By Tami Seekins, Esq.
COVID-19 forced community associations (“Associations”) to alter how they conducted business. Like many other organizations, Associations did not have the option to put their business on hold. With the vaccine now widely available and the CDC updated guidelines that provide that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, Association’s may be asking, “Now what?”
How and when the transition from virtual meetings to in-person meetings takes place will likely depend on the comfort and feelings of your community and your Board members. While some Board members or residents are ready to get back to in-person meetings, others may not be fully vaccinated, or may have underlying health concerns that prevent them from attending an in-person meeting. Others may simply prefer attending meetings virtually.
One transitional step to consider is a hybrid Board Meeting. A hybrid Board Meeting is one in which the meeting is held simultaneously in-person and virtually. A hybrid Board Meeting has advantages: (1) Ease and convenience – a Board member, an owner, or vendor can attend from any location; (2) Potential for increased owner participation by providing more options to attend Board Meetings; (3) Efficiency and cost effectiveness – if required to attend, the Association’s attorney can attend only that portion of the meeting that requires their input, eliminating additional expenses; and (4) Owner management – an unruly or uncooperative owner can be managed with technology, such as by muting his/her microphone.
However, the hybrid meeting is not without its challenges. Board leaders will need to ensure the meeting is focused to stay productive. This can be done by: (1) Discussing how virtual Board members will indicate that they wish to give input; (2) Establishing ground rules and expectations for participation for both virtual and in-person attendees at the beginning of each meeting; and (3) Reminding virtual attendees to continue to raise a hand or send a message in the chat box to indicate they have input or a question.
Additionally, Associations can demonstrate that safety remains a priority by holding the hybrid Board Meeting outdoors, providing hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, continuing limited seating, and notifying those with Covid-19 symptoms to stay home and attend the Board Meeting virtually.
Attending an in-person meeting might still be an intimidating prospect for many individuals; however, taking transitional steps such as implementing the hybrid Board Meeting with continued safety measures in place, provides the opportunity for everyone to participate in their Association with peace of mind.