Managing Mental Health

These past several years have been indescribably stressful for everyone. Economic concerns after a year’s long pandemic, lack of socialization, mask-wearing, and general fear and anxiety have only increased the slow erosion of kindness and empathy we have seen devolve over the past few years. 

In our business, verbal and written abuse have reached new, unacceptable levels, and basic respect and common courtesy are no longer so common. We are told not to take the job personally, but it is personal. It's our livelihood. It's our reputation. It's our name. It is very hard to not take insults and rudeness personally. Our health takes a toll.

One time I lost 20 pounds in less than six months due to the stress of a position, and I have seen and experienced other managers suffering other stress-induced health issues. I believe it's time for some important behavioral changes in the industry.

We need a significant focus and shift to ensure community managers are treated with respect and courtesy. It all starts with setting reasonable boundaries for your mental and physical health. If more of us do that, we can start a movement and create real industry change for the next generation of community managers.

Here are a few boundaries to establish to maintain a healthy work-life balance:

1. Establish an appointment-only policy. Many times, residents will stop in the office and demand to see the manager. They wouldn't do this to their cardiologist or attorney. Yet, with us, they have no hesitation. Establish the fact that you are a professional and require appointments. If your board opposes this concept, you can offer a schedule of "open-door" hours where walk-in traffic can access you freely.

2. Establish a weekly update meeting. Oftentimes, we spend hours meeting with every director. They pop into the office for just a couple questions, and our morning is blown. This repeats itself with each director.  The bigger the board, the more our week can get blown away bit by bit. However, we can take control by scheduling a recurring weekly meeting with board members to give updates on pending projects and priorities for the week. This is not considered an official meeting. Ideal participants are the president and the treasurer.

3. Schedule as many board meetings and committee meetings as possible during business hours. This may be a challenge for board members who have full-time jobs. However, when you serve on the board for a professional nonprofit organization like the United Way or Red Cross, your meetings are not at 7 p.m., and certainly are not on the weekends.

4. When you leave the office, leave the office. Establish the understanding with your boards that while you are available for an emergency, you are not available for everything that strikes their fancy to talk to you about after hours. If you respond to a non­ emergency email after hours, you are effectively training your board to believe you will respond, and they will have an expectation as such.

5. Manage your email. An organized email inbox is imperative to your success. In today's technological age, some things can be a quick phone call, text, or Microsoft Teams message. This helps to avoid bogging down everyone's emails for a quick conversation and avoids frustration and unnecessary delays when waiting for a response on something relatively easy.

6. Manage your time effectively. Time block for big projects. Blocking time out to accomplish projects allows you to be focused on the actual task and project without feeling the need to multitask.

7. Prioritize your personal events. Make sure your personal schedule is a priority and is on your professional calendar. This way you won't double­ book yourself and miss important personal events.

Let's not just talk about change, let's go make it happen.


Leslie Alvarez, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM is the manager of St. Andrews Country Club POA in Boca Raton, Florida and also provides consulting & education services to community association boards and managers through her company Community Association Consulting Experts. [email protected] 

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