As a large portion of the country’s workforce shifted towards work-from-home settings, this trend also affected condominium managers and condo management service providers. As we enter into the eleventh month of the pandemic, the question arises: is remote condo management working? The answer is – it depends.
As with many aspects of condo life, management has had to adapt to the “new normal.” Many on-site managers have now returned to their buildings, some with part-time schedules and some full-time. Portfolio managers and supervising managers remain in the wilderness of the home office, strategizing, planning, and serving clients from the comfort of their home.
While managing in your pajama pants topped with a shirt and tie sounds like a rosy scenario, there are some downsides to remote management.
Overworking: The effects of the pandemic and resulting responsibilities have increased the amount of communication required for distribution within communities and organizations. While more resident communication seems like a great idea, the time constraint it imposes on other responsibilities is significant. Tasks that could be completed by sticking your head into the office next door, now involve a dozen emails.
More and more managers report working longer hours and feeling overwhelmed, affecting their mental health and other life responsibilities. This can lead to reduced productivity and work-related stress, not to mention the risk of a burn-out.
Isolation: Remote work affects face time with residents, vendors, colleagues, and other stakeholders. The majority of time is spent in front of a monitor, working independently. Some things are just easier to explain and collaborate on face-to-face.
Ambiguous Schedule: The opportunity to work from home may have been presented as a win-win, with work-life balance, no commute, and the ability to set your own hours. However, home-based managers are presented with a flow of distractions and disruptions. In addition, many managers slip into the habit of working through and into personal time.
But remote condominium management is not all doom and gloom. In fact, it offers many benefits, including time savings, flexibility, and smoother operations.
Time Savings: Portfolio managers have reduced travel time from commuting to the head office and visiting sites. While performing inspections has not wavered, this remains one of the PM’s main contractual obligations. Holding meetings can now be done remotely or via phone. Managers are now adopting more technological tools to stay on top of their tasks, ranging from implementing tracking sheets to hosting/chairing virtual meetings. Board meetings and owner meetings are now much shorter than when held in-person.
Flexibility: Management providers have adopted technology, taking full advantage of VPNs, cloud storage, digital solutions for financial management, and virtual meeting software. Managers are increasingly improving prioritization and delegation skills leading to increased productivity. There is also the potential for reduced administrative cost savings. Printing, mail, and deliveries are now increasingly substituted by e-mail, cloud storage, and software.
Smoother operations: Many communities have reported increased owner participation as managers have employed various technological solutions to moderate meetings and engage residents through management portals. Community discussion boards and virtual events are hosted instead of physical meetings. One creative manager created a YouTube channel for the community, which has boosted morale during this difficult time.
Annual General Meetings have seen record participation levels and owner engagement. Numerous bylaws have been passed as a result of instituting technological solutions. There are even examples where a virtual meeting has allowed for a calm removal of board directors, which can be controversial.
Is remote management for everyone? The answer is also – it depends.
Recent developments have shown that condominium managers are highly adaptable creatures, pillars, and sometimes, heroes of condominium communities across the province. Remote management will be an integral part of the condominium management for years to come. It is up to us as managers to lead the way.
Val Khomenko is the principal condominium manager for Regional Group, a full-service real-estate investment and management firm, based in Ottawa, Ontario. Val leads Regional’s condo team with 7+ years of experience in the condominium industry. He can be reached at 613-230-2100, Ext. 7409.