Most of us know about stress. You’ve probably been too busy to eat properly, spend little time with your loved ones and lie awake at nights fretting about work. Is that the price of success, or are you heading for burnout?
I worked with a client once who was a very successful agent. However, he was on anxiety medication, dreaded driving to and from work every day, never saw his family and had little balance or time for his own health or interests. He believed the only way to success was to work harder and sacrifice everything.
Another successful client came to me who had actually been hospitalised twice due to burnout. He also suffered from the same lack of balance. At the extreme end I have even had a principal I worked with call me wanting to end their life.
All eventually recovered in time to realise that the life and working model they were using was wrong and they had to change it. The sad thing is these agents were lauded as the poster children for success in the real estate industry, yet their lives were a mess.
There are two sides to the real estate industry; I see it firsthand every day.
The first is the ‘glitz and glamour’ side of success and the amazing opportunities it offers with its flexibility, uncapped income potential and autonomy to create the life of your dreams.
Then there is the other side that is littered with many time-poor agents with no work/life balance, little time with family, strained relationships, bad health and little choices or control around freedom and lifestyle. They are always on call, suffering from the pressure and unrealistic expectations, dealing with burnout, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, stress and increasing pressure to succeed. The challenge is the latter issues are certainly not on the agenda for discussion because it is usually seen as weakness on the part of the individual.
If talked about they are met with a swift ‘harden up’ message of ego and bravado, and literally swept under the proverbial motivational one-liner rhetoric of ‘just do it’.
It is clear from research around the world that these issues are prevailing across many industries. The Australia Institute think tank found that the balance between work and life is deteriorating for four in 10 people. The OECD Better Life Index showed evidence that suggests long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress. “Anxiety and depression are the cause of six million lost working days each year in Australia, resulting in 12 million days’ worth of reduced productivity,” according to the Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA). This is billions of dollars lost in productivity.
These and similar findings are why countries like Sweden are rethinking work/life balance and as a result are moving towards six-hour workdays. Workers will able to do more in less time, so they have more energy and time to enjoy their private lives. Toyota in Sweden started it in 2002 and reported happier staff, lower turnover, fewer sick days and higher profits.
So is real estate killing you? Well, probably not. It’s not the vehicle that is the problem; it’s generally the driver. Real estate, however, is probably not helping – but this will change. I believe that what is making it hard, though, is the unquestioned and unchallenged industrialised work practices of the past, coupled with the societal pressure and expectation placed on people to achieve at all costs for the future, laced with the assumptive beliefs around self-worth and what success actually is in the present.
We need an overhaul in our belief systems around work/life balance, and a new understanding in regard to life and work efficiency and effectiveness measures. We need the conversation on the agenda and seriously addressed.
And don’t forget to check out revive2017.com.au, the first-ever wellness, wellbeing and mindfulness event for agents, principals and property managers.