-essential communal areas like gyms, pools, play areas and pools.
Equip inspection staff with gloves to reduce contact with surfaces while performing a unit inspection. Online property management systems also date-stamp when photos were uploaded and information entered, so that you have a digital record of employee/maintenance staff location and times, if ever required.
How Property Vista Helps
Property Vista not only helps drive productivity and efficiencies, it is a web-based tool that allows you and your people to work remotely, yet improve collaboration. With real-time information and at-a-glance dashboards, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your properties and revenues, 24/7 from anywhere in the world. See pricing here.