The COVID-19 pandemic forced community managers and association boards to rapidly implement new processes and use existing technology in innovative ways while adjusting to the public health crisis in real time, creating many operational changes that have started to become permanent.
Much of this innovation minimizes unnecessary contact and exposure by using integrated mobile applications and software to process payments, submit and manage work orders, schedule times to use fitness centers and other amenities, vote in elections, and much more.
Here are some examples of how associations have adapted their operations during the pandemic.
Associations have opted for contactless delivery of packages using mobile apps, where front desk staff and receiving teams can use a photo as proof of delivery instead of requiring a signature. Communities also have used apps or online portals to set up scheduling systems for residents to reserve specific times to use the pool, fitness center, conference rooms, or other amenities while limiting capacity. This allows cleaning and maintenance crews to have a fixed time of day to sanitize these areas. The collective heightened awareness of the importance of proper disinfecting to reduce the spread of germs will remain paramount in a post-COVID-19 world.
In-person voting will not completely go away, as evidenced by how many voters opted to cast ballots at polling sites before and on Election Day despite vote-by-mail records being shattered during the 2020 election cycle. At the community association level, providing an electronic voting option for annual board elections—especially through voting platforms that are easy to use by residents of all ages—serves as a convenient and safe alternative to voting in person. Having both options will likely result in stronger voter participation, which could ultimately yield higher resident engagement.
In the professional world, virtual meetings are an efficiency that is not going away. For association boards, monthly or quarterly meetings can be simultaneously cast on closed-circuit television stations in communities and secure virtual platforms—the latter allowing those tuning in live to use the chat and handraising functions to ask questions or provide input. Board meetings also can be recorded and saved in resident portals for on-demand viewing at their convenience
Some communities have made use of mobile apps that can create virtual resident identification cards to display when accessing amenities and to seamlessly send mass communication through text, voice, and push notifications. Others have found an efficient way to share important information by installing interactive display panels in lobbies or mailrooms to notify residents about events, meetings, agendas, and more.
Limitations imposed by the COVID- 19 pandemic on in-person gatherings have led to innovation in how community associations operate, and now there is no turning back for many going forward.
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Trycia Arencibia is the managing director of association finance and technology at KW Property Management & Consulting, a Florida-based property management company.