How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Change the Strata Management Industry?
As with other industries, the strata management industry has had to adapt in order to meet the challenges of 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, the norm when it came to AGMs and owners corporation meetings was that they were held face-to-face, in person. Then came the onset of COVID-19, lockdowns, working from home, and restrictions. Things had to evolve and be done differently.
Over the last few weeks and months we have been progressively catching up with Directors and General Managers of strata management companies across Victoria that we work with. The feedback has been very much that the job of owners corporation management is essential and goes on regardless. The managers are busy running their buildings, making sure essential services and maintenance is carried out, ensuring there’s signage regarding the number of people that can be in an elevator, and some have even had to deal with active cases in their buildings / owners corporations.
With regards to AGMs and meetings – they have had to continue as well – albeit via Zoom and videoconferencing. One of managers summed up the environment best with: “our demographics has changed a bit, given that the changes occurring in the world at the moment.”
So from the conversations and feedback that we have heard, Zoom and videoconferencing has been a positive – so will strata meetings revert back to being held face-to-face post pandemic?
One of the Directors of a large strata management company that we’ve worked with for years noted that safety was an important consideration for them. Most of their OC management department female and they’ve always been careful about sending their staff to on-site evening meetings.
That hasn’t been a concern of late as meetings have been held via Zoom and videoconferencing.
OC meetings can be notoriously difficult to achieve quorums for. The feedback we’ve had in this regard has been that owners corporations have experienced a notable increase in attendance at Annual General Meetings – especially from interstate and overseas owners.
Start times for AGMs and meetings have been a lot earlier than they once were. Previously the 6pm or 6:30pm start time was to accommodate workers finishing work then commuting home however in recent months start times have been commonly brought forward to 3pm or 1pm. This is because with people working from home and having that flexibility to attend Zoom and video meetings.
One of the strata management companies that we caught up with (over Zoom) told us they were delighted that a lot of their meetings in recent months have been starting a lot earlier. However this will probably depend on the work schedules of Committees and Owners once normality returns.
Seldom will strata management companies or strata managers have portfolios that are concentrated to a narrow geographical area, therefore a lot strata managers have to commute across town.
Attending strata meetings in Melbourne often involves factoring in traffic i.e. if you have a 6pm meeting in Brighton, leaving at 4:30pm is probably needed depending on office location and traffic.
Additionally, when strata meetings finish at 7pm or 8pm strata managers will have to commute back home.
A lot of strata meetings held on-site (at the building) are traditionally held around the dining table of an obliging Committee Member. Some larger owners corporations and buildings may have meeting rooms, foyers with chairs, or a building manager’s office that can be borrowed.
Ask any strata manager with more than a few years of experience and you’ll soon hear of the unique and interesting places where strata meetings get held – from meetings in stairwells, car parks, foyers, cafes, living rooms, etc.
A lot of strata managers have told us that the videoconference environment as been a more professional meeting environment.
More Efficient Meetings
We have also been hearing that meetings have been more efficient as it’s a matter of getting right down to the business i.e. the meeting agenda and discussion of issues.
People also aren’t afford the opportunities to huddle and chit chat with neighbours they haven’t seen for a while as they might when they walked into a traditional AGM or strata meeting. Attendees are also often on mute during videoconference and the focus and attention is on the speak. With time being a finite resource, more efficient meetings is definitely a good thing.
There will always be some owners corporations in Victoria whereby the AGM and other meetings will be held in person i.e. owners corporations with a large portion of owners not versed in technology or that insist upon it.
A Fundamental Shift?
Certainly from all the conversations that we’ve been having – we think some things will be different and strata meetings will be one of them.