Feeling the Burn...out?

Magazine ,

Chip Tatum, CAM, CAE

Executive Vice President

For so many of us, mentally processing what seems like an unending series of challenges, nonstop news, and even a new “bug” to be scared of (monkeypox, really?) is beyond overwhelming. You could reasonably argue that the pressures on property management professionals have never been felt more acutely than they are currently. As has been widely reported, a number of factors are contributing to this increased pressure: staffing shortages, supply chain issues, limited supply of housing – the list goes on and on. This strain on the workforce is taking a toll on many people’s mental health and can contribute to burnout. You’re probably thinking, “Geez dude, this is not helping to boost my mental health,” but fear not: There is light at the end of the tunnel. The housing industry and many organizations are researching and focusing on providing new or expanded resources to support team members struggling with their mental health and burnout. 

Last year, the National Apartment Association and SwiftBunny conducted a “Mental and Emotional Health” survey of property management professionals from across the country. The takeaways from this survey, which is being updated this year, demonstrated clearly that this renewed focus on mental and emotional health is well placed.

Some of the findings from the survey included:

  • 40% of respondents took time off as a result of “not feeling emotionally well enough to perform their jobs” (12% took a week or longer).
  • 42% of respondents reported that mental and emotional health had interfered with their personal lives.
  • 27% of respondents were unsure or unlikely to remain with their companies within the next 12 months, signaling that the “mental and emotional health issues identified in the survey warrant attention.”

(2021 NAA Mental and Emotional Health Survey, NAA, SwiftBunny)

Overall, the NAA survey concluded that the housing industry must emphasize employee mental and emotional health. 

The Center for Workplace Mental Health reports that employee burnout is pervasive across a multitude of industries. In “Beating Burnout at Work,” the center cited a 2021 Catalyst survey that reported 88% of employees are experiencing at least some burnout, and 60% have reported high levels of burnout. Why is this important? Burnout can impact many aspects of a person's life, including productivity, mental health, how they interact with family and friends, and their overall health. 

The center provides employers and managers with six areas of focus that can improve team members’ morale and reduce burnout in the workplace.

  • Workload: Take steps to ensure that team members at all levels have the resources to complete their tasks. 

  • Autonomy and Control: Empower team members to make decisions about how to tackle their responsibilities. 
  • Reward and Recognition: Acknowledge successes and accomplishments and reward team members for a job well done.
  • Community and a Sense of Belonging: Find ways for your teams to connect and engage with each other outside the normal scope of their responsibilities. This connection on a more human level helps to establish rapport and trust. 
  • Fairness: This can take many forms, but most important is that all team members feel like they have opportunities to advance in their careers. Leaders should communicate the steps team members can take to position themselves for advancement.
  • Values and Purpose at Work: We all like to believe what we are doing matters. Find ways to demonstrate how each team member's specific contributions positively impact the community, company, etc.

(Beating Burnout at Work, Center for Workplace Mental Health 2021)

Many of these suggestions might seem obvious, but many organizations and leaders are quickly realizing that a renewed focus on these fundamentals is desperately needed. The good news is, leaders do not have to wait for a companywide rollout of new resources to focus on many of them. Sometimes it just takes an inward look at how their style or behavior can impact the teams in their charge. Could they more clearly outline expectations? Could they focus on their own mental and emotional health a bit more? Could they take more time with their teams to connect outside the workplace and bond? 

As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Every step taken now to tackle burnout and support mental and emotional health could alleviate employee turnover, boost productivity, and make a company or community the envy of its peers! At “Cultivate,” the FAA Annual Conference & Trade Show in September, experts in emotional intelligence, mental health, and harnessing resilience will inspire leaders and their teams to focus on these issues. Did someone say oceanside yoga and meditation? Heck yeah, we did! 

If we are going to make an impact on mental health, morale, and burnout, we have to start with ourselves. This first step is important, but it can also be daunting. Start by establishing personal goals, and for inspiration check out the “Anti-Burnout Challenge” released by Associations Now in April. The “Anti-Burnout Challenge” encourages readers to focus on five specific steps to reduce burnout. 

Associations Now Anti-Burnout Challenge:

  • Day 1: Practice Shutting Down. Find yourself working way beyond normal operating hours? At a certain point each day pick a time where you “shut it down” and go off the grid. 
  • Day 2: Find a Moment of Self Compassion. Beating yourself up over missed deadlines or a mistake? We can be our own worst enemies sometimes. Focus on a specific thing that you have been too hard on yourself about, and give yourself a pass. 
  • Day 3: Complete the Stress Cycle. After stressful situations or days your body needs the opportunity to physically release the tension and recenter. It’s all about using your body, not your mind, to complete the cycle. Physical exercise, measured breathing, making art, and even having a good laugh or cry can be effective. 
  • Day 4: Remember Your Purpose. If your job is stressing you out, that can lead you to become cynical about the value of your contributions to the profession. Grab a pencil and some paper, and take 15 minutes to scribble down how you came into the industry, the people you have impacted (team members, peers, residents), and why what you do matters. (P.S. - It DOES matter.)
  • Day 5: Make a Connection. Call that friend or family member you haven’t chatted with in a while or send someone a random thoughtful note. Remind yourself of the importance of human connection. Don’t worry fellow introverts – you can make these connections on your own terms.

(Anti-Burnout Challenge, Associations Now 2022)

The beauty of this challenge and the other steps described is you don’t have to tackle them all, and certainly not all at once. It would be ironic, to say the least, for you to be stressed out by your plan to stave off burnout. Pick the approaches that make the most sense to you, and give them a try. We can all move toward improved mental wellness — one step at a time. 

You can read the full articles online on our mental health resource page: faahq.org/mentalhealth