May 15, 2020
Beyond the Duty of Care: Communication and Relationship Building Key to Caring for Residents
While business, like property management company Avenue Living Communities (ALC), takes the necessary steps to ensure safety around their business, it's their front-line teams who are really making a difference to the lives of their residents and within their communities, in particular.
As ALC ensures a safe environment in their properties, amongst their employees, and amongst their residents, one property manager regularly goes beyond her basic duty of care. She says relationship building is just part of the job, even before the pandemic.
"It's those little things you have to remember. Things that are happening in people's lives – people like to know you're paying attention to what they're saying to you," says Carrie Duff, a regional portfolio manager in Winnipeg, Man.
With the pandemic forcing several businesses to close over the course of the past few months, essential services like ALC, in the rental housing sector, continue to operate with alterations to business practices. Safety of its residents is at the foreground of these alterations. While it's far from business as usual, Duff and her team continue to work for residents the same way as they always have, with regular communication, empathy, and nurture.
"Honestly, these things have not changed because of COVID-19," says Duff, speaking upon her frequent communication with residents. "We've always sent post cards, letters to residents sporadically. In my experience, it's beyond your typical resident-landlord relationship.
"I send cards out every year – it takes a long time – I hand write them, and I personalize them."
While Duff displays a passion for building these relationships with ALC's residents, like really getting to know each and every one of them, it's the communication that keeps her motivated, as she hopes she can bring a little joy to others through the empathy she displays regularly.
"People have problems, we all have problems – we all have issues," says Duff. "Initially, that's what started it for me – it just made them feel good, like they belonged, that we thought of them – and it made me feel good to know that."
The pandemic has changed many Canadian's daily lives in differing ways. For some, anxiety, stress, and fear are all daily experiences. It takes a little human connection, to know that you're not alone, and that may help some cope just a bit better.
"Right now, people feel alone, they feel isolated, scared – their anxiety is through the roof, their mental health is suffering," says Duff. "We send post cards to remind them, 'you're not alone,' we're here if you need absolutely anything."
Duff proves her duty of care regularly. From really getting to know residents like friends, so she can be there for them, knowing where she can help those who need it, to sending them small notes to let them know she is thinking of them.
An event she describes recently, one elderly resident's scheduled Meals-on-Wheels did not arrive. Duff and her team went to the grocery store to ensure the resident was not without food over the weekend.
These good deeds present throughout ALC's resident-landlord culture have been seen on a national level in the form of ALC's Community Task Force, a team dedicated to helping residents with daily necessities. But in Manitoba, it's the teamwork that really solidifies these ideals.
"With the residents, stress levels have increased substantially - some are stuck in their apartments and can't leave - others are constantly in and out – so you have tensions," says Duff. "We have to work together as a team – you have to show accountability.
"We need to continue to provide safe and comfortable housing to our residents, and that is our priority."