Overseeing Shared Spaces & Amenities While Social Distancing

By Kailey Walters on July 10, 2020

As we continue to weather the storm of COVID-19, it’s important to continue to maintain proper health and safety guidelines to ensure that everyone is staying as safe as possible. As a property manager, you have your own responsibilities for enacting proper social distancing guidelines when it comes to shared spaces and amenities in the buildings you oversee. If you’re wondering how to follow the appropriate guidelines while also finding a way to keep your residents satisfied, read on.

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Adapt your COVID-19 plan.

With the news constantly emerging and guidelines being developed and changed all the time regarding COVID-19, it’s important that you be ready to adapt your plan. For one thing, pay careful attention to your state and local orders so you can properly align your plan with theirs. You should also communicate with your staff to devise best practices for sanitizing common areas so you and your staff are all on the same page. This may involve, for example, developing a cleaning schedule so that various areas within the buildings and community housing area as a whole are cleaned thoroughly and properly, as well as providing supplies such as soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and trash cans. Further, you can post signs in the common areas to clearly show which places are closed or how many people are allowed to gather there.

Encourage residents to take steps to protect themselves.

Even as you do everything you can to protect your residents, you should encourage them to look out for themselves as well. Remind them to stay at least six feet apart from each other and wear masks in any shared spaces, especially when they are around other people.

You should also inform residents of the resources that are available to them. Ensure that residents are aware of the COVID-19 symptoms that require emergency care or any serious symptoms of their underlying conditions, and that they know who to ask for help and call 911. You can also encourage residents who live alone to have a “buddy” who lives somewhere else in the facility to check on them and help them get necessities such as food.

Enact social distancing in shared spaces.

While some residents may feel they are missing out on socializing at fun community events that they enjoyed in the past, new social distancing guidelines in place will help everyone stay as safe as possible. This may involve canceling all public and non-essential group activities and events; however, depending on your state and local laws, you may be able to hold some public gatherings with people staying at least six feet apart and with a limited number of people allowed in the space. For example, chairs and tables can be set up six feet apart during shared meals or other events; signs can be posted to minimize traffic in enclosed spaces such as elevators and stairwells, and you can make sure that the rooms in the buildings have proper ventilation.

Answer your residents’ questions.

Understandably, many of your residents will have questions about when certain shared spaces, such as the pool, gym, community room, etc., will reopen. Instead of shying away from their inquiries, take the time to answer their questions to the best of your ability. You may not have all the answers right away, but make sure to let them know that you are adhering to the CDC’s rules of social distancing and that the shared spaces will be available for use in the future when it is deemed safe. So even if you don’t necessarily have the answer they’re looking for, as they are probably raring for things to go back to normal, your willingness to answer their questions will show that you are committed to communicating and being a resource for them.

Communicate often.

Going along with the above, it’s important that you maintain an open and frequent line of communication with your residents. Even though you are social distancing like everyone else, you should let them know that your virtual office door is open and that you are more than happy to chat with them or answer their questions through phone, email, or any other virtual or technological means. Make sure to provide your contact information (phone number and email address) to residents so they know exactly how to reach you.

In addition, it’s essential to provide your residents with ongoing and updated information regarding social distancing guidelines and how long the shared spaces and amenities will be closed. Although the news might not be something they want to hear, it’s better to constantly inform them of what’s going on than to keep them in the dark.

While COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines have upset the normal balance of things, that doesn’t mean you or your residents have to stay isolated or confused. Make sure to keep your residents informed so they are up to date on what’s going on.

By Kailey Walters

Uloop Writer
Stony Brook University

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