Condominium Managers and Burnout
By: Maria Aitkenhead, RCM
Before COVID-19, most condominium managers were required to be in the office to perform their many tasks, which most likely meant a commute. We were required to be in the office every day because we believed that was the only way to complete the work.
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 it actually worked, with a few adjustments.
We realized that most condominium managers worked longer hours from home than they used to at the office. That is great, you say. Yes, to a certain degree, from a productivity point of view. But many managers are having a hard time shutting it off at the end of the day. The downside is that burnout has become a significant problem. At least before, we would walk or drive away from the office; now, the office is right next to where you sleep, eat, and live.
Stress and burnout claim to be the most common reasons that most condo managers have resigned from their position and the industry altogether.
In my opinion, 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 up and down days. But that doesn’t mean burnout will not happen.
A lot of a condo manager’s 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 the needs of contractors, boards, and residents while keeping mindful of maintenance issues, budgets, timelines, project scopes, and personnel, to name a few, and be able to do it all NOW. When we feel the pressure that everything needs to be done immediately, it creates stressed-out managers, leading to eventual burnout. Burnout 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:
- Set personal parameters. NO business on weekends. Depending on the management company’s policies and procedures, let your clients know that you are available by cell phone ONLY if there’s a true emergency, or let the on-call manager deal with the issue.
- Keep to a schedule. Do whatever works for you. For example, during the week, start at a set time and begin your day by doing administrative tasks, site inspections, writing reports, answering emails, scheduling meetings with contractors, etc. Try to keep to that schedule or sequence daily. During mid-morning and mid-afternoon, make sure to take some form of physical and mental break—whether a coffee break or a walk.
- Be prepared but be flexible enough to change gears as needed. The unknown is stressful, but stress can be mitigated by policy and preparation. For example, if you know of an upcoming project, be proactive by preparing notices, signs, etc., well in advance. As we all know, communication with residents helps make the challenges easier to face. Stay in contact with the contractors and keep your staff educated. Being prepared can prevent or minimize the kind of compounded stress that can lead to burnout.
- Maintain balance. Condo managers tend to have a thin separation between their jobs and personal lives, especially during a pandemic. Most are often generous with their time, even after spending many hours officially on the clock each day. But for many, it’s just part of our nature. Often managers attend classes, events, and training and then share that knowledge with staff, boards, or colleagues. This networking can help as a form of stress relief for some managers.
- Don’t take it personally (sometimes easier said than done). Often those challenges have to do with managing personalities. As most of us do, dealing with multiple communities means that conflicts are inevitable, and part of being an effective manager is knowing how to handle them when they arise. In my experience, 90% of boards and residents are fantastic; the other 10% can be tough to work with. We know that you can’t please everyone all of the time, but those unhappy ones cause the most stress. Not taking complaints personally is difficult because most managers genuinely care about the communities they manage. It is essential to mentally separate ourselves from caring about communities and 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 not to get overwhelmed by the job.
- 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 undoubtedly stressful, especially under a global pandemic, the rewards outweigh all the long hours and hard work. Most managers see that we can make a change on a property and that the residents are fairly happy. We at Wilson Blanchard counted and continue to count ourselves lucky that the properties we manage fared well during this crisis and that we remained employed and busy with work.
Maria Aitkenhead, RCM, has been in condo management for over ten years working for Wilson Blanchard Management, An Associa Company, earning her RCM designation in 2016. Previously, Maria owned her own interior decor and staging business.