As stricter measures are placed across Australia and New Zealand following the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, many property and strata managers find themselves working from home almost overnight.
This quick turn of events can be challenging, along with dealing with the pandemic especially if you haven’t done remote work before. To help you ease into what could be the new normal, here are work from home best practices that you can follow.
1. Get your systems ready
Remote access of applications you use at work is critical in transitioning smoothly from office to home. Cloud-based software solutions, like Property Tree, is designed for this – all you need is an internet connection and you're good to go.
But not all software you use is going to be online, and some files you need will be saved in your office PC. In this case, it will be best to use a third party remote access software that will allow you to access desktop applications, like Rest Professional or Strata Master as well as other saved documents in your work PC from the device you’re using at home.
2. Keep online meetings engaging
Online meetings are a necessary part of any remote work arrangement but it is important to treat them the same as in-office meetings so they remain professional and engaging.
Video conferencing helps translate the face-to-face interaction of in-office meetings and encourages active listening and participation from attendees. Use video conferencing apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams which have free and paid versions you can use to hold your meetings virtually with your team and customers. Take advantage of screen sharing features for presentations and recording features to document meetings properly.
If you’re a strata manager, holding meetings with owners and committee members - like your AGMs - is a key part of your job. Video conferencing via Zoom or Microsoft Teams is a great way to turn these all important meetings virtual, and when it comes time to vote on a motion, you can utilise an online voting facility to allow your owners and committee members to vote on motions digitally as well. If you're using Strata Master, here's a quick guide to help you set up, use and vote using the online voting feature.
Lastly, always keep in mind standard business meeting best practices: create and share meeting agendas before the meeting, be on time, take down notes and action items during the meeting, and share the minutes to the team afterwards. And if you're running a strata meeting, recording and distributing minutes and following other best preactices is not only important, but essentiall for maintaining compliance.
3. Communicate effectively with proper documentation
Working remotely changes the communication dynamics for everyone in your team. You no longer have that luxury of walking over someone’s desk to quickly discuss a task, now everything has to be communicated through video conferences, chat apps or email.
While these tools help bridge the communication gap between remote staff, their effectiveness also relies on factors like internet connection and a person’s availability to receive communication. This is why it’s important to write and document your work and ideas before communicating them with team mates. Proper documentation enables you to communicate a topic or issue clearly and allows for a more productive discussion.
4. Go paperless
If you have been struggling with going paperless in your office, then now is the time to fully embrace it. Remote work basically functions in a digital environment which means anything you used to do on paper has to translate well digitally.
To-do lists, for example can be created digitally – whether it’s a simple spreadsheet you made or with task management tools. Need documents signed by your customers? Electronic signature tools - like MRI Secure Sign for Property Tree or DocuSign for other products - allow you to do that easily and in a fraction of time than scanning documents or sending fax. Make sure that your team also has access to an electronic document management system like the one built into Property Tree, or File Smart for Rest Professional and Strata Master, so you can easily store and retrieve files when needed.
5. Cancelling or rescheduling inspections
For Property Managers
If you're a property manager, you might be wondering about routine inspections. With stricter social distancing measures and quarantines being placed by the government, these otherwise standard procedures have become trickier to navigate.
Virtual inspections can certainly be an alternative that you can discuss with owners and tenants. Try Zoom or Microsoft teams to run these. But if you're not ready for virtual inspections, it is highly likely that you will have to cancel or reschedule most, if not all scheduled inspections. For users of Property Tree, here's a quick guide to help you with bulk rescheduling. If you're using Rest Professional, you can read this step-by-step guide.
For Strata Managers
6. Create boundaries
It’s easy for lines to get blurred between your personal life and work while working from home. While you can absolutely answer work emails at 9 pm in your bed just because you can, it’s also a perfect recipe for burnout. Experienced remote work employees recommend that setting boundaries between work and life is key to a more productive and healthier work from home environment.
Make room for a dedicated workspace. It could be a spare room at your house, or a simple desk and chair set up in a quieter nook in your living room. It’s also important to stick to your schedule just as you would when working in an office – take breaks, set time frames to finish tasks and unplug once work for the day is done.
7. Connect with your team
Remember those days when you used to chat to a colleague about that new Netflix series over coffee at the office pantry? How about popping up at your teammate’s desk just to ask how her weekend was? Good times. While we will be practicing social distancing for a while, that doesn’t mean these moments of levity at work has to stop. And in these times we’re living in, we need them more than ever.
You can set up meetings with your team just for catching up on things outside work. If you can’t squeeze that in, how about setting aside a few minutes at the end of video conferences to talk about what’s going on in everyone’s life? You can also share photos, videos and memes on group chats. Working from home can often feel like you’re working alone but keeping in touch with your teammates can help make it enjoyable and less stressful.
8. Stay healthy
Working in the couch in your PJs all day sounds like a dream, but it’s not necessarily good for you. Even if you’re just at home, it is still important to practice healthy workplace habits like staying hydrated, taking breaks and getting up from that couch once in a while.
Remember to also keep your mental well-being in check. If you’re feeling stressed, take a quick walk or meditate. Productivity relies on your health and energy so feeling your best should always be your priority.
Working from home in the midst of a crisis can be overwhelming but following best practices can help you stay productive and keep your business running smoothly in these extraordinary times.