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A Time for Tolerance and Understanding

By CCI North Alberta (Insite to Condos, Vol. 33, issue 3 – Spring 2020)

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. I think we can all agree this would be appropriately applicable now, as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s start off by being thankful for where we live and the leadership shown to date to help “flatten the curve” and minimize the possible impact of Covid-19. We may not agree with every decision made to date
(#yegtransit)) but compared to Italy or our neighbours to the south, we appear to be in much better hands.

I find myself almost looking forward to the daily updates from Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Henshaw and her calm, cool, collected delivery of information and insight. There are lotsof other officials as well who are doing a great job of providing factual information in a measured approach to help all of us cope with our worst fears and anxieties of what may happen as things progress.

Within each condominium community, owners and occupants are hopeful that similar leadership will be present. Volunteer boards have now been thrown another challenge that deals with more than the pandemic itself. Owners, who are suddenly out of work through no fault of their own, worrying how they are going to be able to pay next month’s condo fees. Parents having the added stress of keeping their kids engaged 7 days/week. Incessant inquiries about possible occupants who should or should not be self-isolating. Arguments about why the fitness room remains closed or how many people should be allowed in an elevator at one time. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

We will leave the legal ramifications to those with the expertise (check our website for an updated COVID-19 and Condos FAQ sheet). What we want to explore today is more of the human interest side of things and how those of us in the condominium community can best cope in these unprecedented times since condominiums were created over 50 years ago. The age old question “What is reasonable?” finds us looking at altering some
previous answers but also steadfastly returning to the standard responses in other cases. Let’s explore some of the common issues that can occur and suggest best practices to consider implementing.

Stay Informed

As we have found out, things can change very rapidly so it is important to have access to the proper information in a timely manner. Unfortunately there is also an abundance of misinformation out there with various talking heads looking for ways to have their voice rise to the top of the conversation. Focus on these three key sources of information from a provincial, national, and global perspective.

  • COVID-19 info for Albertans from the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services (Includes the Help Prevent the
    Spread Poster)
  • Coronavirus Information – Canada from the Government of Canada and Health Canada
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic from the World Health Organization

Most of the major municipalities will also have a dedicated section on their website related to the pandemic and ongoing updates on bulletins, restrictions, etc.. Both the provincial and federal governments will be implementing financial support programs to assist individuals who are directly impacted. Check their websites for links that can be passed on through bulletins, newsletters or website postings.

Communication

There is a heightened expectation from owners and occupants to be informed on how this current situation affects your community directly. Boards are best to respond sooner than later to identify what steps are being taken or considered to minimize the impact as best as possible.

  • Make sure to stick to the facts and engage your professional network when you are unsure as to what the best practice may be in this particular situation.
  • Don’t forget about the obvious talking points to reinforce such as handwashing, no face touching (that is way harder than it seems!), social distancing and self isolation when required.
  • What steps are being taken to increase cleaning within a building and what recommendations can boards suggest for owners to do their part to help prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Posting notices at all of the entranceways to remind occupants and inform visitors, delivery personnel, and contractors, of your current protocol.
  • Keep the message positive and don’t be afraid to add a little bit of humour in the appropriate places.

Reaching out to your contractors is also important on a couple of different levels. Whatever changes had been outlined to your
residents, they should be passed on to the contractors as well. Following up with each of them as to what additional steps they are taking to assist can also be beneficial information to pass on. With smaller contractors there may be a need to have a discussion regarding a back up plan should their staff be unable to work due to self-isolation protocol, parenting duties, etc.

Empathy vs. Hostility

We all react differently in times of stress. On one hand of the spectrum there are the “Nervous Nellies” of the world who have a tendency to overreact in concern, while on the other side you have the “It Doesn’t Apply to Me” know-it-alls that disregard any information thrown their way if it interferes with their lifestyle. Even in regular times, there are different perspectives on how things should be handled. The key now is finding common ground using the “What’s reasonable?” mantra while understanding there may be a need to rethink the answer based on the ever changing situation. It’s one thing to say “stick to the facts” but EVERYBODY needs to have the patience to listen and offer possible solutions that can work for both sides. This quote from educator Stephen Covey summarizes the problem the best  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they
listen with the intent to reply.”

Reach Out to Assist

The effect of this pandemic will vary dramatically between everybody. Inevitably there are going to be some people who are not able handle the changes as well as others for a myriad of reasons. Of that group there could be a smaller subsection that are either unable or hesitant to ask for assistance. It could be something as simple as just another voice to talk things through, or help finding where they can purchase some freakin’ toilet paper or hand sanitizer. If you have the ability to reach out for others let them know, whether it’s a notice on a bulletin board, website, or knocking on a neighbour’s door (social distancing noted). Random acts of kindness are even more powerful in these times.

Building a Community

Humans are social animals and for some of us, not being able to continue with activities or getting together with friends and family can be frustrating to say the least. (Hermits on the other hand are revelling in their solitude). People are finding lots of creative ways to interact virtually for the time being, thanks to some basic technology that is available to most of us in this part of the world. Using free online chat services such as Facetime, Skype, Google Chat, Zoom, and What’s App can do wonders to feel engaged without leaving your home.
Some examples include:

  • Virtual Work-outs – Although most fitness centres are closed, lots of instructors are offering classes online. If you can’t find something that suits you, consider polling your residents to see if others are interested and set your own private workout for those that are interested.
  • Online Games – We’re not just talking interactive video games but there are also options for classics like Scrabble, Pictionary, etc.
  • Book Clubs Revisited – Podcasts, YouTube Channel or Twitter Feed Clubs – We all have our favourites that we watch or listen to but wouldn’t it be much better to share your finds with others? Arrange a weekly meetup
    online to discuss options and then rotate the selections accordingly.
  • Community Happy Hour – Last I checked, even though the bars and nightclubs were shut down we are still allowed to have an adult beverage. Invite all interested parties to prepare their favourite snack and beverage and meet online to share some stories. The schedule may vary depending on the demographics in your complex.

There is still the option of getting outside in the fresh prairie air and sunshine with a small group of like minded people. Set a regular time, explore different walking routes around your neighbourhood and chat while keeping your required distance between others.

Back to the Lemonade

All of these suggestions require some kind of effort to be successful. Lemons don’t squeeze themselves either. However the sooner you start, the sooner you can enjoy the “fruits” of your labour.