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Multifamily Workplaces that Work

Exploring the issues that matter most to multifamily associates, including workplace satisfaction, performance, and employee engagement.

Your Employees are Struggling. Throw Them a Lifeline

For the past six weeks, more than 2,900 employees have responded to the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey. Recently, their responses have begun to take on a desperate tone. For many, what started out as, “we can do this!” has devolved into “I’m not sure how much longer I can do this.” Here are some painfully candid comments team members have shared:

“I’m thankful that I still have a job and that I’m still needed at the office. But I’m stressed. I’m tired. I go home and I’m useless until it’s time to go to bed. Then, I don’t sleep because I think of everything that I still need to get done.”

“With all of the residents home every hour of every day, the amount of complaints has been mind-boggling. I go home every day now completely and utterly exhausted and worn out.”

“Too many directives and deadlines given on short notice. We are expected to work around the clock answering emails and texts at all hours. The virus is stressful enough. Leadership has made it ten times worse.” 

“I’m worried about my maintenance team. I don’t know how they are still standing at the end of the day.”

“STRESSED is the understatement of the year. We are all carrying this stress differently. I wish that our managers would be more understanding that no matter what job you have, you can be just as stressed as the boss.”

Multifamily leaders, your associates are drowning in stress and worry. It’s time to throw your team members a lifeline before they burn out completely. Here are some strategies for helping associates who are struggling.

  • Reign in unrealistic expectations. Community teams are extremely busy right now juggling the significant customer service demands of their cooped up (and cranky) residents. Add to that a million and one policy changes, each one with a conference call, Zoom meeting, form to sign—oops, not that form we changed it yesterday didn’t you know? do it again—it’s enough to make a grown adult cry. Be gentle with your associates. Acknowledge the pressure they’re feeling. Be patient, kind, understanding, and compassionate. Strive to make their lives easier, not harder. Express gratitude for all they are doing.

  • Help them manage their physical health. Stressed out people tend to make extremely unhealthy choices—which can further jeopardize their physical and mental health. Make it easier and more rewarding for them to make healthier choices. If your budget allows, provide healthy snack foods and drinks for the workplace, bring in a balanced lunch, or offer a delicious and nutritious take-home dinner as a reward. Encourage associates to get outside and exercise, even for a short walk around the community. Exercise helps both physical and mental health, and there may be no better mood booster than fresh air. Consider organizing a virtual walking club or 5K to rally participation. And importantly, protect their downtime by limiting your calls, texts, and emails to work hours only. This will make it more likely that your associate can get the appropriate rest and sleep they need to perform at their best.

  •  Bring on the light. There is a lot to be concerned about right now. There are also birthdays, work anniversaries, kids graduating, and new puppies…and team members putting in extra effort to deliver great results. Don’t forget to focus on the positive for a change. Yes, we need to talk about sanitizing stations and social distancing. But let’s also celebrate the good stuff. Your associates are looking to you to offer some hope—that the future will be brighter, that their efforts are noticed and rewarded, that they are surrounded by good people with their best interests at heart. Make it your mission to lighten their load and bring a smile to their face. 
  • Let them know what mental health support is available Talk candidly about how stressful this time is; this will signal to your privately struggling associate that it’s OK if they don’t feel OK right now.Encourage teams to talk to trusted friends about what they are feeling or to reach out to a mental health professional for support. Many companies offer resources such as an employee assistance program (EAP) which can connect team members with counseling services. If yours does, share this information. Assure your associates they don’t have to be alone with their worry and that it can be comforting to share what they are experiencing with those who are trained to help. For more information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers excellent guidance for coping with COVID-19 related stress here.

Remember that your company’s greatest asset is its people. The people who are keeping your communities running are facing unprecedented pressure, both professionally and personally. They need your help, support, and compassion in order to deliver for your residents in this very challenging time. Leaders, it’s time to demonstrate that you’ve got their backs.

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I love your blog, Kara! You say it in a very thoughtful professional way. And I am glad you brought it up - because those on the front lines are blowing up those Apartment Management and Maintenance facebook groups like the devil is chasing them....

I love your blog, Kara! You say it in a very thoughtful professional way. And I am glad you brought it up - because those on the front lines are blowing up those Apartment Management and Maintenance facebook groups like the devil is chasing them. And from what I gather, while all your suggestions are great, what they want is money. Right or wrong, the consensus from many are that they want Hazard Pay; they want Bonuses on top of commissions (Office), on top nothing (Maintenance.) They want to work remotely; they want PPE; they want disinfectants and hand sanitizer.

I believe the number one factor for many people is frustration followed by fear. No one knows if jobs will be cut (and based on Rick Ellis's blog, it sounds like a possibility as many onsite people have put in place some outstanding virtual events for Prospects and these online leasing methods continue to perform some amazing results.) No one knows what to do about a piling up of routine work orders - when can these be completed? No one knows if they will get the virus and what happens if they do (and just because an email went out about the CARES Act does not mean all of the onsite staff understood its meaning and application.)

It would be reassuring to onsite employees to hear from the Owners frequently (or at all!) on how the company is doing, from the Regionals who have more information they may not be sharing about their Regions, from Vendors about how the Market is doing. There are a lot of valid concerns for everyone right now but it sure would be nice to get some feedback and communications in a realistic timeframe, too. At least this is what I am hearing and reading daily.

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  Mindy Sharp

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