Editors note: The full names of the concierges and their places of work have been withheld for privacy reasons.
At a time when tens of thousands of Torontonians have been asked to stay at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, thousands more wake up every morning, put on a brave face, and show up at work, risking their lives to serve and protect residents during the pandemic.
Many of these are front line workers, battling the virus head-on in local hospitals and in care facilities, or there’s the grocery store, pharmacy, and delivery workers who are constantly dealing with people, and then there are the other essential workers who are still protecting residents of Toronto, though in a different manner. This includes the concierges who work in local condo buildings, sacrificing their safety as they protect tenants day in and day out.
While the jobs of concierges and condo building staff is to always assist residents and make their lives easier, since the pandemic began, these workers have gone above and beyond to take care of tenants and keep them safe while still securing the buildings they work in and keeping them clean during this difficult time.
Just like you and me, concierges weren’t trained to battle a pandemic, not to mention they haven’t (most likely) had to work through one before. So to say the past three months have been an adjustment for these workers is a bit of an understatement.
“Working during the coronavirus has definitely had its challenges. I’ve worked in this industry for over seven years, and I never imagined I would have to adjust to working through something like the coronavirus pandemic,” recounted Christopher, who works as an executive concierge at a condo building on Bloor Street.
Christopher works in a building with around 2000 tenants and one that has six residential elevators; you can just imagine how much traffic goes in and out of those elevators every day.
“Now there is a two-person restriction for how many people are allowed in an elevator at one time,” said Christopher, adding that this safety measure is in addition to plastic guards installed at concierge desks and hand sanitizing stations located throughout the building and in all common areas like the parking garage, lobbies, and amenity areas.
“It’s definitely been a difficult transition and it’s taken time to get used to the little things like remembering to always have my mask. But if we all do our part and follow the directions from health officials, we’ll all get through this,” said Christopher.
Very similar safety measures can be found at a condo building along Avenue Road in Summerhill, where Leo works as an executive concierge.
“Anything the tenants need they contact me directly, so I work very closely with the residents,” explained Leo. “But as the pandemic began, a lot of our building’s rules, protocols and procedures changed.”
He explained that while his job directly has remained relatively the same, the jobs of the staff he oversees have changed drastically. “Previously there used to be valets, but that has ended and those workers are now working security and accepting parcels and deliveries for residents.”
Since Leo and his staff work directly with residents, many of whom are older, everyone wears masks and gloves while working and they are constantly sanitizing and cleaning everywhere in the building.
“The demographic in our building is older and a lot of the people that live here are in the zone where they are at risk, which is why they’ve been super cooperative with the changes and implementations that have already been made,” said Leo.
To further protect residents and staff, Leo said there’s now a perimeter around the front desk and access to the lobby is limited. “There are only two residents allowed in the lobby and elevator at a time,” said Leo, adding that all guests and deliveries must enter through the rear of the building.
Leo explained that the building started to prepare ahead of the pandemic and already had policies in place to protect the residents, with access to amenities such as the treatment rooms, gyms, and guest suites being limited early on.
Karl, another executive concierge who works at a different condo building in the Summerhill-area, said that most people haven’t had to work through a pandemic before, but they’re learning to adapt.
“At the start of the pandemic, many of our residents had to self isolate as many of them are snowbirds, were overseas, or away for business. To make them feel comfortable, we would deliver all of their parcels and food right to their doors so they didn’t have to leave their suites, which was a great help,” explained Karl, adding that the residents in the building he works at have been really cooperative with adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“We also focus on trying to educate and inform in a polite and professional manner which has helped residents adapt to the changes.”
Karl explained that the building’s management has been a great help throughout the pandemic and always makes sure employees have a good supply of masks, gloves, and sanitizer so we can keep the sites clean and safe for both residents and staff.
He said that staff are always cleaning and sanitizing the lobby and high-traffic areas in the building, and they even supply residents with face masks if they forget theirs when they head outside. “It’s the small touches like this that residents really enjoy,” said Karl.
While the province continues moving forward with reopening the economy, the concierges say it’ll still be some time until things return to ‘normal’ in their respective workplaces.
“Everything will be a work in progress,” said Karl. “Until the health ministers have given us the all-clear we’re going to slowly reopen amenities and reduce the regulations and procedures in place. But what we’re conscious of is not falling into a second wave, and we’ll take baby steps until we get through this.”
Given the unpredictability of the virus, all three of the concierges say they believe the current health and safety protocols will remain in place even after the pandemic is over, particularly in the buildings with older residents.
Now, more than ever, we all need to remember to thank these workers, who continue to put themselves at risk every day by showing up to work and ensuring the elevator buttons we have to touch are properly sanitized or that our deliveries arrive safely to our units.
Unfortunately, it’s taken a pandemic to expose how vital these workers are to our daily lives and to deem them as essential to the successful functionality of society. When the crisis is over, workers like concierges will still show up to work every day to take care of us. So, remember to thank them, and hopefully at some point, you’ll be able to do so without extending a gloved hand or while wearing a face mask.
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