In times of uncertainty, we all turn to what we have, available resources that can help us, asking questions such as, “What’s within reach that can improve the situation?” and “Who around us can advise on best next steps?”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you likely are doing the same thing on a quest to maximize the use of your resources to keep your operations running and your residents healthy and safe. And you’re probably also gathering intel on how to improve your response mechanisms and the way you operate.

That’s where streamlining comes in. From tips for staffing to capabilities within your computerized maintenance management system, or CMMS, there are hidden gems and quick wins to explore during this critical time. Let’s explore six areas where you can see impactful improvements for safety, health and efficiency.

1. Communication / feedback loop for work requests

The more that’s on your plate (and right now — there’s a lot on the plate), the more difficult it can be to keep teams on the same page and make sure no time is wasted on back-and-forth questions, status checks or irate calls questioning why something isn’t done.

With work requests for your maintenance and housekeeping staff, make sure you’ve set up a feedback loop that automatically pushes feedback to requesters, keeping them updated on the status of work and reasons for delay. This simple step will save you countless hours of back and forth.

2. Mobile tools for maintenance and more

 Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been monitoring usage patterns (no surprise – our transportation app’s usage is down about 25%). But the percentage of users on mobile is up 10% in the past several weeks.

Now is the time to look at how work is being dispatched to teams:

  • Do you have staff going back to the maintenance shop to pick up jobs?
  • Are they tied to a desk documenting what they’ve done?

Empower your staff members by letting them submit, complete and document work on a smartphone or mobile device.

3. Quality assurance

What’s most important is not that you have your emergency response plan or new infection control policies written, but how well your staff adopt them. Quality assurance programs are a vital component of rolling out new policies and procedures — from infection control to personal protective equipment to new contractor policies. How are you ensuring that staff members are following the new requirements that protect staff and residents?

Create simple digital QA’s / inspections tools within your CMMS — basic pass-fail questions that identify where training is required across your teams and which team members may need special coaching.  

By creating QAs, automating their recurrences and providing a quick and easy way to complete them, you can better protect staff and residents.

4. Digital documentation

Speaking of equipping your staff members to do their work efficiently and effectively, digital documentation plays a key part. You need a digital, accessible place to house safety and cleaning protocols, forms, QAs, floor plans and more.

CMMS solutions are evolving. More and more, they’re building in file libraries where you can upload all the documentation you and your staff need to confidently tackle cleaning, work orders and even protocols for interacting with residents. To address unique needs around COVID-19, consider adding safety notes to work orders to detail special infection control requirements, PPE needs, procedures around entering high risk areas and more.

5. COVID-19 reporting

Coming out of this pandemic, many uncertainties exist. Will there be access to funds for COVID-19 response work? What will budgetary effects be?

Although we don’t know all of the answers yet, what we do know is that having a clear picture of the effect of COVID-19 on budgets and work load will pay dividends (whether through access to funding or ensuring that you are better prepared in the future). 

Use specific tagging in your CMMS to track work related to COVID-19, so you can easily report on it — but don’t stop there. Make sure you track labor hours and costs, so you have a full picture of the effects.

6. Show gratitude

Your staff members are on the front lines, promoting health and safety, and they can’t hear it enough that you are grateful for their hard work.

For the facilities and housekeeping teams, the actual volume of work they do often is missed by both residents and other staff members because so much of it is “behind the scenes.” Using your CMMS, you should be able to pull reports on just how much work teams have done. Use those numbers to promote the efforts your teams have been undertaking and give them the recognition they deserve.

You are doing incredibly important work. It is times such as these that make every step and task really count toward safety. And when you can streamline your daily work, that’s easier to achieve.

Josh Malbogat is a senior director for TheWorxHub by Dude Solutions and has worked with more than 1,000 senior living communities in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom throughout his career.