By Pamela Alton
One of the biggest problems I see operators and managers experiencing at their facilities is employee burnout, which occurs especially in resident managers, since they not only work at the facility but live there. When a manager resides off-site, burnout happens less frequently but still occurs. How can an owner and his manager(s) avoid this common problem?
I know some of you owners out there are not going to like what I'm about to say, but it must be said and I have broad shoulders to take the heat. Some of you are not aware of this well-known fact: Slavery was abolished more than 200 years ago! I see some owners expecting their managers to work five-and-a-half or six days a week, closing the office only on Sunday, while paying them the same as others who work only five days a week. Not only are these owners violating wage and labor laws, they are single-handedly contributing to manager burnout and turnover at their facilities.
It is short-sighted for an owner not to hire at least one relief manager to cover the facility on the full-time manager's days off. Why not be open seven days a week and let a relief manager work the extra two days? Sunday is usually a shorter work day. If you relieve your full-time manager of his duties on Sunday and Monday, you'll pay far less in relief manager's wages than it might cost you to have the office closed.
When you don't give your managers the necessary time they need to rejuvenate and handle their personal business, your are setting yourself and your managers up for failure. They will burn out easily, lose interest in their job and lose motivation. Their attitudes may change, and they may become more negative in their thinking. Your facility will suffer in the long run. Is it worthwhile? Only you can answer that question.
Time Away From the Facility
When a manager resides on site, it is difficult for him to get time away from his daily workload. Most managers are very territorial, which can be an excellent attribute; however, it might also mean they feel no one else is capable of doing the work they do. These managers need to "let go," and train their relief managers to handle daily operations in their absence.
I have seen tenants and relief managers stop the facility manager on his way out--to the store, to go on vacation, to run some errand, etc.--to ask a minor question. The manager always drops everything to deal with the question or situation, but what remains is an uncomfortable feeling that he can't take time off. Can you blame him? It is important the manager takes the steps necessary to feel comfortable leaving the premises on a regular basis.
If your managers like to camp, they should plan to go at least once a month to their favorite campground. If they like to visit local resorts like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, they should plan a trip and go. If they have grandchildren they miss, they should visit them. Even a drive in the country or a picnic lunch, a movie or dinner out with friends can go a long way in helping them maintain a relaxed, positive attitude during the work week.
Every few months, the manager might want to make arrangements for a "mini vacation" by taking off an extra day or two for a long weekend. One of my managers recently purchased a mobile home with some land in the state he is from. He plans to retire there and wants to open an RV- and boat-storage facility. Every chance he gets, he flies over there and works on his little place. He enjoys working on his future, and he returns to his job in a great frame of mind.
Some owners I work with make great efforts to pay their managers well, and respect them and the jobs they do. These owners also make certain their managers get time off by rewarding them with pre-paid vacations, trips to conventions or simply extra days off. In return, the owners are rewarded with refreshed, relaxed and motivated managers, making the self-storage operation ultimately more profitable. Can you see where this might be a win/win situation? Take the time now to sit down with your managers and make arrangements for them to get that much-needed time off. You won't be sorry.
Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management®, a nationwide manager-placement service. Mini-Management also offers full-service and "operations-only" facility management, training manuals, inspections and audits, feasibility studies, consulting and training seminars. For more information, call 800.646.4648.