Property management agencies are seeing more employees experience mental health struggles, decreased productivity and ever-increasing turnover rates. While a variety of factors are at play here, employee burnout is a clear underlying issue.
Faced with high levels of stress, demanding workloads, and inadequate support systems, 53% of Australian property managers experience mental health struggles, and those who manage over 200 properties are more likely at risk of burnout.*
It’s a telling sign that 23% of property managers are looking to leave the industry altogether - a 12% increase from 2018.*
In this article, we’re diving into the property management industry, as Judy Tran (Head of Customer Experience here at :Different) weighs in on the most common causes (and fixes!) of property manager burnout.
1. Unmanageable workloads
According to the Voice of the Property Manager report, 63% of Australian property managers feel their workload is too busy.
One participant in the report also noted, “the nature of property management requires a Property Manager to be on call, therefore it is hard to turn off work. As part of a small office, you don’t get to have a weekend off.”
It might come as a surprise that the real problem here isn’t simply unmanageable workloads or the demanding nature of property management. It’s driven by vacancies in the team and the inability to hire replacements. In the interim, existing team members have to take on additional clients and responsibilities.
While interviewing people for Property Partner roles at :Different, we find some candidates managing larger portfolios than they should; we’ve discovered it’s because they’re covering for vacancies in the team.
We believe this is because of a talent shortage due to the recent trend of people leaving the industry (post-pandemic/lockdowns) and not returning.
We’ve tried to mitigate the effects of this at :Different by forecasting capacity needs and starting the recruitment process early. This helps to avoid an interim period where you’re short-staffed, and gives your teams time to find the right candidate.
How to deal with this?
Schedule regular check-ins between agency principals and property managers to discuss the number of tasks they are assigned, and their capacity to manage these tasks well. This is especially important between direct managers and team members to help understand what tasks they are dealing with, and manage prioritisation.
Find solutions together to better handle workplace stress and high workloads, whether it’s implementing tech to automate and streamline routine tasks, or support services like mentoring and employee assistance programs.
2. Inadequate support
Within the real estate industry as a whole, findings show that many property managers feel they don’t get enough support from leadership, and are underappreciated by customers who don’t understand the intricacies of the job.
Agencies are also at greater risk of employee burnout with just 36%* of property managers in Australia satisfied by the support from their managers. This is in stark comparison to agency principals that have a satisfaction rate of 62%*.
Here’s some of the most common scenarios where agencies can find themselves facing claims of inadequate support from their teams:
- High workloads and pressure to meet business goals can lead managers to focus on short-term priorities rather than ongoing support to their team members.
- Limited feedback mechanisms can make it difficult for managers to identify and address specific areas where their teams need support.
- Unclear communication and expectations from leadership that can lead to confusion and uncertainty over roles and priorities.
- Limited training and development for managers to effectively support their employees.
- Limited resources, such as budget and staff, can make it difficult to provide the necessary support.
Without the right support systems in place, the pressure and complexity of the job will leave property managers feeling overwhelmed quickly. This will ultimately impact their efficiency and productivity on the job until a solution is found.
How to avoid this?
Agencies can encourage a culture of support where employees feel valued and confident enough to discuss issues and concerns.
Clear communication from leadership on expectations and how business goals translate to every day practices is essential.
Where you have the expertise in-house, ensure strong communication & collaboration. Where you don’t, look for ways to connect property managers with external resources and other industry professionals.
The value of support resources can not be overstated.
Allocate sufficient budget and staff to create the necessary framework and execute it well. Feedback mechanisms are vital to make sure your support systems are working the way they need to be.
Our team of property managers work closely with each other and offer assistance to the greater teams. They bring their collective expertise to tackle issues, or take on situations that require specialised experience and knowledge.
We’ve also built a solid support system that includes regular 1-on-1 sessions with managers. Senior PM’s are also on hand to guide escalations, and our Customer Advocacy Team takes on the difficult cases.
This level of support is driven by our structure, scale and culture, and we've been able to foster a collaborative environment with open channels of communication and a safe space to ask questions.
3. Demanding owners and tenants
Part of the job as a property manager means balancing conflicting expectations and demands from owners and tenants.
It's no surprise then that 60%* say the biggest challenge of the job is dealing with aggressive or abusive landlords and tenants.
The most disliked aspects of the job are the demands of tenants (31%), and demands of landlords (25%).*
From an agency perspective, dealing with demanding owners and tenants can be a significant challenge. It requires a delicate balance of meeting the needs and expectations of both parties while also ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
Here’s a few things that can make an already difficult situation a little tougher:
- Limited communication and transparency between the agency and the owners or tenants, leading to misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations.
- Insufficient training or resources for property managers to effectively handle difficult situations and communicate with owners and tenants.
- Unclear systems and processes in place for handling complaints, disputes or other issues that may arise between owners and tenants.
- High turnover rates among property managers can lead to a lack of consistency in how situations are handled, and a lack of continuity in building relationships with owners and tenants.
How to deal with this?
Property managers need to have the right training and resources to handle difficult situations, set clear boundaries, and find ways to manage client expectations.
Internal support systems are a great way to handle difficult cases. Identify go-to negotiators who can step in to help with a tough conversation.
If you have PM’s who are exceptionally gifted at managing difficult demands, consider elevating them to training roles where they will be able to guide and mentor teams.
4. Poor flexibility and work-life balance
One of the major findings of the Voice of the Property Manager Report was a discrepancy in attitudes on workplace flexibility.
66% of property managers said they value high flexibility in the workplace, while only 34% of real estate directors allow hybrid working models.*
There are legitimate concerns here over the potential for communication breakdowns and difficulties in maintaining team cohesion. Implementing a hybrid work model can also be costly. Equipping employees with the necessary technology and infrastructure to work remotely poses considerable logistical challenges.
For property managers and others in the industry who need to balance the needs of work, family and personal responsibilities, hybrid work models are a necessary move to avoid burnout.
How to deal with this?
The most glaring measure here is to offer flexible working arrangements where you can - and alternatives where you can’t (a philosophy we’ve embraced at :Different). There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but start by setting clear boundaries, have regular check-ins and encourage open, honest communication to understand individual needs.
This is also your best channel to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and where you can provide additional individual support.
Hybrid work models do work, you just need to understand what works best for your particular workplace and implement good communication systems around it. We’ve personally found our staff happier, focussed and enjoying a quality work life balance - all while delivering great results.
5. Inadequate training or professional development
The property management industry faces huge challenges in terms of training and development, and property managers agree. Just 34% say they have adequate training to be successful in their jobs.*
There are a number of reasons why training and development have been forced to take a back seat at agencies:
- Limited budget and resources make it difficult for agencies to meet immediate business needs while investing in long-term employee development.
- A lack of standardization in the industry in terms of training and development requirements, and best practices.
- Difficulty in identifying the specific training and skill development needs of individual employees because of high turnover rates or lack of employee feedback mechanisms.
It’s paramount to recognize the importance of training and development and its contribution to the long-term success of employees and agencies as a whole. An individual that's confident in their job role and skillset is naturally better equipped to handle high-pressure situations and decrease their risk of burnout.
In a sales-focused business, you’re likely to find smaller PM teams, and consequently, less subject matter expertise support.
When the principal strength is focused in one direction, try to find ways that make sense for your business and your teams, to balance support resources in other areas.
How to deal with this?
Identify gaps in skills or experience in your team and look for ways to upskill them. These could be through informal on-the-job coaching, all the way through to external training programs. Open lines of communication are important here to get good feedback.
A great way to implement training and development sessions if you have limited resources is to elevate experienced team members to mentorship roles.
Regular training can help property managers stay up to date with the latest industry trends and regulations, as well as upskill them in the areas that can make them more effective. Maintain regular check-ins to assess their progress and address any issues they may be facing with new technologies or systems.
6. Frequent and sudden changes in tech
Property managers are facing the challenge of keeping up with the latest technology and learning multiple new systems to carry out their job effectively.
Over the course of the pandemic, many agencies had to adapt their technology to meet the demands of a new and completely digital environment. In fact, 52%* of property management agencies changed software completely over the last 2 years.
But too many tech changes too quickly, and without the right support, has left 17%* of Australian property managers feeling like technology is their biggest challenge. Just 25%* say they are completely satisfied with the technology they use.
How to deal with this?
Introduce fresh technology gradually to give property managers the space to learn new systems at a comfortable pace. Importantly, provide training and ensure access to a specialist in the beginning to troubleshoot issues quickly.
Remember to check-in with your teams regularly to assess their comfort level using the tech and address any issues they might be experiencing.
The main issue (from a PM perspective) is lack of proper tech support. In a small agency without a specialised product or tech team, someone probably has to reach out to the software provider and do everything themselves end-to-end. This includes everything from signing the contract, to setting up and managing the migration - all while doing their regular jobs. That’s a lot of pressure.
Having a specialist tech team (like we do at :Different), means the system works the way it needs to, and problems can be quickly resolved when it doesn’t. They also develop the materials and guides we use to train our property teams, so we don’t end up having to figure it out ourselves.
Overall, tech will always help property managers to do their work more efficiently and give a better customer experience. What drives a lot of the workload and burnout, is not having the right support, experience and resources when rolling tech out.
7. Lack of clear career progression opportunities
A lack of clear career progression can leave your property managers uninspired and unmotivated in their current roles, with feelings of stagnation and frustration compounding the problem.
In Australia, only 37% of property managers agree that their job offers them good career opportunities - a significant drop from 56% in 2018.* This kind of job dissatisfaction can lead to a further dip of talent in the industry.
In smaller agencies, there are limited senior roles in which you can progress to. Very often you’ll have to wait till the person filling a senior role has left before you can potentially apply.
In the case of even smaller agencies with just one or two PM’s, lead roles may not even be an option. In this instance, there’s a lack of progression opportunities not just in professional development, but also in role and position since there’s just nothing available.
How to deal with this?
It’s important for agency principals to set clear career progression pathways, and clearly communicate expectations and available opportunities. Additionally, PMs should be made aware of, and understand the steps they need to take to advance.
Regular training and career development opportunities are a good way to help PMs stay engaged and motivated. It’s something we take seriously at :Different, and have established ‘upward progression’ development plans for property managers to grow their careers in adjacent areas of the business.
Even without many senior roles, career development and upskilling can be a way to retain good PMs and ensure they continue seeing opportunities to grow. Regular performance reviews can help property managers identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as set professional growth goals.
Giving your PMs autonomy to make decisions and have more responsibility and consequently recognising their efforts can also help them feel valued and appreciated in their work.
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