When reflecting on the last year, one quote comes to mind, "There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” This has definitely been a year that won’t be forgotten. At LifeX, we have all learned a lot over the last year and with the support of our community, we continue to navigate the current challenges and use our learnings to strengthen our operations.
Hindsight is 20/20
Despite the rollercoaster ride that was 2020, there have been some memorable highlights from our community and our team which have motivated us during difficult times. With a new year upon us, we thought we would take a moment to reflect and go over some of our learnings and highlights from 2020.
First and foremost, what stood out to us was our incredible community of international individuals living in LifeX homes. Early in the year, we were all faced with a frightening and uncertain situation. If you’re living in a country you’re unfamiliar with, as many of our members are, these feelings are often intensified. However, almost as fast as the news was breaking - the community was coming together in a new way. Aside from online events, we saw strong in-house communities form; housemates became colleagues, gym buddies, and close companions. A recent survey of our community indicated over 90% of respondents agreed that having housemates at LifeX improved their experience of the lockdowns. We thank you for your continued support, your companionship, and your patience.
As a company, we did our best to remain nimble and reactive to the ever-evolving circumstances and will continue to do so. We have been growing quickly over the last three years since we started, due to the coronavirus outbreak, many of our growth plans for 2020 were delayed. However, a silver lining for us was that we had time to focus on the growth we had done, and give extra attention to the homes and members that we already have. Giving us time to streamline, build tech solutions, and improve our processes overall - which will have lasting benefits in the future.
In challenging times, it’s important to focus on the progress that has been made. Aside from the major world events of 2020, here are some of the things that we will remember the year for as a company:
We’ve been turning our learnings into improvements and will take that momentum forward with us into the new year as we become a stronger operator.
Community: Redefined And More Important Than Ever
On the community side, we certainly faced some new challenges and we are so proud of our community members for supporting one another in tumultuous times. As soon as Corona broke, we noticed that we needed to boost our communication abilities and be more accessible to our members. Our product team jumped in and created a new ‘Messaging’ feature in our Membership app that centralised and improved communication. We also allocated more resources for proactive and reactive communication, establishing a new member support team and corona response team. This resulted in our team being more reachable and able to communicate important information effectively.
We noticed that whilst the community aspect of co-living was becoming even more important, it was simultaneously becoming unsafe to meet in-person. This meant we needed to change our approach to community events. Instead of focusing on in-person events, we organised virtual events, sponsored in-house events, and launched a city-specific newsletter to foster the sense of community. With virtual events, it has been great to see our community connect on an international level. Our efforts to facilitate in-house events were also positively received; in a recent member survey, the majority of respondents want us to help them with more ways to connect with their housemates, so we will continue focusing on this.
In an effort to continue strengthening our community, our product team recently added an ‘Events’ feature to our Membership app. It’s now easier to see what’s going on and for members to chat, form interest groups, and plan their own events too. We hope to see this feature become the local (and international) community hub for our members. They also implemented a feedback and rating system so members can easily share information about their apartment and household vibe. This gives us a better understanding of our member’s experience and improves our community and operation team’s metrics and responsiveness. This has increased member satisfaction scores, which we’re pleased to see.
When A Home Becomes Your World, It Needs More Attention
Our operations team, who keep our homes in tip-top shape, have been busy in the last year trying to keep everything running smoothly. Since our members were spending more time at home, the demands of a household increased as well. We realised a few things needed to change for us to meet these demands.
Our operations team dedicated more resources towards issue resolution and also hired our own housekeeping staff, instead of outsourcing them. This allowed them to have more control and be more responsive - ensuring high levels of cleanliness. We really appreciate our new housekeeping teams, who have worked so diligently over the last year. They stayed on top of government guidelines, increased precautions, and ensured that the homes were attended to in a way that is safe for both the members and the cleaners.
With many homes and property types, come many different challenges. As with any home, things need to be repaired from time to time. One common issue was wifi, especially during the first lockdown; the sudden increase in internet usage meant that some systems needed to be upgraded. Our product team and operations team have been working on these issues together and have upgraded our systems to the highest capabilities. The aforementioned in-app feedback and rating system was instrumental in improving our responsiveness. Some issues are more complex and take a bit longer to resolve, so we always appreciate our member’s patience whilst we work on finding solutions. In 2020 our operations team resolved over 1,500 issues!
Designing New Homes, For New Lifestyles
Our design team, who create our beautiful spaces, has been putting in tons of work. Aside from opening some new properties this year, they have also overhauled their process to make it even easier to create a LifeX home. Leveraging CGI rendering technology - our design team can now create full 3D models of our homes so that we know exactly what they will look like before we’re handed the key. This leads to a faster set-up time for our team and an improved experience for new members who will be able to visualise new properties before setup is complete.
In a continuous effort to become more sustainable, they focused on partnering with sustainable furniture companies. We are happy to say that their efforts are paying off, and the majority of our furnishings come from sustainable brands. With all this time at home, it’s very important to not only feel good in your home but also to feel good about your home.
Keeping Us Connected
Our product team has collaborated heavily with all our teams this year in an effort to streamline our process and improve the member experience. As you’ve read, they have made many crucial updates to our Membership app, allowing our teams to improve and address issues faster. They have also developed a strong metrics system both internally and externally so that we can get feedback and information quickly. In a time where fast responses are critical, we’ve been grateful to have them on the team!
Making Cents, Staying Organised
Our finance team has been a pillar for the company this year. Despite the challenges and alongside their normal operations, they managed to close a funding round and implement new systems to improve responsiveness and the member experience. Lastly, they developed a rent deferral program for members whose income was impacted by Corona. In a year that was financially challenging for businesses globally, our finance team’s navigation skills have been essential.
Moving Forward, And Moving-In
Our real estate team, who source all our properties, worked hard in the last year. They had some big growth plans for 2020 that were delayed, which is always challenging. However, lots of work was done in planning for the future. Our real estate team has been fine-tuning processes and analysing our current property portfolio. Based on their analysis, we have outlined clear criteria to find the best properties for our concept as we expand in the future. We are working on some significant long-term opportunities that will drive our supply pipeline into 2022 and beyond with larger properties and more diversity of offer. So keep your eyes open for updates soon!
Hope On The Horizon
While Corona continues to challenge all of us, we’re looking towards 2021 with hope. We are fortunate to be taking many important learnings from this year with us into the future. Once again, we are so grateful for our members, investors, and our supporters. While many things have been volatile, the importance of co-living has grown; we’re happy to be able to provide homes and community in a time when they are especially important. We hope that when you reflect on your year, you have found some positives to carry forward as well. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021 for all of us!