Features Newswire Management

They Manage Properties, But Can They Manage Stress?

The pandemic was hard on everyone, but property managers had an exceptionally tough time. They were the frontline workers tasked with servicing residents who were frustrated by being stuck at home during pandemic lockdowns, fearful of eviction due to loss of employment or challenged by inflation both generally and specifically in the cost of housing. It was up to the property managers to enforce rules on social distancing and masking, manage through eviction moratoria and communicate changing rental rates.

Despite these challenges and the rise of the Great Resignation, many property managers persevered. What are the factors that kept them in a sector known for high turnover and attrition? And what can owners and operators do to reduce the stresses on their staff in the future? MRI Software surveyed more than 2,600 property managers across the U.S., U.K. and Australia to find out.

The surprisingly good news is that most property managers — 83% percent to be exact — have positive feelings about where they work. Many respondents reported that they benefit from an enjoyable working environment, good coworkers, job security, useful tools and resources and flexibility.

But there are notable differences across the three continents. Property managers in the U.S. express more positivity about their career opportunities than their peers in the U.K. and Australia (75% vs. 59% and 61%, respectively). I attribute this divergence to variations in housing styles regionally as well as to the comparative maturity of the multifamily market in the U.S., where large organizations managing property portfoli- os have a strong presence. These organizations can typically provide a broader range of opportunities to their employees. In contrast, the build-to-rent sector in both the U.K. and Australia is still an emerging market and more traditional rental housing is primarily made up of individually-owned units for lease.

On the other hand, respondents in Australia and the U.K. feel more secure in their jobs than their counterparts in the U.S. (87%, 86% and 76%, respectively). U.K. property managers reported the highest workloads (28% being “far too busy” vs. 13% in the U.S. and 16% in Australia), but also the highest levels of salary satisfaction (49% being “extremely satisfied” vs. 39% in the U.S. and 41% in Australia).

Given these heavy workloads, it is not surprising that most respondents reported a lack of work/life balance. Indeed, the U.K. respondents identified “managing the workload” as their top challenge. In Australia, the top challenge was “unable to ‘switch off’ after work.” That was the No. 2 for U.S. respondents.

The top challenge identified by U.S. respondents was dealing with aggressive and abusive residents, which was in second place for Australia and the U.K. This high score was predictable, especially given the survey’s timing, when lockdowns were not so long in the past. On a more posi- tive note, respondents generally gave high marks to their managers: 70% reported satisfaction with the level of support they received. Results about salary satisfaction were also encouraging. Nearly 60% of respondents from each market reported being somewhat to extremely satisfied with their salaries. Only 25% expressed dissatisfaction. Another encouraging finding was the sufficiency of training on technology — 70% of respondents agreed that they had been given suitable training.

Since technology can help to ease the stress on property managers, this finding makes me optimistic. The most welcome finding of all is that more than 75% of respondents plan to stay in property management and residential real estate. Amid The Great Resignation, compounded by the history of attrition in the property management industry, it’s gratifying to see that many property managers envision a future in their career choice.

Nevertheless, the lack of work/ life balance and heavy workloads are causes for concern. The first step in addressing these issues is recognizing that they exist.

“Stress in the property management industry is not new, and the pressures and disconnection of the past two years have only exacerbated conditions for property managers,” said John Sons, chair of the National Apartment Association’s (NAA) Mental Health Sub-Committee. “The only way forward is to bring this key issue to light by ‘just talking about it,’ sharing our personal stories and struggles and listening with empathy and understanding. Employers and C-suite executives know that employee retention and engagement have a direct impact on business results, so it’s imperative to provide support and resources to raise awareness and drive change.”

The NAA collaborated with MRI Software on the U.S. portion of the survey. Nearly three in four (74%) of those respondents said that their job negatively impacts their mental health, and 58% feel that their jobs impact their physical health. Respondents also expressed concern that over the next five years, many seasoned employees may leave the in- dustry, “largely due to excessive workloads, low pay and burnout,” as stated in the U.S. report.

The report concludes that owners and operators who want to attract and retain talent in the years ahead must provide solutions to oset the high workloads and enable better work/life balance. The same takeaways apply to owners and operators in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Fortunately, the industry is paying attention. Many owners and operators joined MRI Software in celebrating National Property Manager’s Day in the U.S. on September 23, 2022 to promote mental health and wellness in the property management industry. Owners and operators are starting to recognize that The Great Resignation, which is an international trend, is prompting employees across industries to reconsider career paths and that low unemployment rates are putting power in the hands of talent. It is in the best interests of owners and operators to find out their staff’s top challenges and help them. Solutions might include adding staff, adopting technology, allowing flexible schedules or improving training programs.

The most successful owners and operators do more than buy and manage properties that create value for investors and attract and retain residents. They also invest in people. No astute landlord would allow a property to fall into disrepair. Nor would he or she allow a property’s staff to face insurmountable stress.

Property managers are effectively the face of an organization. If they are happy, then tenants are likely to be happy. Don’t neglect these two stakeholder groups. They are integral ingredients in a property’s ROI.