The following insights have been shared by Williams Johnson Mota, CEO and founder of B-Hive Living
What is the biggest challenge you faced in the current situation and how have you (tried to) overcome it?
The biggest challenge for us has been responding fast changing government directives and quickly implementing new contingency measures accordingly. In particular, in the UK, we’ve now a new directive which obliges an entire community or household to go into isolation should one member of the community is suspected of having the symptoms. This has been a major concern so we’ve placed a huge amount of emphasis on education and prevention.
Is there any specific (other) story you’d like to share? This can be on another “crisis moment” or how someone from your team / community handled the situation strongly.
We’re blessed that we’ve no cases yet. But, we were contacted by former member who left about three weeks ago who has tested positive. As you can imagined, we panicked thinking that there were more people infected and we were concerned that we would have to ask that entire community to isolate. Luckily, no one else developed the symptoms and the timeframe was long enough not to trigger a full lockdown of the community. Really stressful.
What changes in health and safety policy have you implemented in your coliving space?
Since we’re following very closely the situation in Italy, we started to preempt the government measures and act well in advance. See below a few of the measures. The Health & Safety Ambassadors have been great to get more in-depth of understanding of how the community is living the situation and responding accordingly.
- Created educational posters
- Provided bi-weekly briefs on the situation.
- Contingency measures for insolation and home working including requesting next of keen information,
- On-going monitoring of resident’s health and travel;
- More stringent curation of prospective residents including health and safety;
- Appointment of in-house Health & Safety Ambassadors;
- Adopted more comprehensive cleaning protocols;
- Suspended regular maintenance work unless urgent and necessary;
- Cancelled our social events and replaced them with online and in-house activities whenever possible and safe;
What changes have you made to support the physical and mental wellbeing of your residents in response to the coronavirus?
We already deliver weekly wellness tips to our residents on six pillars of wellness. Here is what we’ve done on top of that:
- Reframed our wellness tips around the Covid-19 topic by delivering content on how to boost immune system, overcome anxiety and fear and reframe your thinking positively and etc.
- We’ve organised a couple of live wellness sessions online and we are assessing whether we’ll continue. The take up has not been great but the UK has gone into lockdown today so it may change.
- As a result of the above, we’ve a created a fitness regime for working out at home in the form of a poster which people can follow in their own time.
- As of today (everyone will have to work from home), we will providing practical tips on how to avoid home fatigue and leverage this time to reset or boost your lifestyle positively.. We’ll be deliver content on inspiring books to read and movies to watch, how to work effectively from home in community and etc
- We’re now considering offering wellness kits should the workout regime have a good take up.
What changes have you made to support the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff (both on-site and off-site) in response to the coronavirus?
Practicing social distancing has been the key. We mainly seek to work remotely and interact with residents via phone and video. But we continue to attend the sites but we are strategic about when we do so.
How are you managing and caring for those residents who are ill and may have or have the virus?
We’re blessed to have no cases but we’ve already created protocols for such situations. The government has very specific guidelines for how we have to handle this. For instance, we’d need to provide a separate bin and dispose the rubbish of this person separately. We also need to support the person with groceries.
How are you handling residents who got laid off and are unable to pay? This concern has been raised by several operators.
The UK has gone into full lockdown today so we expect this to happen. We’ve an insurance that each of our residents pay upon coming to live with us which will cover a few months. But we are still establishing whether they will cover this situation. Also, the person would need to leave the community and we want to try to avoid giving notice to residents at such a time. To deal with that, we may decide to negotiate a rent holiday period but its not easy. If you offer one person we’ve got to offer all and the business cannot sustain that.
What have you communicated to your residents about the virus? How have you communicated this information e.g. email, face-to-face discussion?
We think that its important to use various channels. We’ve produced posters, used emails for our bi-weekly update emails as well as WhatsApp groups and the community platforms. Calls with the H&S Ambassadors.
Have you encountered any difficulties in communicating this information? How have you overcome this (or how are you trying to)?
No, so far our residents have been cooperative. Having the ambassadors collecting data and pushing some key messages has been key.
What are the biggest operational issues relating to coronavirus that you're currently struggling with? What would best help you?
We’ve a new property being launched soon and our queries are very low. We believe that many people are scared about living in a shared living space right now. So I think we need the whole industry to unite and tell the story how living in community can be beneficial in such times.
In terms of the business model and marketing - what innovative approaches have you implemented or are thinking of implementing (i.e. dealing with future move ins, etc)?
From a business model, we’ve been surprised how resilient our business model has been so far. But, as mentioned, we have less demand right now so we’re considering offer entire spaces to a corporate client or medical staff of hospitals. From marketing, we’ve changed our ads to include info on how we’re dealing with this situation and we may start to use virtual tours of the property.
Thank you Williams for answering those questions.