Many apartment communities strive to create a welcoming office environment in order to put prospective residents at ease.  From aromatic scents and freshly baked cookies to a warm faire, these comforts communicate a feeling of home.  However, when managers have an office connected to their apartment or even inside their apartment home, sometimes the lines between the professional office and an employee’s personal space can blur.

Question: I supervise several apartment buildings in which many of my managers work out of an office that is attached to or inside their apartment.  Some of these employees have young children and pets.  Often, when I call these properties, I hear a dog barking or a child crying and not always in the background.   Sometimes I am even put on hold while the manager deals with an urgent child-related matter.  I am concerned about these situations and how they are affecting residents and prospective renters.  However, I’m not quite sure how to deal with this issue since these managers have a personal residence attached to or combined with their office.

Answer: You have a valid concern and it needs to be addressed.  Yet, much respect and consideration are required when dealing with people regarding their pets and children “ ESPECIALLY their children!  However, your employees must be made to understand that you have certain expectations regarding office protocol during business hours.  If your employees are regularly allowing their children or pets in the leasing office during these hours, then this is a disruption to the leasing process and an inconvenience to your residents or prospective renters.
Regarding pets, this could end up becoming a liability for your company, community and/or owner.  Many people have pet allergies and/or phobias.  When someone is looking for an apartment, they do not expect to enter a leasing office; which is a place of business and find themselves confronted by a dog.  They also aren’t thinking that they have to be prepared with a medication to counteract their body’s response to an extreme cat allergy.  They are expecting a professional business setting where they plan to get information about renting an apartment.
As with any other office policy or procedure, something should be in writing regarding these issues so that employees will know what the expectations are. It might seem like common sense to you for your managers to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives.   On the other hand, when people live where they work, it’s not always easy to keep the lines clearly defined; these managers share an obligation their families as well as to their residents and employer.
No matter what type of situation you are dealing with on site, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open.  This will ensure that the on site managers understand your expectations and that you will provide them with the support they need.  That way, they can handle their responsibilities at work, as well as at home and put appropriate distance between the two.
After all, employee turnover can have an even greater impact on the dynamics of your community and your bottom line, than apartment turnover.

Ask the Secret Shopper is provided by Shoptalk Service Evaluations.  For more information, email joyce@shoptalkservice.com or visit www.shoptalkservice.com.  Reprinted with permission.

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