What if one day you woke up and the entire country closed down?? Wait….that did happen! However, many suppliers to the apartment industry didn’t close down, we just changed everything! As suppliers to an essential industry, we had to act quickly to modify our operations and ensure that we were taking the proper steps to be conscientious and responsible suppliers.
While every supplier is essential to our industry, the first question that we had to ask ourselves was whether or not the services that we provide are essential during Covid-19 restrictions. Essential services, as defined by both State and Local Orders, include:
- Services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
- Services that are critical to restoring livable conditions and ensuring every family has a safe home in which to shelter.
- Construction services that are necessary for the development of new residences.
- Professional services necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities.
For most suppliers, we found that only a portion of our staff was actually preforming essential work on-site. We minimized the staff sent on-site to help our owner members reduce the risk at their communities. Within our own offices, we reduced the number of staff members by at least 50% and asked anyone who could to please work form home to help flatten the curve. Suppliers quickly established best practices for our team members while working on-site. Work in occupied apartments stopped unless the work was a safety or sanitation emergency. We required our teams to practice social distancing while on-site, maintaining a 6 foot distance from all residents, community staff, or other suppliers. Additionally, we provided our essential team members the proper personal protection equipment and cleaning supplies to complete their work safely and help stop the spread. Most importantly, we communicated regularly with our staff to ensure that if someone had been exposed to Covid-19 or was showing symptoms, that they followed the government’s guidelines for quarantine.
Many of our supplier members also work in the new construction of apartment homes. We adopted the same best practices at our new construction sites and found additional opportunities to provide a safe work environment for everyone. New construction sites can have as many as 200 people working at the same time, so it was imperative to develop additional steps to accommodate social distancing and keep these job sites safe. Companies limited the number of team members that they had on the job site, and we worked with superintendents to stagger work hours of different trades to minimize the number of people on the site at one time.
We woke up one day and realized that we needed to change everything, quickly! And we did. As we move forward, we don’t know what might be next. Will we go back to normal or will we find ourselves navigating a new normal that we never expected? After seeing the incredible response by our supplier members to quickly adapt to what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, I’m confident that as an industry whatever comes next, we are ready for it!