How to Manage Common Areas & Shared Amenities in a COVID-19 Lockdown

Many businesses and even industries are directly impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the sharp curtailing of normal business output collectively in the U.S. economy because of the coronavirus, businesses still need clients and customers. However, these businesses will continue to struggle if customer visits are suppressed and consumers are exhorted to stay home. 

Making it even tougher for businesses is local and state government leaders who have implemented strict social distancing guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  According to these guidelines, reducing the instances of face-to-face contact is still the best way – along with wearing masks – to tamp down the spread of COVID-19.  The CDC asserts that COVID-19 spreads primarily among people who are within about 6 feet of each other for a prolonged period. Although these rules are designed to keep us safe, they make it very difficult for those individuals whose job involves meeting with other people on a daily basis. 

Property managers are an example of people who rely on regular contact with other people to do their jobs. In addition to meeting people frequently, they are also charged with managing common areas and shared amenities. This is very challenging amidst the pandemic that prompts such austere social distancing rules. 

Against the backdrop of the medical and economic carnage caused by the COVID-19 virus, work does not come to a grinding halt for most property managers. Properties still must be maintained, clients need to be updated, and common areas and amenities still have to be managed. 

With this extra layer of challenge, how are property managers to ensure that their common areas and amenities on their properties are regularly checked and well maintained?

Maintain an Updated Business Continuity Plan that Includes a Well Planned Out COVID-19 Response

As a result of these unprecedented and unique times we are living through, one of the key things that all businesses must have in place is a business continuity plan (BCP). The goal of this plan is to ensure that businesses have strategies in place to operate during an unplanned disruption in service. Similarly, property management companies are required to have a COVID-19 response plan as part of their BCP. A pandemic response is now a vital part of any risk management and business continuity plan. 

In the meantime, property managers should stay attuned to any state and local orders so you can adjust your plan accordingly. Best practices regarding sanitation and disinfection of common areas needs to be included in your standard procedures, and not done merely on a special basis. For example, sanitation of door handles, lobby/reception areas, elevator buttons, stair railings, and other common facilities should be standard or normal practices. 

People typically have more success following visual cues than written reminders. That is why property managers should post visible signs that advise tenants to avoid congregating in common areas. It is best to place these signs in heavily trafficked areas such as a lobby or waiting rooms. Another helpful idea to keep people adhering to the social distancing mandate is to place floor stickers that are clearly visible and spaced the required 6 feet apart for guests while they wait in line in the lobby. Property managers also have the option of placing physical barriers or blocks as a visible prompt for residents to show areas that are off-limits. 

Keep Stakeholders Updated with Relevant Information

Always circulate updated information to tenants, vendors, contractors, etc., whenever there are changes to the local guidelines. The CDC guidelines for social distancing haven’t changed and their guidelines still recommend avoiding social gatherings and for people to stay 6 feet apart. Regarding other common areas, such as a pool, gym, or clubhouse, property managers should inform their tenants to adhere to local guidelines and recommendations by the state when it comes to social distancing. 

Property managers need to underscore the importance of public safety above all else, including when met with resistance by tenants.  Clear and open communication is vital for property managers in overseeing public safety and enforcing these COVID-19 rules with socially-minded tenants, some of whom might rail against these social distancing mandates. 

Property managers would do well to distribute information packets and updates and post copies on bulletin boards and online community boards. Property managers should encourage ongoing correspondence with their tenants, and let tenants know they can request clarification on facilities that are open for use and updates on state and local guidelines. 

So residents can plan accordingly, property managers should post maintenance schedules on bulletin boards and information boards. Making available a regular schedule for sanitation and disinfection procedures to residents will also help to ensure compliance with COVID-19 rules. 

Property managers should always keep the communication lines open with tenants, and be eager to answer questions and provide updates. All of this goes toward reassuring nervous residents during these uncertain times. 

Full-Service Property Management with Jerry D. Abrams Company, Inc.

Jerry D. Abrams Company, Inc. manages several commercial properties throughout the Tri-Cities. We aggressively work toward reducing operating expenses and increasing cash flow for our clients. Our objectives include performance excellence, professionalism, communication, responsive/personal service, and attention to detail.

Our managers are attentive and highly responsive to the individual needs of our clients, as well as their tenants.