It’s been 2 months since the UK instituted its lockdown restrictions. Judging by increased activity on the streets, and other public spaces it appears the British public’s restlessness of staying at home has fuelled their appetite for socialising in public spaces. Increasingly we are also aware that residents are frustrated at being unable to utilise the amenities within the confines of their own BTR developments.
We have consulted with various BTR and hospitality clients about their possibilities on how to re-open public spaces safely. With those learnings we put together a simple 10 point guide to assist other BTR operators in their decision making. It is important to bear in mind that psychology will play a very important role in the perception of re-opening. If the current Dominic Cummings fiasco is anything to go by the general public is paying very close
attention to how people and businesses will be adhering to the Governments’ rules & regulations for Covid-19.
If you are considering re-opening your amenities and public spaces here’s how we think you should approach that decision:
1. Gauge Customer Sentiment: While there are many ideas on how to ease our public spaces out of lockdown it is important to remember that any proposed action should reflect the needs & requirement of its intended audiences. Some people will be anxious to see BTR amenity spaces within developments open up so they can escape their apartments whilst still remaining in the relative safety of their development, while others will see it a threat. Its important to meet the needs of both in a balanced way.
2. Give back an element of control: Armed with an understanding of your resident’s desires for amenity usage we believe it is important to let the residents control how some of the decisions regarding opening up are made. Residents are an important ally in the development’s community, so it’s important to work with them, bring them onside whilst making them an important part of the process and decision.
3. Step by Step Approach: A strategic and considered approach of reopening up certain areas whilst keeping others closed for the time being will allow on-site staff to manage spaces more efficiently. Don’t feel the pressure to opening up all at once, its important that all space and other risk factors are considered. A step by step approach will enable people to adjust to being around others whilst sociallydistancing. A steady approach will ensure residents feel comfortable, whilst your operations team can manage these spaces more effectively, mitigating unnecessary risks.
4. Set the Rules: Create a set of simple rules on how people interact and use the spaces available to them. Post lockdown we are all going to see changes to our habits and how we interact with each other. During this moment of transition having a sense of governance and following procedure will make people feel safer, while observing and (just as important) seeing others observe the rules will make people more at ease with strangers. Having rules is important, but enforcing them is more important if those rules are to survive, so bear in mind to make sure the rules are simple and easy to enforce and be adhered to.
5. Limit occupancy. Depending on the size and popularity of your BTR amenity spaces some spaces may see oversubscription. With having fewer people in spaces, and almost everyone at home – this is bound to be tricky. But this can easily be solved by setting up schedules and booking system. Time restrictions can also be useful for gyms, and other amenities where its likely some people will just hog those facilities at the expense of the others.
6. Show You Care: Whilst some of the points above will already require greater degree of monitoring from the operations team. This may seem to increase costs of having more people – but do not forget the perception your residents will get from knowing how seriously you are taking their health, safety and wellness. This is the moment and opportunity for your Operations team to show your residents you really care – by being there to respond to concerns from your residents, and ensuring the health and safety of all! In doing so the goodwill and rapport which will be developed with your brand will be reaped well beyond this lockdown. In addition, its important that your Operations team are well trained on the rules, and that they set the example for the observance of health & safety.
7. Disinfection and Sanitisation: Of absolute paramount importance is the need for increased cleaning and sanitisation. Its important for these measures to be clearly visible so that it can build confidence for residents to enjoy public spaces safely. Reception screens, hand-sanitizer stations, handle-free opening are also some of the examples that have been implemented across the hospitality sector. These need to be visible and clearly communicated to residents so that they can be confident measures are being implemented for their safety, comfort and protection.
8. The Great Outdoors: Many BTR developments have outdoor spaces, and these need to be used as much as possible. After 2 months spent inside their homes residents are eager to make the most of the summer weather and enjoy time outside. BTR developments can smartly use these spaces to provide residents an opportunity to get out, enjoy the weather and reduce the anxiety of constant self-isolation. This will also alleviate the pressure and demand for other amenities. Outdoor socially distant yoga or group physical training are just some ways to activate these often-neglected spaces. We are seeing much more attention being paid to outdoor spaces as the result of lockdown and are designing a lot more roof terraces and gardens as a result.
9. Air Circulation and Quality: In confined spaces within BTR developments there is an increase for the need of improving air circulation and purity. With Covid-19 being an airborne sickness it is imperative that we take extra steps to maintain good quality air inside to reduce and mitigate the transmission of microbial contaminants and other air impurities. There are many available technologies which can be introduced to enhance air quality in small or large spaces where there is usually a lot of residents. Be sure to assess the air quality risk in your amenity and public spaces and consider options to mitigate these risks.
10. Feedback & Iteration: There is no perfect solution to navigating out of this unprecedented situation, but with a careful and considered approach you can be sure to be taking the best steps forward. Part of this strategy is being open and flexible to resident feedback and adjustment as required. Its important to be transparent and honest with residents about what is possible and what is not – so that there is a clear consensus – this will ensure there are no misunderstandings, and no failure to meet expectations. Adopting an open and feedback orientated approach will go a long way to enhancing the resident & landlord relationship which is so so important!
This is a learning curve for all of us in as individuals and companies, and is no
different for the BTR or Hospitality industries. Everyone is committed to ensuring their own safety and those of others. Nobody can presume to know all the answers from the beginning but by taking small considered steps we can help to build up towards a sense of a healthy functioning society and re-build our new normal.
This article has been authored by Anya Sokolskaya & Sameer Mahomed, joint directors at Ten. Ten is a London based, specialist Build to Rent and Hospitality interior design agency with over 25 years combined real estate and interior design experience.