With the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic coronavirus eliciting a host of new behaviors personally and professionally, the need for more flexibility in employee policies and procedures has been a hot topic among companies across all industries.
Given the essential societal role the industry plays through providing housing, employers should consider the unprecedented nature of this crisis and why it necessitates greater workplace flexibility. Requiring an employee to exhaust all paid time off (PTO) at this time is likely not a best practice for resolving this concern, so how do employers meet their workforce more than halfway?
Employers must face the reality that employees needs are changing. Lack of child care, caring for ailing parents, those sick from the virus and other personal responsibilities are more a priority than ever before. Employees certainly should be allowed to use PTO, but employers should relax the rules relating to the notice of use of PTO and avoid enforcing the policy in a manner that results in the employee having to use all PTO because of a school closing or related challenges, like elder care.
But the issue remains: How can any company optimally operate with a portion of their staffing unable to work regular hours because of the pandemic?
For each company, the idea and execution of workplace flexibility may look different. This may be easier for corporate offices, as there are more shared job responsibilities and most, if not all, employees may have the option for remote work.
The more challenging part of flexibility greatly affects those employees working onsite, serving on the front lines. Each property has limited staff in place and with the need to be physically present to assist residents, there is difficulty in continuing to meet resident needs and expectations while working with this limited staff and the limited operating hours.
There are many ways to allow for flexibility for all employees, including onsite team members:
- Job sharing and compressed workweeks are a start.
- Shared staffing, or “floaters,” between multiple properties is encouraged.
- Cross-training employees will ensure that when someone is out, there is always a minimum of one other person who can complete a specialized task in their absence.
- Leveraging technology for virtual leasing, online payments and resident requestsshould be a primary area of focus. Retrain residents to understand the difference in services that still provide value. Are you there because your residents demand your physical presence or because technology platforms are non-existent or minimally used?
This will especially be difficult for long-term residents who expect personnel to be onsite daily, such as maintenance staff walking residents through work orders remotely or providing resources such as resident handbooks and videos on how to complete simple maintenance in their homes. Create solid relationships with companies you can contract for cleaning and other tasks in the event of absence. Utilize smart locks, allowing access to areas for residents and contractors. Partner with a local temp staffing agency to assist with extended absences. Outside of standard operating hours, determine your core business hours. This is the time frame that your employees are most focused and readily available to assist your residents. This shortened period of time can be communicated to residents and supplier partners to ensure someone is available to meet their needs.
Allowing increased flexibility for all employees will continue to be a significant challenge for companies. Trying to be flexible and allow work from home when possible will be key.
Stephanie Anderson is the Senior Director, Content Strategy Manager, at Grace Hill. With almost 15 years of property management experience, Anderson brings a wealth of knowledge specializing in revenue management, creative marketing and employee development. She was NAAEI’s 2015 Designate of the Year and CAM of the Year in 2013. She is a powerhouse speaker that shares her industry knowledge, motivates professionals to greater success and disrupts status quo with out of the box ideas and trends. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where she majored in English Literature and Women’s Studies. She holds a Virginia Real Estate License and is certified as a National Instructor for NAAEI.