More than ten months after the first announcement by the UK Government of a nationwide lockdown we, like others across our industry, are still open for business.
Back then, distributing office equipment to homes around the UK, mailing lessees to encourage sign up to our online portal and the creation and communication of new procedures, in preparation for what was to come, ensured we were able to mobilise our teams rapidly to home-working. In 2021 our office staff are still working from home and everything that can be done remotely is being done remotely.
Like all managing agents, we have had to tackle the challenges of obtaining and distributing PPE, of enhanced cleaning whilst retaining social distancing and keeping our on-site staff safe, and of maintaining buildings with more residents now at home around the clock. Managing the expectations of anxious lessees during this period has been challenging but with site visits still severely restricted, essential cleaning and maintenance continues and residents are grateful for that.
Property managers have for many months been dealing with unique sets of circumstances that they have never dealt with before which means training, mentoring and support from colleagues, and communication have never been more important.
We are grateful to the training providers who like us with our Academy training sessions have adapted to online learning, allowing our support for employees who are studying for professional qualifications to continue. With all the uncertainty that surrounds us it is important for people to have some stability and know that not everything has to go on hold and that they can continue to work towards their career goals.
The growth in resources for coping with mental health issues helped us launch our own wellness programme, Encore Life, highlighting various initiatives to support and encourage healthy behaviour at work and emphasise the importance of mental as well as physical health during these difficult times.
Technology, to, has been key to keeping things running and has facilitated so much already as we have come to appreciate how things can be done remotely. Managing and allocating payment receipts and invoices, creating clever reports and dashboards that synthesize and pre-analyse complex information are some of the examples of intelligent automation which have changed the way we work and helped us maintain our service to our customers. Remote working has led to a greater reliance on online interactions and anyone who remembers the high demand for apps such as Zoom and Teams, and for accessories such as cables, monitors and webcams in the Spring of 2020 will know that without significant investment in IT prior to the pandemic, things may have been much more difficult.
With more people than ever staying at home, property management has been recognised as an essential service and although many projects have been postponed in line with Government guidelines, others have been completed successfully. The Building Safety Fund for example was announced in the middle of the pandemic with very tight timeframes to submit information. Despite the shortage of available suitable professionals at that time, good project management and correct prioritisation secured the completion of external wall assessments of all buildings of more than 18m, and when remedial works were required to the external walls of those buildings, the tender process began thus conforming to Government deadlines.
Despite the issues created by the pandemic, work goes on to protect the interests of leaseholders; preparing buildings for cladding remediation, maintaining lifts, fire detection and protection systems and the supply of utilities and dealing with emergencies just as we would under normal circumstances.
As with many aspects of our lives, all of this has shown us that stepping outside of our comfort zone makes us stronger.
*This article appeared in News On The Block in February 2021 as part of their feature on the challenges faced by Property Managers during the Covid-19 Pandemic