This year has been a challenging year, to say the least. On a business and work front, like all Australians, many who live in a strata community have experienced hardship or uncertainty as their industry was affected by the social restrictions put in place to control the spread of Covid-19.
But on a positive note, away from the worries about making ends meet, Covid has given us all a gift: it has reminded us just how crucial our friends, family and community are in helping to maintain our mental health and a general sense of well-being.
As strata community managers, watching, and of course, being a part of how communities have evolved over the initial few months of 2020 was both inspiring and eye-opening.
Previously, it was not unusual for us to see large blocks of hundreds of units, where few residents actually knew each other beyond a simple ‘hi’.
But as Covid took hold and concerns about the affects of isolation kicked in, we witnessed neighbours in a strata community sharing a beer or music through a Perspex balcony divider and younger residents volunteering to pick up groceries for elderly residents. Ultimately, we saw bricks and mortar turn into closer, thriving communities.
We really feel there are many lessons to be learned from Covid. Of course, there are lessons related to the economy and health and leadership, but in our field, what is most interesting is the way communities and ‘strata neighborhoods’ can be built through compassion and communication.
We’ve compiled some of the simplest and the best ways we saw strata communities interact, and ideas for how we can evolve these so we can continue to build post-Covid environments within which residents really feel they are a part of something bigger than just a shared sinking fund.
1. Social media can build a strata community
One of the major concerns about social media and the current younger generations is that it can impede real-world communication and reduce genuine interaction.
But during Covid, when face-to-face meetings and social gatherings were banned, strata communities really saw some benefit from closed social networking groups, such as those hosted on Facebook.
During the restrictions, we saw new Facebook groups set up — invitation-only of course — and residents able to check in on other residents, hold group conversations, offer assistance and support to vulnerable residents, as well as more functional uses, like internal swap and sell.
A benefit of Facebook is that is requires a user to have a profile — at the least, a picture and a name, but in most cases, information about what the person likes and doesn’t. These closed groups that supported communication during Covid, have been ice-breakers after lockdown, with more people now recognising each other in lifts, finding things in common and building better relationships.
What this means, is that those people in a strata community who are often isolated or vulnerable, even outside of Covid, have more chance to connect with people in their ‘neighbourhood’ and build their social well-being.
Why not consider setting up a group Facebook in your building? Invite-only keeps it nice and safe, and you can even use it to organise building events or initiatives for like-minded residents.
2. Internal noticeboards
A great example we saw of compassion and communication came in the form of a simple elevator noticeboard in a strata building. The notice board enabled, via the strata manager, people who needed support or who were vulnerable, to seek assistance from volunteers within the building.
This support varied from a phone call to check in, to picking up groceries during the period when the elderly were most at risk and numbers of infection were highest.
In the past, we have seen the usual building announcements on these noticeboards, but this rapid adaptation meant no one in this building was left without the help they needed!
3. Strata community text groups
Another great initiative we saw — also via the strata manager — was text groups that enabled people to coordinate volunteering and support of at-risk residents, and also reach out and engage with each other.
Text groups within this particular building were completely voluntary, and again, facilitated through the onsite building manager. They ensured — in addition to the regular checking in by the building manager — that residents were communicating with each other to make sure everyone was fit and healthy, both physically and emotionally, and that tasks for at-risk residents could be shared around.
As Covid restrictions start to decline, we have seen discussions of the text groups evolving into planned monthly meal get-togethers, or even meal-swaps between busy families to reduce the pressure within bustling households.
4. Shared facilities promoting unity
For many in apartment blocks, the restrictions were particularly difficult, as residents don’t have backyards to escape to and enjoy. Shared gardens, with social distancing adhered to, were used much more in some buildings during these periods, with some residents reporting meeting other long-term residents for the first time, finding things in common and creating new bonds.
Post-covid, we hear plans of regular building community events, where all are invited to come, contribute, communicate and find like-minded people.
5. The power of a great strata community manager
A consistent theme through all of the successful communication and strata community activity we learned about, was a proactive, supportive and genuinely invested onsite building or strata manger.
While their roles always encompass looking out for residents, we heard so much positive feedback about onsite managers going above and beyond to ensure the health and well-being of all residents, and fostering compassion to ensure vulnerable people didn’t feel lonely, despite the social isolation.
A great strata manager or building manager is so much more than someone who organises trades people, oversees cleaning and helps you book your turn on the tennis court; they are a real part of your community and they are instrumental in helping it to grow and thrive by being a pathway for open, non-invasive communication between residents.
At LVI, our strata and building managers are dedicated to the communities they work in. They have extensive experience and expertise, and combine this with a real sense of compassion that helps them better understand the unique needs of the residents and committees they support.