If you’re like most multifamily leaders, you’re passionate about what you do. Chances are good the lines between your work life and your personal life are blurred as your passion for excellence can lead you to put in extra hours and effort. That’s OK; in fact, it can be great. After all, there’s nothing wrong with loving your job and what you do. On the contrary; it’s fantastic!
As an individual in your organization to whom others look up, that is, a manager-level employee, it’s imperative that you demonstrate enthusiasm for your job. So, what could possibly be wrong with encouraging your colleagues to take the same work-centered approach to their lives that you do?
It turns out that too much of a good thing can be a not-so-good thing.
Things can go awry when employees are expected to emulate the work habits and behavior of those overly-committed employees known as “workaholics.” In fact, workaholic leaders can have a detrimental effect on their organizations. Why is that? Well, interesting research shared by Hubspot reveals that workaholics die younger, get sick more often, and – irony alert – are actually less productive than people with healthy work-life balance. All those extra hours at the office, then, may not actually be leading anywhere good!
Workaholic leaders may be passionate about their companies and do their jobs with the best of intentions, but the reality is that employees want — and need — lives outside the office. When managers put in crazy hours, never take vacations, or engage in poor self-care, employees feel obliged to follow suit. In an environment with no work/life balance, workers soon begin to feel both overworked and underappreciated. Those who can do so will leave, and those who choose to stay may do so begrudgingly, infecting their coworkers and customers with their negative feelings.
How can your company’s leadership create a culture that encourages its employees to disconnect from their work responsibilities, be present with their families, friends, and leisure pursuits, and achieve that Holy Grail of modern life: work/life balance?
Here are a few steps a leader can take.
- Lead by example. An organization’s work/life balance culture is dictated by those setting the example for others. When leaders work 24/7/365, never taking a vacation, and showing no real interest in anything but “the job,” the organization’s culture reflects this ethic. Instead, use the Paid Time Off (PTO) you are entitled to for vacation, medical appointments, and personal commitments. And when you’re away, stay away. Limit your calls and texts. Trust that your team can step up and manage in your absence, as you’ve trained them to do. They’ll be more willing to actually unplug when they see that you do it, also.
- Create a culture that is conducive to health and wellness. Provide nutritious snacks, encourage break times, and offer incentives to take up healthy activities outside the workplace. Healthy lifestyle health plan discounts, subsidized gym memberships, free wellness screenings, or supporting participation in local sports and recreational activities are just a few examples.
Just as importantly, discourage behaviors that can lead to burnout such as working late nights and extra days. This can be especially hard for on-site apartment community team members, because for many, the office is open 7 days a week and the residents’ demands are never ending. Extra care must be taken to establish boundaries and reasonable work schedules.
And as the supervisor, be sure that you’re not part of the problem. Resist the urge to infringe on your team member’s day off with emails, texts, or calls, even if it’s “just a quick question.” Remember the old apartment community adage about what constitutes an emergency? Unless it involves “fire, flood, or blood,” your quick question can likely wait until your employee returns to work!
- Encourage employees to use their PTO and support them when they do so. Schedule regular reminders throughout the year to nudge your associates to take their PTO. Make it easy for them to be gone by arranging for their work to be covered in their absence. This may involve borrowing team members from another community or even bringing temporary help. Yes, this could be difficult or expensive to accomplish, but it’s cheaper than employee turnover!
If any of your team members travel on company business, encourage them to tack on a few PTO days to explore. Consider implementing a “use it or lose it” policy on paid time off so that earned days expire at the end of the calendar year. While such a policy may sound harsh, it can be effective in preventing burnout. Many organizations find that employees are motivated to actually use their PTO rather than risk losing it.
Work is most rewarding when it is challenging, but it shouldn’t be the one and only focus of anyone’s life. In a culture with no work/life balance it is easy for employees to feel that “enough is never enough,” a belief that is destructive to both the team member and the organization. A culture that encourages a healthy balance between work and personal life will yield far better overall results than one that beats its team members into the ground.
None of this means that leaders shouldn’t work hard to help their companies succeed. However, those who lead must remember that more work doesn’t always mean greater productivity or success. To build more productive companies, happier workforces, and better cultures, multifamily leaders must encourage employees to strike the work/life balance that works for them. Only then can their people, and their organization, be successful.