Operating in the New Now: Return to Work with a Plan in Place

June 3, 2020

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Sam Fangman

Apartment buildings at sunset

The past few months have been nothing short of eye-opening. The intense speed in which the paradigm shift caused by COVID-19 blanketed our lives was the most jarring of all. One week we were occupying concert halls, stadiums, and crowded restaurants, thinking nothing of our physical proximity to others; and the next we were housebound, bringing work and school into our homes, conducting all communication virtually—completely blurring the lines of normalcy.

As we begin to emerge from months of self-quarantine, many of us are questioning what the “new normal” will entail, and how do we adjust to yet another major shift in our lives? It’s evident that we will not be able to immediately jump back into the hustle of our daily routines with the same vigor as before. That’s why approaching the transition back to work and “regular life” as a marathon, rather than a sprint, will benefit you in the long-term.  With the right precautions and patience in place, you can develop a plan of action to ensure this new beginning is smooth and successful.  

A Gradual Return with Staggered Schedules

Depending on your location, your state might be starting the gradual reopening of its economy. Adorned with face masks, many are packing up their at-home work setups and returning to the office. However, the return to the leasing office and beyond needs to be well-though-out. The National Apartment Association’s (NAA) Best Practices to Transitioning Employees Back into the Workplace recommends staggering employee schedules or implementing a four-day work week to reduce the number of employees in the office.

Consider employing temperature screenings as well, as an added safety measure. Some states are requiring temperature checks for all who enter workplaces—be sure to check resources that pertain to your area when making these decisions.

Create a Check List for the Return to Work

Preparation is everything. It can be overwhelming to lead a staff amid so much uncertainty while maintaining business continuity. Lean into reputable sources and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consult resources created by industry leaders for clear steps and guidelines to follow. The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) crafted a list of Resources for Reopening Your Property that includes  a comprehensive checklist of items your team can turn to for guidance on cleaning/sanitation, tenant relations, social distancing, and more.

Build flexibility into your routine and your planning. Once your office is in the soft reopening phase, identify which processes are working, and the eliminate the ones that are not serving your operation.

Communication

Check in, and check in often. Before your employees settle back into the leasing office, hold a meeting where you clearly review your new processes in detail. Ensure your team is on the same page, and foster an environment that encourages questions and suggestions for efficiency. Set obtainable leasing and sales goals that gradually grow along with the country’s reopening phases.

Consider Implementing Self-Showing Technology

One of the intangible effects caused by COVID-19 is the added layer of caution it’s instilled in people’s minds. Apartment hunters will likely to want to limit their contact with leasing agents, and may want to keep communication digital rather than face-to-face. Self-showing automation resources like ShowMojo and Tenant Turner automatically schedule property showings for qualified leads and integrate with your Rent Manager database. They also give you the freedom to extend your office hours with leasing call centers and electronic lockboxes that provide unique codes to leads and vendors, giving them access your rentals without you needing to be onsite to let them in.

Electronic Leases & Online Applications

While COVID-19 has certainly disrupted our lives, it’s also forced us to reinvent our processes and develop innovative solutions for the better. Electronic leases and signable documents are an example of two such ingenuities that have greatly increased efficiency for many property managers. Send a signable document to tenants through your online portal, and the endorse files appear in your Rent Manager database upon completion.

Rent Manager’s Apply Now system allows prospective tenants to submit online applications, pay application fees, and initiate resident screening in one smooth process, completely automating this essential workflow. This feature also shortens your response times, which enhances your customer service efforts and empowers you to lease units faster.

Though returning to the workplace entails another set of unknowns to tackle, there are countless resources available to help make that transition. Be patient with the process and continue to grow your operation in this new age.

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