Remember when you could greet business associates with a handshake, see facial expressions behind the masks, and hug Grandma and Grandpa with impunity (instead of engaging in the rather unsatisfying COVID elbow bump)? The pandemic has left most of us hungering for more meaningful social encounters.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make human connections, though they’ll require some extra creativity. If you’re a property manager trying to find ways to reach out to your residents, we’d like to help with a few suggestions. Here are our top seven tips to help you engage with your tenants while complying with social distancing guidelines.
- Use social media. Whether you use Instagram, Facebook Live or some other platform, form an online meeting place for your community and stay active in it. Keep residents informed about current events in your area and any updates about your properties. Facilitate resident-to-resident engagement by allowing them to crowdsource questions about everything from doctor or car repair recommendations to house training tips for dogs.
- Encourage a little competition. Your social media platform of choice can help you spread the word about friendly competitions for residents. These might include:
- Cutest Animal Contest. Submit your most endearing photo of your pet and let residents vote on the finalists and overall winner.
- Most Beautiful Yard or Balcony. Encourage your tenants’ green thumbs by offering a monthly or quarterly award for beautifying their property.
- Holiday Contests. With Halloween approaching, you may not be able to hold the usual in-person costume contest, but people can get dressed up and submit their photo for a vote. Make sure to offer exciting prizes to up the ante.
- Host a drive-by treat pickup. Maybe you were planning to have an ice cream social or potluck for your residents that got rained on by coronavirus. Never fear! There are still ways to share goodies and facilitate a fun experience. Set up a table topped with packaged edible treats (i.e., individually wrapped muffins or cookies from the local bakery) or a small, non-food gift. Encourage residents to don their masks, drive by, greet your management team from a distance, and pick up a free treat. Have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand and make sure to keep that 6-foot buffer. You can even hold signs with humorous or encouraging messages so your residents know you’re rooting for them.
- [Your Property’s] Got Talent. Host a virtual talent show so that residents can see what others have to offer. Hype it up on your social media platform, encouraging residents to submit a brief recording of a performance. You may be surprised at the hidden talents that emerge. String the video recordings together and show them via Zoom or Google Meet (or other comparable forum). Enable the polling feature to enable residents to vote on their favorite performances.
- Offer a “distanced” community garden. If people are living in apartments or dorms, a little patch of land and a chance to grow something can do their heart good. If you have space to start a community garden, now’s a great time. People working from home might appreciate the chance to get out in the sun, soak up some Vitamin D, and try their hand at a new hobby. You can use an online reservation/sign-up program to ensure that only a limited number of people are working in the garden at once and require people to bring their own tools. You can also provide links to educational materials so people can bone up on their gardening know-how before they get started.
- Guest lecturer. Poll your residents to see what skills they have to offer. Encourage them to make a 15-minute recording of themselves sharing knowledge or teaching some useful skill. Then, offer live or pre-recorded lectures for viewing. If one of your tenants is a hair stylist, he or she could offer a brief tutorial on cutting hair and then entertain questions from the audience (through video conferencing). CPAs could offer a Q&A as tax season approaches. A nurse could teach a brief course on basic first aid. Put out the call and enjoy seeing what skill sets reside in your properties.
- Keep the mail coming. Now more than ever, America is depending on delivery services to get the things they need while minimizing contact that could spread illness. Make sure that your mailroom is not the weak link. If you are currently relying on outdated technologies, seize the day to update to the latest and greatest package delivery software. Replace the old, unreliable bar code scanner with a simple app that offers features like optical character recognition, inbound and outbound tracking, and photo notification of package delivery.
PackageX offers all of the above features plus instant communication options that allow you to stay in contact with your residents about their mail. With a few keystrokes, you can fire off an email that allows them to click a button indicating whether they want to forward, hold, discard or snap/email their documents. Talk about time saving—not to mention safe (given the contactless delivery options this offers during the pandemic).
Hopefully, we’ll soon return to a day where you can chat with your residents face to face, re-open community rooms and amenities, and host morale-building gatherings. Until then, keep the good will and cheer flowing by connecting in other ways. Engaged residents are happy residents, and happy residents stay—and invite their friends to join them.