• Annaliese

Community and connection is more important than ever; but what does that look like in this new landscape?

As we continue to navigate this unfamiliar territory of the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly apparent that social distancing is going to be the new normal for a while. Therefore, instead of resisting this new landscape, we need to dive into it.

Researchers have found that loneliness is as bad for our physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 15 cigarettes a day. Property managers need to help residents combat loneliness and isolation by creating a sense of community through shared experiences.

Yes, you may need to pivot a bit. After all, the role property management plays in apartment communities was not meant to live only in the virtual space. However, the goal remains the same: To create a community for residents. The need for community and for connection does not just disappear because residents cannot leave their homes. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The need for community and connection right now—in any form, no matter how brief—is more important than ever.

Therefore, instead of postponing or canceling future events and/or activities, brainstorm how to tailor the event/activity to work within these circumstances. Don’t wait to add an event to the calendar once social distancing is behind us. There are so many ways to create shared experiences. Here are just a few ways:

  • Trivia Night: Bring residents together weekly or monthly with a little friendly competition. A lot of people that hosted trivia at local bars are now hosting it virtually.

  • Cooking Class/Demonstration: Pair up with a chef from a nearby restaurant to bring an interactive, virtual cooking class and/or demonstration to residents.

  • Paint and Sip: There are many Paint and Sip businesses run by local artists around the Boston area. Drop off the necessary supplies to the residents who sign up, and offer a night of creativity.

These are just a few ways to connect residents, not only with one another but with local businesses in the neighborhood as well. Furthermore, by providing an opportunity to tip or donate to these businesses, residents can contribute to their community. But not all events need to be so formal and structured. Any amount of time your residents can connect as a community will be beneficial, even if it is simply bringing everyone together for five minutes of clapping and cheering to remind residents that we are all in this together.

There are so many ways to provide connection and community—it’s just going to require a little creativity. Residents are eager to join together. So continue to provide and encourage shared experiences, even if it’s just for five minutes. Be the spark residents need to regain their sense of community.

  • Annaliese

We’re in the thick of a pandemic, and at a time where we want to band together, we are being forced to social distance and encouraged to stay home. As a property manager, you are likely trying to navigate how to ensure the safety of your residents and keep your community just that—a community. Don’t lose sight of the most important, yet simple action you can take: Communication. Consistent communication with your residents is key.

What actions have you taken thus far to keep the community safe? What are the next steps? How will these changes impact the staff and the residents? What issues, if any, do you foresee as a result of these actions? What is the best way for residents to communicate with property management right now? Or with each other?

There is inevitably a lot of uncertainty that needs to be addressed and communicated. And it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right now—this crisis is unprecedented and constantly changing. It’s important to keep your residents aware and ensure that you are doing everything you can to keep the community safe and informed.

So: Communication. What does that look like during a pandemic?

What to communicate

Let’s start with what you should be communicating. Well, everything. Start with letting residents know what steps the property management has taken so far to ensure the safety and well-being of the community and the staff. There is no action that is too small to communicate. Although all actions might not directly impact residents themselves, and may be something they weren’t concerned about, it still provides a level of comfort to share updates with them, showing that you are doing everything in your control to manage during this crisis.

How to communicate

How you communicate information matters, too. First, decide on the format or platform that you want to communicate—a newsletter or email? On Trova? (Yep, shameless plug.) Or, lean into our new reality and send updates via video or host a virtual collaborative meeting once a week, where residents can choose to attend and voice their concerns. Get creative! These are unique and extremely isolating times—connection is important.

Once you have decided which platform to use, set clear expectations for residents on how and when they will receive updates. If you cannot keep the communication and updates on one platform, ensure that it is at least consistent across all platforms. This will help avoid confusion for residents on where to find the information they need.

If one resident has reached out with a specific question, it is safe to assume there are many residents with the same question. Make a note of these questions as they come in and incorporate each into your next update. But try not to wait for residents to have questions, either. Be proactive in anticipating concerns and inquiries as you send out an update to eliminate confusion and frustration and instead, ensure trust.

Keep it positive

For most, this is a scary and isolating time. A time when we cannot find comfort in surrounding ourselves with our loved ones. Everyone needs help staying positive right now. So, share that good news story and challenge your residents to do the same. Offer calming exercises or helpful articles as you come across them. Ensure that the discourse in your communication updates is constructive and does not spread fear or alarm. Do what you can to lift up your community.

And if you need some positivity right now, please watch this video:

Provide alternatives

If you offer a gym, pool, or other common areas, it’s likely that these have limited access or are closed entirely. Fortunately, there is a host of free activities online, from fitness classes to educational courses. Help your residents find an alternative to working out at the gym or hosting game night in the common area. If most of their time was spent outside of their apartment, provide suggestions on how to spend their time inside—maybe it’s a free college course or cooking class. Again, now is the time to think outside the box.

Here are a few that we've stumbled upon:

  • EverybodyFights, a Boston-based boxing studio, is offering free classes on Instagram

  • Fly LDN is streaming three yoga classes daily on Instagram

  • Ten Percent Happier is offering podcast episodes, guided meditations, and talks on their website

  • Yale's most popular class, The Science of Well-Being, taught by Laurie Santos, is being offered for free right now. Additionally, there are plenty of courses offering free enrollment that you can find on Class Central

Community Involvement

People are looking for ways to help—locally, nationally, globally. Don’t hesitate to help residents get involved. Recommend ways they can contribute or donate—maybe it’s for less fortunate families in the city or state, maybe it’s an organization for nurses and doctors across the country.

And don’t overlook the power of cultivating change within the community. Reach out to see if any tenants are fitness and/or yoga instructors and would want to teach a virtual class. Maybe there is a resident who is a chef and could host a virtual cooking demonstration. Or a professor or an expert in any field that would love to share their knowledge in a webinar. Reach out to the community for suggestions!

Here's a great read on how to show up for your neighbors right now. Share this with your residents if you feel it would be helpful!

How you lead now will have a lasting impact on your residents. Communication—in any and all forms—is so important. It’s vital in leading your community through this time of uncertainty and social distancing. Get creative on how to keep your residents informed and engaged. Provide an outlet for them to voice their concerns—and listen.

We’re all in this together.