Tom Bacon of Strata Title Lawyers published an article last week that highlighted the growing problems of work overload, increased strata manager obligations, and the resulting stress this places on the individual. We published the post to our LinkedIn Group, and received quite a response from across the industry.
Strata Managers and Burnout
According to Deryck Walker, a Strata Consultant from RMIT, “Strata Management has a known burnout factor.” Long hours, high client expectations and large portfolios contribute to an unbalanced work-life balance and unrealistic strata manager obligations.
Tom Bacon is concerned that “mental health issues amongst strata professionals are not well-ventilated, and this needs to change.
The strata industry is still in its infancy in Australia, and in my view, is terribly unsophisticated when it comes to risk management.”
Large Portfolio Sizes to Increase the Bottom Line
The ratio of lots managed by a strata manager varies depending on management expectations, support staff provided in the office and location. A recent Media Release provided by Strata Community Association states “[t]here are in excess of 808,376 strata title lots in New South Wales being managed by 1731 licensed strata managing agents; a ratio of 467 lots every 1 manager.”
Portfolio size, says Deryck Walker, is one of the biggest contributors to Strata Manager burnout. “It is common that Managers are given oversized portfolios for two possible reasons:
- The company’s fees are too low, as a result, the manager needs to handle a larger group of clients to provide sufficient income, or
- Management choose to overload their staff to maximise profits (commonly this drive for profit being made with little or no regard for term staff retention or well being).”
Michelle Russell, a Strata Manager with over 10 years experience in the industry and owner of the new North Sydney Strata Management firm Strata Revolution, believes a “strata manager’s stress comes from having to take responsibility and be accountable to all the owners for so many various aspects…..The problem is strata agencies grow, strata managers change and agencies focus on quantity rather than quality and overload their strata managers.”
The Solution: The Industry Should Come Together to Reduce Portfolio Sizes and Increase Cost of Management
Both Deryck Walker and Tom Bacon feel the problem should be tackled from an industry-wide perspective. Deryck suggests “[i]f the industry could come together to reduce portfolio sizes, this would increase staff retention, increase client retention, provide better service delivery for clients, and encourage a better work/life balance for managers.
When I talk about increasing fees, it is not from a place that is driving for increase profit. I believe most successful companies make plenty (read enough) money. This idea is intended to increase staffing, and provide managers with a greater opportunity to balance what is currently an extreme workload.”
Tom Bacon agrees – “the macro answer is for fees to be raised across the board – strata companies need to devote more resources (through the smarter deployment of staff and through investments in technology) to improve efficiency and output.
Owner Corporation managers are tasked with administering hundreds of millions of dollars of property on behalf of owners, and mistakes will continue to be made until strata companies modify their business model.”
What can the Strata Manager do to handle their Portfolio Sizes?
Even without management support, are there processes Strata Managers can put in place to juggle the workload?
Doug Harwood, Company Director at ACTON Strata believes there are. The best way forward is to determine “clear expectations on what you will and won’t do, what you can and cannot do as a strata manager, then clearly communicating that to your clients… will help you reduce the excessively long hours you spend, trying to fix everything for everyone… all the time.
Stand by your expectations, your clients will test you again & again… but they will get the message eventually or leave to find some other passive manager that will bend to their demands… let them go!”
These sentiments are echoed by Paula Byrnes, experienced Strata Manager and Strata Consultant at Metropolitan Strata Reports. Paula states “Strata Managers need to set expectations from the get-go (if their employer will let them)….let the unreasonable clients go. Eventually, they’ll realise that “you get what you pay for”!”
R U OK?
Never forget to watch for the warning signs of burnout and stress among colleagues. You’ve got what it takes to ask R U OK?
This post appears in Strata News #155.