6 Implications of the Work-at-Home Future for Multifamily


COVID-19 will pass. But some of the repercussions won’t. And perhaps the biggest will turn out to be the increased time people will spend at home rather than an office, as Americans have proven that traditionally office-based businesses can do pretty well when people work from home, and that most employees like it.

Naturally we won’t see the end of office buildings. But even a modest shift to working from home (WFH) will mean significant changes at multifamily properties. Here are six of them.

1. Demand for improved wireless technology

Affordable access to high-speed Internet will be a major asset. Office workers are accustomed to Internet access that is both reliable and very fast. And increasingly, they’ll want it beyond the four walls of their units. One projected long-term result of the recent lockdowns is that more communities will offer reservable workspaces that allow residents to work at home without feeling trapped in their apartments. What’s more, with so much communication and transacting happening on cell phones, residents will expect a fast connection when sitting by the pool or at an event in a community space.

At its 2020 RealWorld conference, RealPage announced its commitment to equipping multifamily properties with Smart WiFi, a property-wide robust wireless network unlike any other, as part of its CommunityConnect platform  (see more below).

2. The Internet of Things (IoT)

More time at home means more demand for conveniences. Residents who come home tired after a long day of work, grab something to eat and watch TV until bedtime are a whole different breed from those who will be at home most of the day, increasingly using phone-based apps to get things done. The more convenience you can offer in this arena, the happier your residents will be. Where once it was marble countertops that caught people’s attention, more and more it’s useful smart home tech conveniences.

Along these lines, another RealPage initiative involves the linking of Smart Apartment systems and IoT devices into a single, easy-to-use resident app. This component of the CommunityConnect vision is embodied in RealPage’s acquisition of STRATIS IoT, which has integrated over 100 of the largest providers of Smart Apartment devices and systems with one user sign-on, one user experience, and one resident app. This single app will control building access, smart devices within the home, resident portal functions, rewards programs and an array of other community-related functions.

3. Rentable Coworking Spaces

As mentioned above, more communities are looking into reservable, on-property workspaces that provide a middle ground between an outside office and the claustrophobia of a desk in the same apartment you just woke up in. These might in fact prove to be a bigger draw for properties than multiple generic meeting/party spaces. Properties can equip these common work areas with shared technology and turn these conveniences into new revenue streams. In order to avoid placing a new burden on site staff, it will be important that the reservations, fees, etc. associated with these workspaces can be easily arranged via a resident portal such as ActiveBuilding.

4. Increased usage of utilities

We can anticipate more showers, toilets flushing, heating and cooling, trash, and everything else that will come with residents spending more time in their apartments. Where utilities are already one of the biggest line items for a multifamily community, managing them carefully will become an even higher priority.

If you don’t already have a formal, disciplined utility management program in place to control costs and recapture everything you have coming from residents, you’re probably experiencing an ugly surprise as your recent numbers come in. Suites combining software, services and consulting designed to keep a sharp eye on water, electric, gas, trash collection and other utilities will become less of an option and more of a necessity.

5. Increased property maintenance

The more time residents spend in their apartments, the more burden they put on plumbing, carpets, HVAC and everything else in the unit. This means more frequent multifamily maintenance needs. RealPage is now taking on a web-based “connected intelligence” that will include smart monitoring of these and other items to alert staff proactively to problems. And of course, already in place as a big asset in carrying the extra burden are super-efficient mobile maintenance apps that help maintenance techs execute tasks with superb efficiency while keeping residents and staff informed of status.

6. Increased importance of self-service

More time spent at home will mean more amenity reservations, package delivery inquiries, visitors needing access and other facets of everyday life. In the past, this would have meant more burdens on site staff. Simply put, when residents are around more, more needs to be done for them.

Naturally, keeping residents happy is your on-site staff’s top priority in addition to finding new ones, so you can’t minimize the importance of friendly, helpful support at the site level. But more and more of the things that were once approached with a phone call or visit to the office can now be handled more conveniently online, and 24/7/365 instead of merely when the office is open. The shutdowns, in fact, have gotten many apartment dwellers used to doing things online that they didn’t before, in the face of reduced staff and office hours.

The more resident needs you can respond to with automation rather than human interaction, the better off you’ll be and the happier your residents will be. Increasingly, and particularly among millennials, there’s a preference for getting things done without “irritating” phone calls and human involvement anyway, so you’ll improve the resident experience while at the same time freeing your staff for more profitable tasks.

The bottom line here is that investments in self-service automation for things like paying and asking about bills, reserving amenities, placing maintenance requests and handling apartment package deliveries will keep the burden on your staff from increasing while pleasing your residents. And RealPage is at the forefront of these automation breakthroughs.

That’s a short list of some of the long-term results we’re likely to see as companies and their employees recognize working at home as a viable option. Getting ahead of these changes with technology will increasingly pay off for residents, staff and on your bottom line!  Start by learning more about RealPage CommunityConnect today!

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