Feeling strung at work? You aren’t alone! The self-storage manager role is demanding, which can lead to anxiety. This can negatively impact your mental and physical health. It’s imperative to recognize the warning signs and have clear coping strategies. Consider this stress-management advice from fellow professionals and experts.

Rachel French, Freelance Content Writer

March 15, 2024

9 Min Read

At any given time, a self-storage manager might encounter a stressful situation at work. It could be an angry tenant, a pending deadline, a problem with a contractor or a dozen other things. The fact is, overseeing a storage property can be a lot. This makes it imperative for you to know how to keep your stress in check, so you don’t burn out or take it out on customers, coworkers or supervisors. Let’s explore how you can take care of your mental health while still being an A-plus employee.

The Causes

Self-storage managers are tasked with wearing several hats, which can be a source of stress in and of itself. Beyond that, each individual task can come with unique challenges that induce tension. Consider, for example, tenant issues, security concerns, sales targets and administrative responsibilities, says Garrett Byrd, vice president for Storage Authority, which operates self-storage facilities in two states and offers franchise opportunities.

One of a the most stress-inducing—and critical—job functions is customer service. The unique circumstances facing each renter, which might include moving, downsizing or another life-changing event, can amplify a challenging interaction. “Moving is stressful,” Byrd says. “Often, customers project that stress onto managers, who have to deal with an irate customer while de-escalating the situation.”

Another trial self-storage managers contend with on a regular basis is the rising cost of rent. “Rate increases for customers is always very difficult for store managers,” says Christina Rita, chief operating officer for StoragePro Management Inc., which operates 126 facilities nationwide. An employee might be confronted by a tenant who’s upset about the new price. They have to try to appease the customer, but they still have to collect the rent and provide the best possible service.

But that isn’t all. There are other aspects of the job that can cause anxiety. “The administrative and operational tasks generally have tight monthly deadlines to stay in line with state lien laws, so if the workload ‘bottlenecks,’ i.e., deadlines are on a busy Saturday with lots of customer activity, then that can definitely cause high stress,” says Stacie Maxwell, vice president of marketing and training for Universal Storage Group, a third-party management company that operates more than 75 facilities nationwide. “Also, managers can become stressed by not meeting monthly sales and occupancy goals, or they have a hard time getting their occupancy percentages up where they need to be due to new competition in the market.”

Sometimes, this tension can even stem from lack of recognition or incentive. Without raises or a show of appreciation, self-storage managers can “feel like they are owed something, which then causes them to be unhappy and looking for ways to feel better about their job,” says Sue Haviland, owner of Haviland Storage Services, a third-party management company that operates nine facilities.

Negative Effects

Stress can cause just about any ailment, from fatigue to cardiovascular disease to cancer, according to Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch, president of the American Institute of Stress (AIS), which conducts research and provides information, training and techniques to prevent stress-related illness. AIS data shows it can affect the body through headaches, heartburn, rapid breathing, weakened immune system, increased depression, stomachache, high blood pressure and tense muscles.

“Job-related stress is no different in how it affects the body and mind, except there are the complications of absenteeism, presenteeism and additional associated stressors, such as worrying about losing your job, that may cause financial stress,” Kirsch says.

For Byrd, it can bring increased anxiety, difficulty concentrating and disrupted sleep patterns. If it goes unresolved, he says he’ll feel physically exhausted, which affects his overall health and mood.

Similarly, Maxwell, who has 23 years of experience in self-storage, including time spent working as a facility manager, has also experienced the harmful effects of high stress. She cites physical issues such as muscle tension, digestive troubles and sleep disturbances as well as mental effects like mood swings, burnout and reduced motivation.

“Stress can impact a self-storage manager’s job performance negatively or positively,” Maxwell notes. “Some managers respond well to challenges and use the ordeal as a catalyst to improvise and overcome for the betterment of the facility. However, we most often see that stress has a negative impact in many ways.”

Too much stress can influence how a manager interacts with tenants, coworkers, supervisors and vendor partners by inhibiting service and communication skills. A highly strained employee may struggle to convey information clearly, increasing the chance for misunderstandings, Maxwell says. In addition, high levels can lead to irritability, impatience and difficulty addressing customer complaints.

“When somebody feels stressed, it’s very difficult to be efficient,” Rita says. That’s because it can adversely impact decision making, problem solving and time management, adds Maxwell. If prolonged, it can impair a manager’s ability to make sound decisions and even encourage impulsivity. It also makes it more difficult for employees to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines and allocate resources.

Further, stress can impair a person’s reliability. In Haviland’s experience, stressed-out managers are prone to call in sick, particularly around holidays, when ownership is scheduled to do a site visit, or after a discussion with a supervisor.

When left unresolved for extended periods of time, this tension can lead to burnout, which can cause physical and mental exhaustion. Signs include extreme fatigue, cynicism, irritability, lack of motivation, and feelings of negativity toward your job, among others. If you notice these signs creeping in, it’s imperative to proactively manage what you’re feeling and the stressors affecting you to prevent harmful health effects and growing dissatisfaction at work.

Coping Mechanisms

Key to managing job-related stress is understanding what’s at the root. “Since stress is a nonspecific reaction, different for each individual, and workers have lives outside of work, it is important to know what your stressors are,” Kirsch says. “They are often not what the person thinks they are.”

Tools like online self-assessment questionnaires can help you identify your own stressors. Kirsch also advises creating a “stress-less” schedule, which incorporates “gap time” throughout the day. Each gap is a two-minute self-assessment designed to help you focus on how your body feels, identify tension, and then relax and breathe to alleviate it.

“Simply scheduling a very short ‘gap’ into the stream of information flowing into your consciousness will allow you to plug into your ‘self’ and interrupt any stress reactions that are building and adjust, which will gradually build your resiliency to stress,” Kirsch says.

It’s also important to fully “unplug” from the stressors of the day by turning phones and gadgets off after 6 p.m. or 8 p.m., he adds. Taking time off from work can help overtaxed workers relax and build resilience.

Setting boundaries can also help. “Keeping work and personal life separate is key to being able to set aside the worries of the day and genuinely relax and recover at home overnight, to best be able to bounce back, ready to face the challenges of the next day,” Maxwell says.

Exercise is another way to manage the pressure, adds Rita. “I personally go to the gym every day, and it’s probably the one time of the day when the only thing I think about is what I’m doing at the gym,” she says. “But your mind is clear [and] you’re helping your body.”

Two incredibly important skills that help employees cope with stressful circumstances are organization and prioritization. “Get yourself a calendar or an app and stay on top of all deadlines,” Maxwell says. “Also, it helps to break down large projects into bite-size chunks and tackle them over time prior to the deadline.”

Time management will allow you to accomplish the most important tasks as quickly as possible, helping you naturally avoid the anxiety that comes with procrastination and buckling under a looming deadline. Another important tool is learning how to say “no” to avoid overcommitment. In addition, setting realistic goals and celebrating achievements can help managers keep it in check, Maxwell says.

Seeking Help

When should an overstressed self-storage manager ask for help? Immediately, Rita says. “As soon as something is bothering you or you’re uncomfortable, immediately raise your hand, whether that be with your peers, your supervisor or your human resources department,” she adds.

Maxwell advises asking for help if your workload is too great for the amount of time you have to complete it, when expectations are unclear, you’re struggling to resolve a conflict, or dealing with technical problems. This might include issues with security systems or the auction process, for example.

If a conversation is warranted, finding an appropriate time and place for the discussion is important and may require scheduling a meeting with a supervisor, Maxwell advises. Taking notes can be helpful to avoid leaving out important details.

“Also, be sure to explain how the situation you are asking for assistance with is affecting your job performance and the facility overall,” Maxwell says. “This will help others understand the importance and urgency of your request.”

To remedy feelings of low confidence or incompetence, which can cause stress to build, Byrd advises requesting additional training or assistance when needed. In some cases, however, it might be in your best interest to move on from a company or facility, especially if you’re being subjected to a virulent work culture.

“Some places just push down a toxic environment and it may not be the right fit for you and time to move on,” Haviland says. Importantly, she advises that the first step before leaving this kind of job is communication that attempts to address the stress source.

In some instances, an employee might not immediately recognize what’s happening. If the signs of stress are evident to others, a supervisor or coworker may address the issue before the manager even reaches out for help. In this situation, it’s important to be receptive.

“It shows they care and are reaching out to find the root of the issue,” says Melissa Cronin, senior area manager for San Diego Self Storage, which operates 18 locations in California. “It will be your opportunity to share your situation and advocate for yourself.”

Rachel French is a freelance content writer and copywriter. Her background is in business-to-business media and copywriting for web applications. She’s covered a range of industries and markets including self-storage as well as financial, food and beverage, healthcare, and nutraceuticals. She previously worked for Inside Self-Storage as an intern turned associate editor.

About the Author(s)

Rachel French

Freelance Content Writer

Rachel French is a freelance content writer and copywriter. Her background is in business-to-business media and copywriting for web applications. She’s covered a range of industries and markets including self-storage as well as financial, food and beverage, healthcare, and nutraceuticals. She previously worked for Inside Self-Storage as an intern turned associate editor.

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