The on-site team at Bainbridge's Perico Apartments in Bradenton, Fla., gets in on the action during the firm's first Team Member Appreciation Quarter.
Courtesy Bainbridge The on-site team at Bainbridge's Perico Apartments in Bradenton, Fla., gets in on the action during the firm's first Team Member Appreciation Quarter.

While employee appreciation has always been a priority for Bainbridge Cos., the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more critical.

“The pandemic is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime, and it’s an important reminder for companies to recognize their employees, who are having to put in more effort to adjust to new policies and procedures,” says Julia Watson, senior vice president of property management.

The firm, a leading owner, developer, and manager of luxury multifamily communities, created its first Team Member Appreciation Quarter to celebrate its more than 500 employees. The quarter-long event kicked off at the end of July and will run through September, with three celebration weeks and a virtual conference to encourage companywide engagement.

“Our employees are essential workers who are on the front lines providing a critical service—housing,” says Watson. “Our teams have had to quickly adapt to new safety procedures and expectations based on the pandemic, and we felt it was important to recognize their work, leadership, and initiative.”

In addition to new safety precautions and enhanced cleaning procedures, employees are assisting renters who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

“Our teams have been working with residents by providing thoughtful rent deferment plans to assist them during this difficult time while also retaining cash flow,” adds Watson. “While managing the crisis at hand, we have also kept the long-term investment in mind. By running regular cash flow analysis and developing criteria for alternative payment plan options, we’re able to maintain goodwill and reputational standing with our residents, which is key for our retention and referral strategy.”

The pandemic isn’t slowing Bainbridge down from leasing vacant units and opening new communities, and Watson credits the leasing associates’ ability to adapt under the circumstances to create an authentic experience for prospective renters. The firm has adapted to virtual touring and has seen strong interest from prospects. She also has been pleased with the success of three recently opened lease-ups in Charlotte, N.C.; Frederick, Md.; and Jacksonville, Fla.

While Bainbridge has held employee recognition weeks in the past and frequently had in-person appreciation events, COVID-19 made it shift its approach this year.

“With employees practicing social distancing and unable to come together as a large group, we wanted to create an initiative that would connect our teams in a fun, lighthearted way and recognize their hard work,” she says. “All of our employees had to adjust quickly at the start of the pandemic, and they have handled the changes with true grace, humility, and leadership.”

Bainbridge sent individual care packages for employees to enjoy treats and Bainbridge swag, and made many of its events virtual. Leaders and managers have shared recorded videos with personalized messages thanking their teams. Social media contests include Tik Tok Thursday and Carpool Karaoke. In addition, continuing education has been provided to motivate employees and help them develop skills that are increasingly important in the new virtual environment.

In addition to the focus on employees, Bainbridge continues to adapt initiatives for residents as well. It has partnered with a vendor to provide online fitness classes and has aimed to keep communities engaged with events such as a virtual paint night, where supplies were provided and group paint classes were held with an instructor over Zoom.