by Matt Greene
When the Covid-19 pandemic first arrived, multifamily management companies took immediate steps to facilitate social distancing and limit direct contact between team members and residents.
Virtual and self-guided tours were deployed in the place of in-person guided tours with a leasing agent. Offices, lobbies, amenities and other community common areas were closed. Cleaning and disinfecting services were ramped up overnight.
But many communities failed to address one glaring hole in their defenses against the virus – package deliveries. The problem escalated quickly as renters overwhelmingly turned to online retailers for most of their consumer needs in order to avoid direct contact with others. According to a report from McKinsey & Company, the U.S. had already seen a 20% increase in preference for contactless operations as of April. The trend has led to a staggering increase in package deliveries.
It’s an oversight that has created a number of new problems for property managers struggling to maintain the integrity of their contactless community.
The fact that residents have stayed home for the most part during the pandemic, coupled with the specific closures and protocols that communities have in place, has helped properties to reduce person-to-person and shared-surface contact. However, the sudden reliance on e-commerce has created a seemingly endless parade of package carriers coming and going from multifamily communities.
In most cases, operators have no idea how many different delivery drivers have visited their communities during the day, where they’ve been within the community and what personal precautions they’ve taken. One package carrier’s safety protocols may differ from the next, but they’re all arriving daily on multifamily properties.
Property managers need a package solution that consolidates package services and drastically reduces the number of delivery personnel who require access to the property on a daily basis. By limiting foot traffic in and out of the building, operators can also limit the potential for exposure.
At many apartment communities, packages are delivered and dropped in a package room or package lockers. While the continual traffic – both in terms of carriers and residents – to and from on-site package facilities already makes them vulnerable spaces, they also present shared-surface contact concerns.
Due to the sheer volume of packages delivered daily, carriers increasingly encounter overflowing package rooms and opt to unload packages in stacks or piles and force on-site teams or residents to sort them out. As a result, a single resident in search of their package might handle half-a-dozen different parcels before finding their delivery. Depending on how soon a resident is able to retrieve their package, any number of their neighbors may have already touched it.
Package locker doors, as well as package room touch screens and keypads, also demand constant cleaning as they’re used repeatedly throughout the day. An Ultraleap survey of the U.S. and U.K. found that 80% of consumers think touch screens can contribute to the spread of the virus and 50% would be unlikely to use them moving forward.
A package system that stores packages off-site and delivers direct to residents’ doors at a scheduled time can alleviate many of the risks associated with shared package facilities.
The unending package pipeline that has emerged since the beginning of pandemic has forced a number of multifamily operators to stop receiving packages on behalf of residents altogether. However, those that are still attempting to manage resident packages quite literally have their hands full.
While direct contact with residents and coworkers has largely been eliminated for on-site associates, those who are handling resident packages are still typically forced to come in contact with delivery drivers. Whether it’s signing for packages or physically receiving deliveries, the exposure for on-site teams is significant. The exposure is multiplied if those same associates are responsible for distributing packages to residents.
It’s a process that lies counter to any efforts at creating a contactless community.
Managing resident packages amid all the new protocols and policies that went into effect during the pandemic is an unnecessary stress and burden on multifamily teams. Owners and operators should be seeking a package system that eliminates potential problem areas within the community, reduces the risk of contact and exposure, but that still delivers for residents.