To Build Thriving Resident WellLiving Programs, Look Inward

The pandemic is creating a priority for well-being programs

By Dr. Karl Smith

“Wellness” is everywhere, but I prefer the term “well living.” It better describes a holistic approach that encompasses the physical space where people live and work out, as well as their mental and social well-being. The apartment industry wasn’t the first to the well-living game, but we’re here now. As home providers, we have a unique opportunity to impact our residents’ well-being.

We can create holistic well-living programs that are truly valuable to apartment dwellers. First, community owners and managers must look at the health of their own organizations. Then, they must break down silos and integrate across departments, work together to standardize brand and program offerings, and build the knowledge and capacity to personalize and customize resident programs and services.

Physician, heal thyself

A healthy internal organization is an essential building block for creating great well-living programs for residents. Before you try to build something amazing for your customers, consider what you offer your employees. Does your internal well-living program reflect your priorities and values? Does it reflect what you say you want to do for your customers? Internal programs are human resources’ domain, which means you’ll need to establish good communication and partnership with HR colleagues to get on the same page internally.

Building a holistic well-living program requires a holistic, cross-functional well-living team. A great group fitness program (created by a well-living leader) can’t exist without thoughtfully designed fitness centers (the domain of design and construction teams, with input from well living leaders). Organizational silos hold everyone back. No organization is perfectly transparent or open, which means we all have to work diligently to form positive inter-departmental relationships and partnerships. When considering all of well living’s facets, look internally and then create or strengthen the partnerships and collaboration with every group that impacts resident experience. In other words, all of them!

Build a trusted brand

In a society where “too few options” is almost never a problem, strong brands cut through the confusion. The best are trusted, known quantities. People hear a brand name, such as Orangetheory Fitness, and know with certainty that no matter which location they go to, they’re going to get a fast-paced, heart-pounding workout with a great instructor.

When apartment future and current dwellers hear a multifamily company’s name and the name of its well-living program, they should be able to trust that company will provide a great experience. When I was building Elevate, Cortland’s well living program, I knew I wanted to include free group-training classes. A quality group-training program is the backbone of any fitness center. It fosters a sense of community and provides workout guidance to the broadest spectrum of members. Providing this service from the convenience of the community fitness center is a huge benefit for residents.

My team and I did lots of research and vetting to find the right partner so we could standardize the experience residents could expect from us across the board. This is a key element of brand building. Every time one of Elevate’s group fitness instructor creates a great experience for a resident, they’re helping grow the brand through word of mouth. Consider how each aspect of your program builds your brand. And, of course, lean on your marketing colleagues to help get the word out about your offering to current and future residents.

Personalize and Customize

The multifamily industry has historically focused more on physical assets instead of the people who live inside them. This is changing, but we’re still understandably behind other industries, such as hospitality and fitness, when it comes to the two elements that make a truly amazing well-living program – personalization and customization.

Personalization is knowing the individual – what they like, what their interests are and how to meet those needs. Personalization is walking into a Starbucks and being greeted with a coffee recommendation based on what the barista knows you’d like.

Customization, the next step, gives customers the ability to change bits and pieces of a process, product or service to shape it to suit their specific needs and/or wants at that time. Getting to customization takes tools the multifamily industry has only recently started to build and acquire. But once we have them, our well-living offerings will improve even more.

Well living – attending to our environmental, physical, social and mental health – has always been important. As someone who has spent his career building programs that strengthen and support these areas of life, seeing a holistic approach catch on with a majority of consumers and companies is heartening. Our home environments, whether we own or live in apartments, play a central role in our well living. As the apartment industry increasingly invests in residential well-living, we could become the industry people think of alongside fitness when it comes to creating opportunities for positive change in people’s health.

Dr. Karl Smith, aka Dr. Fitness, is the Director of Residential Well Living at Cortland. Dr. Smith provides fitness, health, and well living tips for residents.

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