The following are transcribed notes from a recorded video interview with Laure Bommart, the community manager at Cohabs. You can also view the recorded video below. Thanks Laure!
What are the measures you have taken recently and some inspiring stories from the community?
At the end of February we were already taking measures and communicating about these measures, we didn’t wait for the lockdown to take the measures but were really taking measures ahead of time. When the situation started to get more serious in Europe, we started to talk about it more amongst the teams, so last Monday we communicated to all of the members by email with all the important measures to respect within the houses and also sharing information about doubling the cleaning and the monthly groceries to twice a month. We also decided to print some rules about if someone has symptoms what they should do and also guidelines about appropriate hygiene measures.
Our first step was really about following the government information about following the government guidelines: stay at home, no parties, wash your hands, etc. The second action was to order for each house a quarantine pack where you have some extra food and resources in case there were some supply issues in the future. I also communicated with house mangers in the private channel to have day to day updates and checking in with them regularly about if they have any questions and if there are any suggestions about improvements to take measures for their health and safety. One suggestion from the Royal 23 house was that if someone was sick then the rest of the community would make dinner for them and then share in the bedrooms.
We are also adapting our communication strategy: we wanted members to think about something other than the virus - so sending everyday suggestions for recipes, games, music, Netflix, fitness … and on top of that once or twice a week we continue to remind them about health and safety measures.
We were able to give members the number of a doctor that Cohabs is in contact with to get hotline support and do a live diagnostic. A lot of members are international and don’t have a doctor on site so it’s really important that they have a doctor on call. This is a friend of one of the founders who was really there for us when communicating health and safety measures and now is supporting us with the hotline access.
We also decided to do digital events that are co-organised by the community members and the team for example using Strava running app to do a running challenge (first to 100km gets a really nice family dinner). In April we are also organising a house quarantine challenge: at the end of the month they need to send the all the photos of the challenge and the winners will get a bar tab at Café Flora. Some of the challenges include:
-Create a work out station with homemade equipment
-Organise an event for the local community (i.e. music on the terrace)
-Create a house hand shake
It's really important for us to continue to do events but do it in another way. We want the members to enjoy this moment and not only see the negative parts of this crisis, but also allowing members to appreciate this moment all together and see that it’s quite nice to be in community at this kind of time. -Laure Bommart
What could you have done in hindsight and what are some impacts of this on your future strategy?
We could have been more aware of what was happening a few weeks in advance, could have been even more reactive. Luckily there still won't be an impact on the business model and occupancy rate in the next few months. Even though we did not necessarily think of the next move ins and next availabilities and need to think about that a bit in advance. But because our minimum stay is 6 months we don't happen to have too many move ins or move outs.
We're pretty lucky because we didn’t have too many members wanting to move out because of Covid-19, so luckily we didn’t have anyone moving out because of this. We do have some people moving out in April and we reached out to them if they needed to stay a little longer. The newest person moving in we have been in touch with to see how and when they can best move in, and have offered a potential discount if they need to move in a bit later. The day before move in the will have to take their temperature and will have to do a check in with a doctor. They have been recommended not to have too much contact with the existing members.
What are some cool community stories during all of this?
One action of one of the houses that was cool was that one house decided a day before the lockdown and to print some small papers that if the neighbors needed their help to go grocery shopping they could support them with that. And they also suggested the rest of the houses to do the same via the app that connects to the rest of the Cohabs homes in Brussels. A few neighbors came by to thank them for that but did not necessarily need help.
We also raised some money for a homeless shelter - the owner of the shelter was really struggling since most of their donations were coming from restaurants and cafés nearby but since a lot of them are closing they needed extra financial support. So one of the founders, Youri, contacted the team and the community to raise money for the shelter. We are also communicating to members that they can donate to other local hospitals and charities.
This is an opportunity to look at the positive side and think about what can we can do as a community and how I can make a positive impact. -Laure Bommart