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Felicite Moorman, CEO and co-founder of STRATIS IoT.
Felicite Moorman, CEO and co-founder of STRATIS IoT.

With the vast majority of the U.S. population now living under some kind of stay-at-home order, more residents are working from home than ever, and staying in their homes for extended periods of time. According to Felicite Moorman, CEO and co-founder of smart multifamily platform STRATIS IoT, multifamily providers will need to ensure that their buildings’ network infrastructure can meet the short-term needs of renters working from home—and, in the long term, anticipate that some of these workers may find they prefer to work from their units either full or part time.

We spoke with Moorman about how property owners and operators should approach the sudden shift to working at home, as well as how that shift will affect worker attitudes moving out of the pandemic.

MFE: How do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will affect workers’ attitudes toward working from home? Do you foresee an increase in workers choosing to work from home part or full time?

Moorman: I believe on this side of this crisis we are going to see national mandates for lockdown, effectively requiring everyone, not essential staff, to work from home. On the other side of this crisis, I expect we will have found a multitude of reasons, from family-friendly [circumstances] to decreased commuting and increased productivity, to carry on work from home for those who are able, at least part time.

MFE: What are the Wi-Fi and technology standards you believe owners and operators will need to meet to handle large numbers of at-home workers?

Moorman: Video conferencing and mobile computing for property managers is the new bare minimum. But beyond that, ensuring that any building providing internet services can meet the capacity demands of the work-from-home economy.

Standard packages will probably suffice with minimal degradation of services, but most internet providers will still have technicians who can make site visits to upgrade connections and services if needed. I would suggest avoiding knee-jerk reactions and only consider upgrading if current services cannot meet demand and obligations.

MFE: What can owners and operators do in the short term to ensure that Wi-Fi needs are met?

Moorman: A parallel approach of identifying needs and shortfalls with current staff and residents, while contacting current providers to identify capabilities and costs to increase service as needed is a well-warranted proactive approach to ensuring consistency and reliability.

MFE: Would these strategies change depending on the age of a given building (pre- vs. post-digital age infrastructure)?

Moorman: Materially, no. The solution and likelihood of requiring upgrades will be significantly higher for older structures; however, most multifamily buildings older than five years rely on individual resident connectivity and contracted services.

MFE: Do you believe co-working spaces as amenities could meet this need?

Moorman: Right now a co-working space as an amenity is likely a liability property owners understandably want to avoid. Long term I expect it will be a must-have amenity and could include a reservable, quiet Zoom Room or two, a traditional reservable meeting space, printers, a call booth, coffee station, and other value-adds for residents working from home.

MFE: Are there other consequences of increased numbers of residents working from home that operators should be aware of, both in the short and in the long term?

Moorman: Operationally there will be other impacts. We have several partners that are using STRATIS IoT to lock down schedules for amenity spaces where people cannot successfully socially distance themselves, such as small gyms and pools. In addition, cleaning and sanitizing building restrooms and lounges is critical and will require additional supplies and more staff effort.

There will also be a significant increase in water consumption and waste generation for the property, likely requiring additional pickups and modified procedures to ensure that the property remains clean and secure.

The properties that can utilize technology to minimize the real and immediate stressors on their residents through this will have an opportunity to build brand loyalty and distinguish themselves through this crisis. Service will change, but does not have to suffer as a result of the challenges we all currently face, and we are all best served by finding ways of growing through this together.