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Fogelman Focuses on Keeping its Onsite Teams Working

By Les Shaver

The apartment operator sees a way for teams to stay engaged by completing leasing audits and other tasks, even if they aren’t interacting with residents.

This is a recurring series of articles looking at how apartment owners, managers and developers have mobilized to protect themselves and their residents from the spread of the novel (meaning new) coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S.

Like a lot of apartment firms, Fogelman Properties has tried to stay ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has been addressing coronavirus via emails and phone calls for about a month now.

“We implemented a task force that met every morning and then, as of Friday [Marc 13], we went to twice a day,” says Melissa Smith, Chief Administrative Officer for Fogelman. “Those are scheduled meetings. But frankly, we are on the phone all day long just responding to other people or setting up in the morning what communication we're going to do that day so that we can have online chats and videos.”

Last Monday, Fogelman stopped delivering packages and closed indoor amenities. Later in the week it closed all amenities. It also changed the way it’s dealing with work orders.

“We are [only] doing emergency only work orders,” Smith says. “All of our properties have put in extra orders to have all supplies onsite that they might need. They've contacted what vendors will be able to be used for emergency response.”

By the end of last week, Fogelman closed its leasing offices to the public. “We’re still taking some appointments but we have our operations team laying out a process and procedures to keep our teams working,” Smith says. “We’ll stagger times if needed, depending on the size of the office space. But we’re looking at the different ways we can serve our clients online and virtually while still keeping our teams in the office so that they can be working and paid.”

Smith looks at this as time for offices to do work that otherwise doesn’t get done. “Our offices are always telling us that they can't get caught up and they don't have time to do file audits and clean the shop,” she says. “So, we're actually coming up with great project lists. So, when we come out of this and open the doors again, we'll be really prepped and ready to have a phenomenal spring with everybody feeling caught up and ready to go.”

For corporate staff, Smith thinks gaining familiarity with Office 365 and other tools is a benefit. She says another silver lining in this catastrophe is the communication across the apartment industry.

“What I've seen, across the board, is that from all of the folks that I have been networking with, I haven't seen anyone that has turned away my call or been not willing to share information,” Smith says. “We are very much bringing our industry together. It's not a competition. It's how we care for residents nationwide, which has been another positive that has come out of this.”