Last month in this space, I reviewed a series of market projections for 2014 from Harvard University as well as the industry’s leading associations.
5 Ways to Maintain a Work/Life Balance
Remodelers are dealing with a serious case of burnout. Remodeling executives offer these tips to maintain a work/life balance
If you're reading this article between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. in your office or break room and are uninterrupted while doing so, then congratulations — you're ahead of the pack of most remodeling executives.
With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' recent report that there were at least 27,000 construction jobs cut in the month of November, it's easy to feel the pinch of an ever-growing workload.
The unemployment rate's slow improvement offers little solace to the remodeling executives who have had to reduce staff to stay afloat this year. Not only were they tasked with saying goodbye to good people, but they also had to take on the workload of the people they let go.
Factoring in the stresses of fewer jobs, increased workload and the seemingly dull light at the end of the tunnel, it's no wonder remodelers are dealing with a serious case of burnout.
Victoria Downing, president of Remodelers Advantage, reports she's seeing about 75 percent of her clients experiencing burnout while 25 percent are "rocking and rolling."
"Job sizes have dropped, which has left remodelers needing to cover more jobs or wear more hats now than they used to," Downing says. "Where marketing or planning may have fallen on separate people in the past, due to resource reductions, it's falling on one person."
Adding insult to injury, budgetary constraints allow for very little to no back-up support, which leaves most remodeling executives in over their heads with work.
"When you're trying to be everything to everyone," Downing says, "You'll do anything you can when you see your livelihood being affected."
When your livelihood is at stake, it's easy to let work take over your life. Most efficiency experts agree, however, you must maintain a work/life balance to be productive.
Downing agrees: "It's important to give your brain a rest. It gives you the perspective and creativity you need to do your job well. It also gives you patience and tolerance. Make yourself get away."
But how? If work is piling up at the office and you're unsure how you can fit in a life when you have so much work to do, then consider the following five tips for maintaining a work/life balance.
Tip 1: Empower your employees and let them 'own' their jobs. Both Downing and Dennis Allen, president of Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Allen Associates, agree that one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your company is to give your employees the opportunity to take ownership of their job.
Downing first recommends looking at all of the hats the executive is wearing. Then begin looking at your employees.
"If you have employees who aren't eager or ready to take on the necessary additional work then exchange those employees for 'A players' who will," says Downing.
Allen agrees. "Empower your employees, hold them accountable and get out of their way." His remodeling firm has also found that the advice has had a beneficial impact on the community as well. "We're giving them entrepreneurial skills which they in turn use in the community."
Tip 2: Make work/life balance a priority. Now that you've empowered your employees, it's time to take a look at your own priorities or those of your company. Dennis Gehman, president of Gehman Custom Remodeling in Harleysville, Pa., emphasizes work/life balance so much so that they talk about it during the interview process.
"We're not going to let you miss your son or daughter's Christmas recital," Gehman, who works about 55 hours per week and still makes it home for dinner at 6 p.m. every night, insists. His own company includes two of his family members — his wife and a son — and they are sure to let interviewees know they place a priority on family and work/life balance.
Tip 3: Make technology more effective for your needs. There are several ways a harried remodeling executive can make technology more effective for his or her own use. Downing recommends asking yourself: can you upgrade any of your systems — perhaps switch to integrated software or upgrade your contact management software? Equip your sales team (if you still have one) with technologies that make it possible for them to work in the field? Anything to automate your work equals a work/life solution.
Gehman uses technology to make sure he's getting some time to himself: He uses his Outlook calendar to block out an hour or two so that he won't "accidentally" schedule an appointment during that time.
Tip 4: Leave work at work. If your office is in your home, it's incredibly easy to forget you're at home when you're at work. Both Gehman and Allen had offices in their homes at one point and found it stressful to try and seal themselves off from work when they were at home.
"When you go home," Downing says, "shut down the phone. Focus on your family; your family deserves your attention. There is very little that will be that much of an emergency that it can't wait until the next morning."
Although neither Gehman nor Allen shut off their phones, they both agree that letting clients and employees know what their phone policy allows them to keep work at work.
Allen suggests defining to your clients and employees what constitutes and an emergency while Gehman notes that most people respect his family time and rarely call after 6 p.m.
Tip 5: Take time away from the office. To really get the most out of your work/life balance, you'll want to be sure to actually get away from the office every once in a while. Whether you leave for the occasional three-day weekend or a two-week cruise, getting away from the daily grind will not only relieve stress, it will also give you a fresh outlook on things once you return to the office.
Allen rarely works on Fridays and hasn't for almost two years. His reasoning? In addition to work/life balance, he's trying to groom his company for his departure some day.
Gehman is partial to longer trips with his family which he schedules — and pays for — far in advance. "You're less likely to not go if it's already planned."