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  • Mike Brown

Many Hands Make BCC Work

How do BCC’s elevator doors stay clean and shiny? When do the corridor carpets get vacuumed? Who does the nightly security check to make sure all exterior doors are closed and locked?

As we’ve emphasized before: BCC’s residents are the developers, owners, and maintainers of this building. We’re also—ta-daaa—the custodial crew. So all the little chores that need to be done to keep our home looking tidy and ready for visitors need to be done by us.


(The maintenance tasks we’re talking about here are things like sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, cleaning interior doors and windows, cleaning the common bathrooms, and so on. Different BCC teams oversee larger building systems, such as the HVAC, fire alarm and sprinklers, and laundry machines, or bigger jobs that require contractors, such as exterior window cleaning.)


Our companion downtown coho, Durham Central Park Cohousing, got us started by sharing its list of regular maintenance chores. We took that list, adapted it to Google Sheets, edited the list so it made sense for our building, and tweaked the columns and rows to make it easy for residents to sign up for tasks and edit the sheet themselves.


The spreadsheet is refreshed and updated monthly by Lise, who leads the Task Management team

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As you can see in this screenshot, the chores are grouped by floor, then frequency (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). At the start of the month, Lise emails the community to let them know they can sign up for any unassigned tasks.

Over time, some interesting patterns emerged.


For example, we originally thought people would want to sign up for different tasks every month. But as it turned out, people preferred signing up for the same tasks on a long-term basis, generally six months. Signing up for a monthly chore was one less thing to think about; it was much easier to remember to simply sweep the stairwell every other Saturday.


According to Lise, “Allowing people to choose their tasks really helps keep the system working well. Long-term sign up for the same task is also great for people who aren’t very comfortable with computer technology. They sign up once, and that’s it! They are good to go for several months.


"It also made managing the task list a lot easier, as I could simply copy it from one month to the next, simply changing the dates."


There are always a few tasks that aren’t signed up for long-term, she said. "That works well for community members who travel a lot, and don’t know when they will be available to complete a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly task. They can take a look at what needs to be done, and go for it. It gives flexibility in the system for everyone.”


From the beginning, the Task Management team assumed good intentions on everyone’s part. If a job was not done, Task Management team would not be the “clean police” or a nagging parent; they felt all that was needed was a simple email to remind folks to check that their jobs were done.


And so far, that’s proven to be the case. “This system of task management really highlights one of the beauties of community living--working cooperatively," Lise said. "The whole building is our home, and we trust each other to complete our self-assigned tasks to keep it in good shape. If something comes up that needs attention, all it takes is a simple email to the community for several people to respond pronto to take care of it.”


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