IREM OC’s meeting spotlights the importance of visible janitorial services and how facilities can reopen safely.
As the workforce heads back to their offices, reopening procedures are at the forefront of property managers’ and owners’ minds. Between balancing guidelines and business, there are many left wondering how best to proceed.
The Institute of Real Estate Management of Orange County held a meeting recently addressing these concerns. The guest speakers were Eric Friz of Servi-Tek Facility Solutions and Kelly Tang of IEC Property Services, who spoke about their procedures, predictions, and new management guidelines moving forward.
“Property management is busier than ever,” reported Kelly Tang as he educated the IREM OC of the challenges COVID-19 brings to reopening properties. “We’re on track to outpace leasing [in 2019] by 15 percent,” said Tang. “Our residents are all home, which creates another set of challenges as well.”
Tang continued to explain where IEC’s focus has been during these busy times. Recovering delinquent funds and managing emergency work orders have been a focus. Adhering to health agency guidelines has taken up a large part of IEC’s time and resources as well.
Tang presented some ideas to help manage the reopening of multi-family facilities and amenities. In regards to property tours, Tang believes,
“The industry is going to continue performing social distancing tours.”
Tang stressed the importance of adopting this technique moving forward, noting that signage and social distancing will prove critical to reopen amenities, such as barbecues, gyms, and laundry facilities. For example, Tang suggested removing any folding tables in common laundry spaces and putting other “nice-to-have” amenities on hold while reopening. “You have to reduce the maximum capacity across the board,” Tang stated in regards to shared spaces. His reasoning for this is to allow for proper social distancing.
Tang also suggested using a reservation system. This lets residents reserve the gym or barbecue area. Property managers can control the capacity, while also setting “the expectation for your cleaning team,” he stated.
When Tang spoke about leasing offices, he addressed the need to safeguard them during the reopening. This includes reducing the seating area, removing free coffee bars, using sneeze guards between visitors and staff. He also touched upon how proper signage explaining the use of masks should become high-priority.
Tang stated that residents won’t appreciate several different crews addressing work orders. Instead, he suggested putting together “SWAT Teams” of technicians. These teams can get everything accomplished at one time. He also stressed the importance of communicating how this system works to your residents, so they’ll know when they can expect a crew at their unit.
“People are really looking for a perception of safety,” Friz stated. He stressed how important visibility is to commercial tenants. Friz states that tenants want to see “what management is doing to address [the virus].”
Like Tang, Friz discussed how important signage will be to these facilities. According to Friz, these signs should outline how the facility is tackling the problem. They should also outline how the tenants are safe and call attention to the cleaning services.
Friz explained that tenants and visitors need to see that day porters are “cleaning in a different way.” Friz continued to explain to IREM OC, “In the past, when you see people clean, it’s always been spray and wipe.” Friz noted that disinfectant cleaners require “dwell time” to kill the germs on the surface effectively.
Instead of employing the spray and wipe tactics, Friz suggested that day porters spray the surface and let the disinfectant sit, permitting proper dwell time to kill the germs and bacteria. The porters will be “lightly spraying door handles, tabletops, and high-touch areas.”
When addressing tenant and visitor questions about these wet surfaces, Friz states it’s a byproduct of the disinfectant’s proper use. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, Friz said that these disinfectants are completely safe. He noted they’re non-caustic, going as far as to say that his commercial cleaning crews sometimes spot-clean their hands with the spray.
Fritz also said there’s been an increase in requests for commercial cleaning services. He said that Servi-Tek has seen requests for dedicated porters in larger commercial spaces. This has also led to increased expectations for their customers.
While discussing office cleaning services, Friz states, “People want them clean, but they have a pretty full desk of papers and items.” He explained that this prevents commercial cleaning companies from disinfecting the surface. Instead, Servi-Tek requests that customers clear their desktops nightly so the crew can clean properly. “I think this is something that’s important moving forward,” he stated.
Another change Friz sees being important is robotic vacuums. He states that Servi-Tek uses robotic vacuums during some commercial cleaning services. He dispelled trip-hazard concerns, noting that their vacuums are much taller than the low-profile residential models. Servi-Tek also outfits them with HEPA filters, which allow the porter to focus on disinfecting surfaces.
Friz implies that these robots may even improve office morale. He talked about how some tenants have named their robots for fun.
In regards to air quality, Friz explains that filtration and disinfection are more important than ever. He suggests that facilities upgrade to hospital-grade HEPA filters to maintain safe indoor air quality. He also stated that disinfecting HVAC coils and ventilation should become a priority.
A request for daytime cleaning is also a shift for many of Servi-Tek’s regular commercial customers. This speaks to Friz’s suggestion about visibility and perception towards janitorial services. Both will play key roles in these facilities’ reopening plans.
Tang and Friz discussed other methods for reducing risk in both residential and commercial properties. One suggestion included signage requesting social distancing in front of and inside elevators. Another spoke about using helpful tools such as electro-static disinfectant sprayers.
The entire meeting was held via a virtual meeting app. Several of the attendees asked questions leading to constructive conversation and advice from both Friz and Tang, as well as other members of the audience.