Houston we have a problem! We are in a Property Management crisis, businesses just keep churning through property managers, and when they get a good one they don’t seem to last that long. So why is this happening? Burnout! It is one of the major reasons perfectly good property managers leave the industry and run for the hills, never to return. How long will it be before there is no one left to run and manage our property portfolios?
So, if you’re reading this right now and you’re thinking somethings not quite right, and you’re constantly exhausted, your heads in a fog and you can’t cope with any emotional turmoil personally or professionally… you my friend might just be on the brink of burnout. But don’t quit your property management job just yet. In this blog I’ll share the most common signs of burnout and what you can do about it .
So what is Burnout?
The World Health Organization calls it a ‘syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. Burnout can affect everything from our physical health to our mood and our relationships.
It listed three main symptoms for burnout which are:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion,
- Increased mental distance from one’s job or feeling negative towards one’s career and
- Reduced professional productivity.
It has very real affects in the workplace too, burnout can lead to job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, inefficient decision making, depression and heart disease.
I don’t know about you, but as the business leaders we can’t really afford to be inefficient with decision making or absent for large periods of time, and we certainly can’t afford risking our physical and mental health. And I’ve been there, I’ve been that burnout property manager. I’ve had adrenal fatigue and the heart condition to prove it.
If you’re raising your hand like, ‘Ummm, Kylie, I’m there, I’m burnt out’, well keep listening and if you’re like, ‘I’m not there yet but I’d like to avoid that destination, thank you very much’, then listen to these six signs that will help you either qualify yourself as officially burnt out or notice the signs that you’re on your way towards it.
We shouldn’t have to reach burnout just to allow ourselves some margin for down time and rest. We shouldn’t work ourselves to exhaustion before realising there is a better way to do things. So, if you are feeling not a normal type of tired, I mean to some degree we are all tired constantly but burn out tired is different. It’s utter exhaustion to the point where you can’t push through it. So, let’s break down some of the most notable signs of burnout for property managers and business owners and then what we can do to combat it and get back to feeling like our best, most vibrant selves both at work and in our personal lives too.
SIGN #1: YOU WANT TO QUIT
As property managers we can carry so much responsibility and pressure which at times can get to be too much. Burnout tempts you to throw in the towel and pursue something else, really anything else that appears less stressful, and maybe you find yourself browsing job sites to see if you can find something new that would provide you less stress and more support, even if it is for less money. I’ll never forget the property manager I once interviewed for a job, she was literally shaking talking to me, her nervous system was that over worked, I thought she might pass out there and then in front of me. She was willing to take a $20,000 pay cut just to get out of her current job, and the work was so menial compared to her experience. She was willing to do almost anything to get out of her current role and situation. And if you’ve been there too you’re not alone. There were days when I was on my own burn out journey I’d draft resignation letters to my business partner. I’d go to hit send and then quickly pop it into drafts. Sometimes I would march into the office and announce my resignation, that I was done I couldn’t cope any longer, I was not cut out for this job, but a value lesson he taught me, was always quit on a good day, because the bad days come and go.
SIGN #2: YOU’RE WORKING CRAZY HARD BUT YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING DONE.
When you find yourself working like crazy but you’re not actually able to take stock of what you’ve done or achieved in a day, you’re unable to focus and be productive, I call this fog brain. It’s not that you’re not working, it’s almost the opposite you are working hard, but you’re doing things that don’t require any brain power, because quite frankly you don’t have any to give. Your brain is experiencing fatigue as well as the rest of your body. You’ll do things like clean out your inbox, and respond to an email every time it tings, you’ll clean up your desk space, maybe even empty the mouldy food from the office fridge, and while you are busy doing things, you’re not really addressing any of the really big things that you actually need to get done. Like resolving a dispute, following up rent arrears, chasing up overdue leases or making important phone calls. Your brain is literally too frazzled to think rationally, so it distracts you with all the menial tasks, that only end up making us feel more stressed and frustrated because those big issues are still nagging away at us, becoming bigger problems the longer we let them fester. Hands up if you’ve been there?
SIGN #3: YOUR BODY IS SIGNALLING THAT IT’S TIRED.
According to experts one of the main signs of burnout is chronic fatigue. You feel physically and emotionally exhausted no matter how much sleep you get, how many breaks you try to take, or how much caffeine you consume, you just can’t seem to feel like your regular self or get a boost of energy no matter what you do. It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning because you feel so drained and depleted, and work seems like the biggest chore in the world, when previously you loved it. I finally knew I was burnt out, when I was dropping my kids to their afternoon sports and instead of going for a run or to the gym like I normally would, I was lying the seat back in my car and sleeping deeply until they banged on my car to wake me up when they were finished sometimes hours later. I was out cold. Then I’d get through dinner and I’d be back on the couch asleep, some nights by 7pm, but then I’d wake up again at the dreaded 3am. I’d toss and turn and write down lists and try and read or watch tv, then wake up tired and cranky in the morning to get the kids off to school. I eventually saw a naturopath after my normal GP wanted to give me sleeping tablets, I knew they weren’t the answer. The naturopath did a hormone test and well they were completely out of wack. Especially my cortisol which is your stress hormone. It was a wakeup call for me and explained so much. You see when your cortisol levels are elevated this is what can lead to chronic fatigue. And this is because your body is in that constant state of flight and fight, which only further exacerbates the cycle of making you feel tired and spread too thin.
SIGN #4: YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR WORK / BUSINESS HAS TAKEN OVER YOUR LIFE.
For me, flexibility and freedom to spend my days as I wish is the absolute best part of running my own business. I started a business so I could drop my kids off and pick them up from school, be at all their sporting and school events. But in seasons where I’ve been burnt out, I don’t feel like I’m free or flexible at all. I was always the first one in the office, the last one to leave and worked throughout the weekend. I sat for hours at cricket matches typing away on the laptop, missing many wickets or boundaries, much to my kids annoyance. Feeling like your business has taken over your life is especially true for business owners. It can often feel like your business is running you rather than the other way around. For property managers though you simply can’t switch off from work, your to do list constantly replays over and over in your head. You will find yourself sitting up at 9pm answering emails or finishing stuff you couldn’t focus on in office hours, because you can’t switch off and stop thinking about work. You get to the office earlier and earlier and stay later and later. You miss out on the kids school events , because you just don’t have the time to leave the office. So, if you’re feeling like you are chained to your laptop or can’t get away from your email, to-do list, or responsibilities for more than an hour or two at a time, it’s likely that something’s got to change. Or you’re going to run yourself into the ground and reach a state of complete exhaustion and unhappiness.
SIGN #5: YOU HAVE ZERO BOUNDARIES.
I’m holding up both my hands here, you know like that kid in primary school waiting a little eagerly to answer the teachers questions … I have previously had no boundaries, I’m a classic people pleaser as well which makes that combination more prone to burn out than normal. Tell me if this sounds like you too … you work at all hours of the day, you never rest, sign off, or log out. Notifications bing on your laptop and mobile phone, and they add stress and anxiety, not delight, and you respond to them regardless of when they come in. You feel like you need to answer everyone right away or else you’re letting people down and the business will fall apart. There’s actually such a thing as being TOO passionate about your job and this is something that I’ve had to work consciously at over the years to break and re-learn and and I’m still working on that process actually, especially now that I’ve started another new business. I do still catch myself sometimes getting so excited and obsessed with something that it can feel all consuming.
These are some tell-tale signs that you’re either nearing or you’ve reached burnout, but you shouldn’t have to just do what you can to survive or stay afloat. You deserve to feel energised, passionate and excited about your work and life.
In property management there’s a few reasons why burnout is particularly prevalent as an industry.
There’s a Lack of Training
A two-day course gives you all the qualifications you need to become a fully-fledged property manager these days. That’s right after only two days you are supposed to understand the ins and outs of the Property legislation and step into a business and manage clients biggest assets. It is one of the pitfalls of the industry, it is very much a sink or swim mentality. This breeds a whole host of stress, anxiety and a concealment type of workplace that doesn’t serve anyone well.
Property Managers Overworked and Under-resourced
Many businesses push the limits with the property manager to portfolio size. A general rule of thumb is 150 managements to one property manager. However, without additional admin or leasing support, those numbers are a recipe for burn out. Something always gives, either the property manager reaches breaking point and leaves or the customer service falls by the wayside.
No Guidance or Mentoring
A property manager just gets their thankless jobs done through lots of error, blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights and a whole lot of stress. The only way they know how to survive is by chaos, mayhem, and crisis. Some may be lucky enough to have a senior property manager who isn’t bracing themselves for a downward slide to burn out, who will offer some experience and light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
You Deal with Difficult People Daily
The role demands that you deal with a lot of different people on a daily basis. This is probably one of the most stressful and damaging aspects of the job. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do or say, you simply will not be able to deal with some difficult people. People, in general, are becoming more demanding and critical of the service levels they receive, and unfortunately the overall property management industry has not caught up to the levels of service clients are now wanting and expecting.
There’s a Lack of Support and Accountability
If left to drown in your work, with no one to turn to and no one really caring what is or isn’t being done, what is left to do but pack up and leave or cover up what you can’t get done and hope for the best. Not an ideal way to operate as a property manager or run a business. Without a hierarchy of support and some accountability expect a revolving door in your property management department.
So, what can you do about it? We’ve covered a lot of the burnout negatives but let’s talk about the positives and what you can do about if you are on the brink of, chronic fatigue, breakdown and burn out.
TALK ABOUT IT
The first thing we can do is have conversations like these and admit it is a very real problem. Someone once said to me stress is just an excuse for people who can’t cope with life. I have come to realise stress is far more complex, it certainly isn’t black and white, and long term, unaddressed stress has serious consequences, burn out amongst them.
We should also accept that burn out is common, especially in property management and business, but it shouldn’t be a destination you aim to hit or become a normal occurrence for you. If you’ve identified that you’re on your way to Burn Out City, the very first step is to evaluate your options. Can you take time off? Delegate? Scale back or eliminate some of your problem properties or clients. Have some difficult but necessary conversations with your boss, team leader or clients. Let’s focus on — Scaling back, eliminating problematic properties and letting go of clients. If you are headed for burnout or already feeling it. Something’s got to give. That’s the hard truth. Can you scale back your hours, reduce a day per week or do school hours, can you start later or finish earlier to fit in with your personal life, like school drop off and pick up. Can you work from home a few days a week? If you have a difficult or problematic client, do you need to let them go, whether that is a landlord or a tenant. Set your boundaries over what is acceptable and what is not, don’t be afraid the let people go who continually break those boundaries.
REST. FOR REAL.
Studies show that rest can increase your productivity and efficiency so if you need to lean on that fact to grant yourself the time and space, do it! If you can, take some intentional time AWAY from work or at the very least create boundaries and get some accountability around holding strong to them. Maybe you can take a week, maybe you can only afford a day or an afternoon off, maybe it’s as simple as logging out of email, shutting off phone notifications, or leaving your phone in the other room. The time itself doesn’t matter as much as how you spend it. Let me also tell you that REST takes work, especially if your tendency is to be working all the time. I used to tell myself I’ll rest when I’m dead. Well that very well could have happened to me, I tried to work my way through a particularly bad burn out, and ended up with a heart condition called atrial fibrillation, normally reserved for people much older than me. It kept happening, getting more and more regular and erratic and problematic for me until, until I had heart surgery … my poor overworked nervous system and body, forced me to rest. So please I urge you don’t get to that state. Learn how to listen and trust your body and figure out how to rest, before it’s too late. If you are struggling to remember your last vacation, it’s time you took one.
If you’re in the thick of it right now or feel like you’re steamrolling down a path headed straight for burnout, know that you’re not alone and you do have options. For me slowing down and resting takes conscious effort, but it is worth it. I’m honestly way more creative, productive and focused when I’m well rested, less stressed and anxious.
It’s so important to recognize that taking on less, allowing yourself to rest and unplug, and setting up systems that enable you to step away from work is NOT lazy or unproductive. It’s the healthiest, most efficient thing you can do for yourself AND the your family. And it’s the biggest way to avoid burnout in the future, because you deserve to love what you do and have a break from it, too.
So your homework this week:
As a property manager be honest and speak to your boss or business owner. Share some ideas and insights on what you think will help improve your working conditions and help the business achieve its goals as well.
Implement some time management skills, set up an ideal week or ensure you have accountability in place to ensure tasks are being kept on top of and up to date.
Do a life audit
Work out what is and isn’t working well in your life personally and professionally, and make the changes necessary to give you more balance. Do you need to adjust your work hours, can you book in a cleaner, is there family or friends to collaborate kids responsibilities with.
Finally book in a holiday – rest, reset and repeat.
Life is too short not to enjoy your life and work. Your family won’t be around forever, and they deserve to experience the best of you every day. It won’t always be utopia, and there will be some compromises along the way, but as long as you are putting you first, you are more likely to achieve less burnout and more of that work-life balance.