How to calm worried students and employees, vacancies and uncertainty for the autumn semester. That was some of the topics discussed this Friday (3:th of April), when thirty members of the NSBO network gathered for a digital exchange.
Besides representatives from Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic and Swedish student housing organizations, the meeting – hosted by the NSBO secretariat – also included colleagues from the UK, the Baltics, the Netherlands and from the United States.
Survey about effects of the corona crisis
Before the meeting, a survey was sent out to the whole network, to create an insight in how the situation with covid-19 has affected the different organizations. We started the meeting with a brief review of the result, which showed that anxiety among the tenants is the greatest impact from the corona crisis. Increased vacancies and tenants having trouble paying the rent, came in second and third place. Only 7,1 percent of the recipients have so far been forced to layoff staff.
When it comes to the main focus over the next month, safety among the staff, tenants’ well-being and reducing the spread of the infection is key priority, according to the survey. Here you can read the entire result of the survey (link).
A lot of insecurity
To enable good conversations, the participants was divided into smaller groups in which we discussed three main topics: actions right now, vacancies plus risks and possibilities. After spending some time in the smaller groups, we regrouped in the main digital conference room and shared our different experiences and thoughts with each other.
Although individual countries have partly different situations and stages of lockdown and restrictions, a lot of the consequences and challenges turned out to be the same. Several lifted extensive concern among staff and students, both regarding the spread of the virus and insecurity for the future. Many students have trouble paying the rent and several has left their student housing in advance, to go home to their hometown or -country. Some student housing organizations also experience that the isolation and pressure of the situation causes increased conflicts among the tenants.
In most of the organizations, the majority of the employees work from home, whitch demands a quick transformation to digital systems and new work methods. One meeting participant also lifted the psychological and mental aspect of not “see the end of it all”, as a challenge among many of the employees as well as the students.
Off course the business is highly affected for all organizations. A lot of focus needs to be on reallocating resources and making sure the most urgent work is taken care of. For example you have to decide whether or not to take out rent from the student who has left their apartment.
Many anticipates and fear great amount of vacancies ahead. “We don’t know if there will be any students at our university this autumn, but we have to make sure our current students are as happy as possible”, someone pointed out.
In it together
Many measures are now being taken in order to alleviate the impact of the corona crises. As showed in the survey, focus lays on taking care of the students and staff, and taking measures to reduce the spread of the infection.
Several lifted the importance of frequent communication – “keeping the students in the loop” – even though you don’t always have something new to say. Also do what you can to make the students lives a bit easier – and if possible – funnier. Some of the examples lifted were to provide cleaning kits, make a kitchen schedule for the students to avoid crowding, to get them some games and to arrange an outdoor performance or other entertainment for students in isolation.
Despite a lot of insecurity and challenges, the group agreed that a crisis like this also unite people and create opportunities regarding way of working and collaborations. “We’re in this together”, was the main message when it was time to sum up the discussion.
New meeting May 14
A majority of the participants saw a value in having a follow-up meeting in a while. Therefore we will arrange a meeting on the 14:th of May at 10-11 (Swedish time). If you wish to join the meeting and didn’t attend the meeting the 3rd of April (if you did attend you will automatically get the inviation), please email firstname.lastname@example.org