What I Learned During a Pandemic
By Tania Haluk – Vice President Operations, Toronto – Wilson Blanchard Management, An Associa® Company
(Previously published in the CCI-Toronto Magazine, Condovoice, Summer 2020)
Ice storms, hurricanes, wildfires, and now a pandemic – Canadians are strong and resilient and able to pull together during times of crisis. I’m reflecting on a quote from Mr. Rogers – ‘look for the helpers’ and reminded that we all have a responsibility to do our part as helpers, especially in the close living arrangements of condominiums.
It is not solely the guidance and direction from your property manager and the site and support staff, but also the cooperation of the condo boards and residents to minimize risk to each other. I learned that the pandemic had a larger human impact that was so much more than containing the spread of a virus.
Over the spring with the viral spread of COVID-19 and the overload of information and continuous newsreels, seemingly nothing else was happening either locally or globally. I wondered how people were coping and where we could help with overcoming the impacts of self-isolation to minimize social isolation and the loneliness and other mental impacts that could arise during these unknown times.
CCI has held seminars covering a variety of areas surrounding mental health, wellness and illness, as they become topics of increasing interest with the ever-changing condo demographic. Members are showing an open-minded interest to understand and appreciate the diversity of the population choosing to live in the unique condo environment. Besides minimizing exposure to a virus, there is also a concern with managing mental stress and challenges that could exacerbate with isolation and continuous negative news loops, such as triggering PTSD, increasing feelings of doom, depression, SAD, and other areas of anxiety and panic disorders. What we’ve seen from this pandemic is an increase of online support from therapists, doctors, and other websites and phone lines in attempt to reduce and manage the triggers that this situation could bring on by offering alternative care. The tools offered from these resources will assist with coping during an emergency when travelling to an appointment becomes inadvisable or impossible.
Another thing I’ve learned/noticed - When was washing hands not a thing? The hoarding of supplies shows that the pandemic was taken seriously, however I’m not sure why sanitizer was in short supply but soap remained fully stocked! When big-box stores like Costco run out of supplies by the panic purchasing of gloves, sanitizer, rice, pasta, and toilet paper, it makes you wonder what opportunity will be found, like ‘I survived the TP shortage of 2020’ t-shirts.
New phrases and facets of conversation have been learned – When was ‘flatten the curve’ and ‘exponential growth’ part of daily discussions? Other expressions and terms that have increased during the pandemic are: complacency, the apex, social distancing, PPE, self-isolation and quarantine. Even asking ‘how are you?’ has changed to ‘how are you coping?’ and the typical ‘fine’ response has changed to a more open discussion and tip sharing exchange to relieve boredom or loneliness or revealing what the new normal looks like. Zoom and other online meeting platforms have replaced the usual in person meetings and allowed us to retain some human contact via video. This has also resulted in a more relaxed environment with an expectation of interruption in some form – kids or pets entering the forum, regular tech issues and innovative creation of structure for backgrounds whether it be virtual backgrounds or a peek into the home life of the attendees.
Besides business meetings, we can still reach out socially without physical proximity to continue to engage with each other which is vitally important as human beings. Some suggestions include using your phone as an actual telephone to call people in addition to using other tech for scheduling times to touch base and check in with friends and family that we cannot be with in person. This includes an extension of invitation to residents in live chat rooms, Facebook, and video updates to engage and update the condo community – it can also be a platform for residents to meet their neighbours in a virtual environment. Other activities I’ve witnessed and participated in are virtual dinner parties, video games, wine tastings, finding and sharing new podcasts, creating your own fun content on TikTok or other platforms, virtual game nights, Instagram dance parties, zoom gatherings and tons of other options to continue to relate to one another. Since gyms are closed, for those looking for physical activities, there are lots of online programs available for free to follow along to get or keep moving. At the time of writing this article, we are not restricted from going outside, as long as we stay 2m apart. Make some space in your condo for some good stretching to counter the ‘hunched over the device’ pose most of us are becoming fused into.
Shout outs for taking action! There are a lot of people who are appreciated and should be recognized and not limited to the few mentioned here: the Ontario legislative committee who banded together in the midst of the chaos and put together letters, papers, suggestions and feedback for various governing Ministries, public health officials, and local MPs, while trying to maintain their own businesses during a pandemic outbreak. Concerns immediately arose on how to protect condos, residents and staff. Kudos also to the support staff and essential workers to quickly pivot to develop new protocols, updating guidelines to protect the health and safety of staff and residents; to the managers for continuity of service, either remotely and or onsite with new safety guidelines to ensure the minimal amount of disruption and community impact by minimizing infection wherever possible. Businesses surrounding condos such as breweries and distilleries came up with new plans to manufacture sanitizer during a shortage. Teachers who recognized that students continue to require structure and learning and developed online teaching and continuing education for the students. Most importantly, the front line and healthcare workers – like many areas of service, under-appreciated until an emergency or disaster happens – however they remain there for us around the clock.
Condo directors should continue to deliver communication – not just about Covid, but keeping residents connected to the community despite not being able to gather together socially. Maintain some flexibility and adapt to change – in the Be Kind video from CCI-Your Condo Connection (see YouTube) there was a reference that if a particular rule was consistently being broken and or challenged, is it time to reflect on whether the community needs that rule or consider a refresh on what’s important instead of creating conflict or fighting about something just because it’s a rule, instead of what makes sense. Keep doing what’s right, not always what’s easy i.e. shutting down amenities, gyms, playgrounds, etc.
Small gestures for big impact can be used for yourself and others. There is huge value in taking some time to determine what works for you to cope with stress or uncertainty, and it may help those you care about as well. There are numerous avenues to consider and not every method has a one size fits all solution. Just letting someone know you are thinking about them or checking in on how someone is doing can have a great effect. Meditation can take on whatever form feels comfortable for you and can be used as a tool for focus, calming or clarity. Asking someone how you can help them instead of waiting for them to reach out will remove the stress of feeling like a burden. Lending an ear to just listen or be a sounding board for someone to let off some steam without actually offering or providing a solution can provide relief.
We must be strong and work together and decide as a society what the new normal is going to look like and how we’ll get there. The recovery phase must include opportunities to innovate, create, evolve and adapt how we interact and conduct business. I question whether the trusted hand shake will remain a customary greeting – a quick internet search revealed that the origin of the hand shake indicated that you came in peace and were not wielding a weapon in your hand. Interestingly for that period, a weapon meant a physical tool, not a viral infection.
A few tips to keep in mind during a pandemic or other crisis – swing into action! Even when we’re unsure of an outcome, it’s better than sitting on the fence. Over communicate! Consider alternate means of reaching people to ensure everyone gets the messaging. Listen! No one has ever complained that they were ‘over listened’ to. Keep an attitude of gratitude and compassion! There are lots of helpers out there, no matter how big or small the gesture. Wash your hands! (self-explanatory) And as always, be excellent to yourself and each other!