An Anti-Burnout Guide to Property Management

BY CAROLINE POMILLA

Every morning, millions of people walk into clean, comfortable, efficient office buildings without a thought to how these spaces are operated. Behind the scenes are commercial real estate’s unsung heroes: property professionals who work hard so that building occupants never have to think twice about their surroundings. Even property professionals who love the variety and challenge of their jobs can find themselves getting burned out by workloads that sometimes require long hours and garner little acknowledgment.

To state the obvious, property management can be exhausting. Take a service-oriented role, add a wide range of responsibilities, mix with inevitably high-pressure scenarios and do it all without expecting a "thank you" in return. There you have it: a high potential for burnout.

Adele Bayless, FMA, RPA, a senior general manager with JLL who hosted an education session at BOMA’s 2019 annual conference on how to maintain positivity in property management, believes that industry professionals can avoid burnout by shifting their perspective and expectations. Remembering one’s purpose, asking for help and taking time for oneself can help property professionals revitalize their relationship with work and continue to deliver their occupants with an experience to their occupants that is nothing short of magic.

REMEMBER YOUR PURPOSE

When you enjoy what you do, you’re bound to do a better job. While high stress and fatigue levels can make it challenging to see the value of your work, it’s important to remember the times you felt excited about your job—the reasons you began your property management career in the first place.

Bayless can remember her earlier years working for a law firm, where she spent a majority of her time scanning pages of documents that were likely to end up in the trash can or in a storage box. Bayless remembers thinking, "what a waste," as she watched the fruits of her time and labor fail to contribute to any clear purpose.

During her first week in the property management profession, Bayless recalls watching her supervisor make a decision to paint one of the walls on the site. The next day, Bayless returned to the property, stunned to find the wall had already been painted. "I was overjoyed to see how this profession could have such a direct and immediate impact."

Bayless shares that she returns to this memory when she is struggling to find motivation or positivity in her day-today activities. It serves as a reminder that, while property management may be a uniquely challenging profession, it is also a dynamic profession, one that provides the opportunity to wear many hats and make decisions that have a direct payoff. While every property professional has a different origin story, every journey includes some form of a "painted wall" experience—a time when something about this trajectory seemed overwhelmingly exciting and enticing. To avoid burnout, Bayless urges property professionals to locate and invite that excitement back into their career.

ASK FOR HELP (AND TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF)

Sometimes, says Bayless, this search for fulfillment might require one to spend more time on the tasks that they truly enjoy, and delegate less enjoyable or critical tasks to junior employees. Hard as it might be, this means taking a step back and trusting your team members to get the job done. "Asking for help allows you to protect and optimize your energy, and it provides your team members with the opportunity to develop new skills."

Plus, the more you lean on your team, the more confident you can be that there are capable people who can fill in for you when you truly just need a break. And sometimes, a break is necessary.

As Bayless puts it, "We balance collecting rent, attracting tenants, following building code changes, planning events and greeting occupants and their pets, all while implementing new and better ways to manage our buildings. All of that giving to society can take a toll on the individual."

Taking time for yourself—whether it’s going for a walk, opting for independent desk time or spending a day out of the building—is just as important to your property’s success as the other items on your to-do list.

As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of BOMA Magazine. Building Character is a new column that focuses on real-life, practical skills that are essential for the modern property professional.