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The 24/7 Expectation

I grew up in a world where the internet didn’t exist, mobile phones weren’t a source of life and Mark Zuckerberg was still a nerdy kid who hadn’t discovered his own brilliance just yet. There was no Facebook or Instagram and if you wanted someone to know about your life you had to speak to them or go and visit. I remember my grandparents showing us photos of their most recent travel adventures on school holiday visits and there was one photo of each place and some were over exposed or had my nan’s finger over the lens. The shops all closed at 5 and if you forgot the milk you just dealt with it and weekends were reserved for families and very few people in suburbia worked on Saturdays. The shops were closed on Sundays and if you wanted to make a phone call you had to run home and dial a number from the teledex. Life was pretty wonderful.

Somewhere between then and now we’ve lost something as a society.

Fast forward 20 years and life is completely different. We are contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, our emails never stop, we don’t leave home without our phones. Social media is killing our ability to be social and actually have a conversation with the people that we know and love. We live a perfect life for Facebook and behind closed doors it’s killing marriages and relationships – scrolling our newsfeed has replaced our good morning cuddle and goodnight kiss. Our kids have a screen addiction and suicide and depression rates are at an all time high. Employees are struggling to keep up with the never-ending expectation to always be switched on and weekends are no longer reserved for our families, instead we rush around to get our houses tidied and shopping done before the week starts again and by Sunday evening we’re exhausted. It’s a vicious cycle and it never seems to end.

Today’s world is very different to the life I lived as a kid and my children will never quite understand the concept of a world without Netflix or turning a light off at the switch instead of asking Google to do it for them. While there’s lots of positives to today’s world like acceptance of different cultures and sexual preferences, awareness of the environment and the need to address global warming, awareness around anxiety and depression and preventing suicides and a commitment to stopping domestic violence and homelessness there’s so many negatives which tend to outweigh the good stuff that time and technology has brought to the world.

Over the last few weeks there’s been a big focus on mental health- even if you’re not a footy fan chances are if you’ve lived in Australia for 10 years or more you would have heard of Danny Frawley. His suicide highlighted (once again) the ever-growing battle of people in this world that are suffering in silence. Crumbling under the pressure that society and its expectations create. This is a monster that doesn’t discriminate, just last week a 12-year-old boy took his own life after suffering 2 years of depression brought on by bullying and a difficult home life. Two years of depression at the ripe old age of 12? Are you kidding? At 12 I wouldn’t have even known what it would be to take my own life – I may have feared losing it if I wasn’t home by dark when Mum had the dinner on the table… but suicide?

We live in a world where everyone is contactable all of the time. Our phones are never too far away and we can send an email as soon as we think of something… even if it’s 5am on Sunday. The problem is that living in this world has created an expectation that everyone SHOULD be contactable at all times and that the response should be as instant as a sent text message or an email showing up in an inbox. I can’t even tell you the number of times I get a call to follow up on an email I haven’t even had the chance to read as the sender has hit the button and immediately dialled my number. Nor can I tell you the number of people that jump up and down when their rental enquiry isn’t answered at 7.30pm on a Saturday night.

It amazes me that society accepts that the post office closes at 5pm and banks are closed on Sunday’s but they can’t accept or respect the fact that their Property Manager has the right to finish work and go home at the end of the day or enjoy a weekend off. The mind boggles that an out of office response for a team member on leave is immediately met with a call to their mobile demanding to know why they aren’t at work. Don’t get me wrong, I am positive that this is not the only industry affected by the madness created by a 24/7 society but since this is the only industry I am in it’s the only one I can make comment on.

Somewhere, somehow society has gone mad and reason, respect and patience is all but lost. Obviously our team have had lots of discussions in the past few weeks about all of this stuff too and it’s really highlighted to me the importance of my role as a business owner and a director at protecting my team and making sure that they have a balance in their lives, that they are happy in their roles within the business but that they can switch off at the end of every day and enjoy their families.

As a business it’s imperative to me that we re-assess our structures and make it clear that we, as property managers, are people too. Our role means we juggle 10 tasks at once and sometimes we’re in the office, sometimes we’re out onsite (after all we do need to be out and about to lease properties and do inspections) which means we don’t spend days sitting by the phone or watching our emails. It also means that when we’re in the middle of an inspection we can’t stop everything to take a call on the mobile. Outside of that we have families and we work to earn money to pay our bills and live in this crazy world. In return for our hard work we earn the right to go on holidays every now and then. We, like everyone else, have the right to finish our day, switch off, go home and enjoy time with the people that we love.

All of this doesn’t mean that we don’t have a passion for what we do, it doesn’t mean that we don’t love our jobs but it does mean that when you work incredibly hard you earn the right to just be you and to spend some time doing other things you love.

All I ask is that you see your property manager as a person, have reasonable expectations and realise not everything requires an immediate response or reaction. Always consider the person at the other end and understand that just because we can be constantly switched on in today’s world does not mean we should be.

The reality is that life will never go back to the way it was when I was a kid, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be wonderful.

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