By Maria Aitkenhead, RCM – Wilson Blanchard Management, An Associa® Company
Before COVID-19, most condominium managers were required to be in the office to perform their many tasks, getting ready in the morning, commuting to the office every day, and spending time answering phone calls, emails, etc. We were required to be in the office every day because we all believed that was the only way to get the work done.
During COVID-19, we were mandated to work remotely from home and perform those same tasks. Many of us were not happy with that (I will sheepishly admit I was one of them), believing work would not get done because we were not set up for it. How would we handle the mountains of paperwork, return calls, etc.? Guess what…we found a way and discovered that it actually works, with a few adjustments.
However, what we are realizing is that most condominium managers are working longer hours from home than from the office. “That is great,” you say, and yes, to a certain degree, that does benefit our clients. However, a lot of managers are having a hard time shutting it off because everything is right there at home. The downside is that burnout is starting to become a bigger problem than before. Prior to COVID-19, we could walk away and drive home from the office – now the office is right next to where you sleep, eat, and live.
Stress/burnout is reported to be one of the main reasons that condo managers leave the industry.
As far as I am concerned, being a condo manager falls into two categories – you either love it or you hate it. There is no in-between. Those who hate it leave the industry, those who love it (for whatever reason), stick it out knowing there will be a lot of ups and downs. But that doesn’t mean burnout will not happen.
A lot of condo managers’ business is complaint-driven, and a lot has to do with personalities, which can be mentally exhausting for any one person. A condo manager must be able to juggle between the needs of contractors, boards, and residents, all the time mindful of maintenance issues, budgets, timelines, more timelines, small/large projects, and personnel (to name a few) -- and be able to do it all “now." When we feel that everything needs doing immediately, that creates stressed managers, which will lead to burnout, which comes in many forms such as physical effects on our bodies, mental health, and the inability to function normally in any capacity.
So, what can a manager do to minimize this? Below are just a few points to consider:
1. Set personal parameters.
An example is NO business on weekends. Depending on the management company’s policies and procedures, let your clients know that you’re available by phone ONLY if there’s a true emergency, or let the on-call manager deal with the issue.
2. Keep to a schedule.
Find what works for you. For example, start at a set time, start your day by doing administrative tasks, doing site inspections, writing up reports, answering emails, or scheduling meetings with contractors. Make an effort to keep to that schedule or sequence.
During mid-morning and mid-afternoon, make sure to take some form of mental break – whether that’s a coffee break, a walk, or a power nap. (You’re working remotely, who will know?)
3. Be prepared (but be flexible enough to change gears as needed).
You cannot be prepared for everything. The unknown is stressful, but that stress can be mitigated by policy and preparation. For example, if you know of an upcoming project, be proactive by preparing notices, signs, etc. ahead of time because as we all know communication to residents help make the challenges easier to face, Stay in contact with the contractors, keep your staff educated and prepared, etc. Being prepared can prevent or at least minimize the kind of compounded stress that can lead to burnout.
4. Maintain balance.
Condo managers tend to have a thin separation between their jobs and their personal lives, especially during this pandemic. Most are often generous with their time, even after spending so many hours each day officially on the clock. But for many, it is just part of our nature. An example is attending classes, events, and training offered by your company, CCI, ACMO, etc. and then sharing that knowledge with your staff, boards, or colleagues. These can help as a form of stress relief for some managers.
5. Don’t take it personally (sometimes easier said than done).
Often those challenges have to do with managing personalities. Dealing with multiple communities, as most of us do, means that conflicts are inevitable – and part of being an effective manager is knowing how to handle them when they arise. I want to make it clear that 90% of boards and residents are fantastic; it’s the other 10% that can be tougher to work with. We know that you can’t please everyone all of the time, but for some reason, those unhappy ones cause the most stress. Not taking it personally is difficult because managers genuinely care about the communities they manage. It is important to mentally separate ourselves from caring about communities to caring about their personal feelings towards us. At the end of the day, a manager’s goal is to improve the community, and if we are accomplishing that it may help us to not get overwhelmed by the job.
6. Have perspective.
I will be the first to admit that I was relieved and grateful to hear condo managers were considered an essential service. Even though the job is certainly stressful, especially under the conditions of a global pandemic, the rewards outweigh all the long hours and hard work. Most managers see that we can make a difference in a community and that the residents are (fairly) happy. We at Wilson Blanchard count ourselves lucky that the properties we manage are faring well during this crisis and that we remained employed and busy with work. We maintain the perspective that “it could be a lot worse.”