The last couple of years has been a bit of a roller coaster. It feels as though every time we start to creep forward, something finds a way to drag us back just a few feet back. It’s taxing, and it’s impacting a lot of our day to day lives. While many of the problems we faced last year are going strong this year, we’ve come up with some new ways to handle them and steer into the anticipated trends of the year ahead. Here are the 4 trends we think the community association management industry can count on for 2022:
Staff Burnout: Rethinking Work/Life Balance
I think it’s safe to say we’re all a little bit tired. Tired of talking about, thinking about, and reliving the pandemic every time a new variant sweeps the population. Tired of the impact it’s having on friends, family, coworkers, neighbors. And that means that the amount of work we used to easily pile onto our plate can feel like a triple serving that we just can’t handle.
This year, with so many of us in the deep end of feeling burnt out, the conversation will start revolving around new approaches to a work/life balance. Incorporating new plans to stave off burnout may not pull us out of the deep end, but it will certainly stop us from sinking any further.
Here are two ways your management company can give burnt out community managers the tools they need to keep their heads above water:
- Calendar Contortion: schedule flexibility has been a savior for many in recent times, but it might be time to step up that game. Shutdowns, quarantines, and hyper-contagious variants are all brewing up the perfect storm of chaos for staff with tight schedules to maintain, like school or extra-curricular activities for kids, doctors appointments for ill loved ones, or shared transportation in a family. Laying out clear guidelines that give your staff the freedom to juggle their busy lives on the fly, and clear support and engagement from executive management will be a crucial step in helping your teams feel like their needs are being met and exceeded without having to go through red tape or guilting to handle their personal lives.
- Rapid Recognition: There’s a ton of science to prove the benefits positive reinforcement has to offer. Who knew that celebrating and praising people would make them want to do even more? The happiness that people feel when being commended for their achievements can also be a powerful way to counterbalance burnout. The more unsung successes people have, especially when they’ve sacrificed countless sleepless nights, missed moments with loved ones, or just a general feeling of stability and sanity, the deeper they fall into that pit of burn-out despair. Consider implementing structured, achievable goals for your staff to work toward, and consistently and publicly reward the effort.
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Continued Reliance on Technology
Microsoft founder Bill Gates believes that meetings across the world will be hosted on Facebook’s newest endeavor, Metaverse, in the next two to three years. While I personally hope the internet isn’t about to be monopolized by a social media platform, I (and many other technology experts) can say with certainty that much of our time will be spent using some kind of internet-tethered tech.
As closures and shut downs have been repeatedly enforced and lifted throughout the last two years, technology giants have been hard at work developing new ways computers can fill the gaps we’re starting to see. Here’s what you should consider when it comes to software not only for your management company, but for your communities as well:
- Reinforced Remote Work: The time has come for communities and community management companies alike to embrace the wealth of technological support our industry has to offer. Social distancing will come back in striking force with the contagious nature of the COVID-19 variants cropping up recently. Technology that can support your boards’ day-to-day task management without forcing them to share an office will once again be an important theme in 2022.
- Technical Training: As beneficial as new technology is for everyone, it always comes with some kind of learning curve. Even Milennials, who grew up learning new technology as it came into being, are struggling to keep up with the rapidly-evolving technological landscape of today. So your boards are almost certainly going to have a hard time. Building out some kind of “Intro to Community Association Management Software” cheat sheet could be the key to coaxing your boards into accepting the fancy new toys you can bring them to make their lives easier.
Massive Repairs to Condominium and Co-op Buildings
Interestingly enough, this trend is arguably one that has not been directly impacted by the global events of the last two years. Community associations of all shapes and sizes have a long history of deferred maintenance. Unfortunately, this past year we saw the worst-case scenario of what can happen to large multi-family buildings that forgo important maintenance for too long.
The collapse of Champlain Towers South was an eye-opening tragedy for the industry, and as a result, Fannie Mae issued temporary guidance for all condos and co-ops until further notice: units in buildings in need of repairs for what FNMA deemed as “significant deferred maintenance” would be ineligible for FNMA loans until necessary repairs have been made and correctly documented. The letter goes on to define exactly what they will classify as “significantly deferred maintenance” and any other unmet requirements that would also make a building ineligible.
Here are some of the ways that will impact your communities:
- Proactive Planning: This year, some of your communities may fall into this group of buildings. Hopefully that number is low, but if not, one of the best things you can do is create an outline to help each board plan. Their specific financial planning can come later, but providing them with a set of suggested steps to take, like tips to create a timeline for repairs, will take some of the weight off of the project they have ahead of them.
- Commitment to Community: Something your boards in this situation will need to seriously consider is the impact this will have on their community at large. Especially in buildings where there is enough deferred maintenance that completing it all will take a lot of time. This will mean that some of your unit owners looking to sell and move elsewhere could face difficulties, which could create negativity toward the board. Encouraging your board to approach the community with honesty and a clearly defined plan of action to fix the situation will be crucial to maintaining the trust of the community.
A New Perspective on Reserve Funding
Thanks to those new regulations from Fannie Mae, condo and co-op buildings across the country are about to face a reckoning. One that will extract a heavy toll from any existing reserves they might have in place. 2022 is going to be a difficult year, spent juggling finite dollars across a series of expensive projects, and still somehow being used to keep a reserve fund from going empty.
We’re fully anticipating a strong focus on reserve funds, but whether that focus is positive or negative will depend entirely on the state a community is in–if they have no maintenances impacting FNMA loan eligibility, they will probably be eager to continue funding their reserves. But if they’re standing face to face with an ever-growing pile of bills to resolve maintenance issues throughout the community, they’re probably eyeing those reserve funds as their only saving grace.
Here’s how to approach each type of community:
- Balancing Budgets: For communities not about to pay through the nose for building repairs, there’s likely some sense of relief. But that relief needs to be kept in check. It isn’t enough to just remain business as usual. Staying on top of reserve funding will still be important, as will staying on top of their maintenance schedule–FNMA can determine a building to be in need of “significant deferred maintenance” at any time while their restrictions are in place. So creating a budget that supports future needs, while handling current maintenances, and keeping residents happy (which is, of course, the whole job description) will likely feel like a new burden to bear. Compiling time-tested tips and tricks for budget building that include ways to prioritize maintenance needs and manage the perspective of community members will offer a great deal of support to your boards.
- Trading Troubles: Communities facing a laundry list of repairs are likely thinking about depleting their reserves without adequately adding to them to solve the problem right in front of them as quickly as possible. This is a trap. All this will do is take the problem at hand and mold it into the same problem in the future. Impress upon your boards the importance of replacing the money they’re spending to complete repairs. It doesn’t need to be an exact dollar for dollar match, but there should be a serious effort to maintain healthy (if not lean) reserves even in the midst of heavy spend on maintenance. Work with your boards to prep them for the conversation they will inevitably have to have with the community about increased assessments and the importance of contributing to the community.