Sustainability and time management

A recap from the 2022 SCA conference

At the 2021 SCA conference, Jason Carlson did a presentation on the topic “Keyboards don’t have feelings” which resonated with many strata managers and other industry representatives. The presentation dealt with proliferation of emails, questioned the effectiveness of communication by e-mail, and provided insight into dealing with the problem into the future. This was so well received that a roadshow to many management companies was undertaken by Grace Lawyers.

Our presentation at the 2022 SCA conference built on that theme, and focused on the past, the present and the future of professionals working in the strata industry.

What did we do before?

Prior to strata title, the major way that land was owned in a community environment was by way of company title. Amongst other things, people who wanted to join or buy shares in a company title were interviewed and ultimately approved or not approved by the board of directors. If someone wasn’t accepted, then the shareholder had to try to find an alternate person to sell their shares to.

It was a similar story if one of the apartments was to be let. Not only did the shareholder and their real estate agent need to approve the person, the proposed tenant had to also appear before the board of directors for approval.

With the commencement of strata title, this entire concept of approvals to join a strata community was taken away and the ease of transfer of title was established.

How did we communicate?

In the past the way we communicated was primarily by letter, where we received a letter from a client, dictated a response, had the response typed and then sent to the client with a well-reasoned and balanced reply. We also, if the matter was serious enough, met in person to deal with whatever issue it was. The ‘good old days’ was defined by patience. Everybody understood that in order to get a response, it required time, careful thought and above all some patience in waiting for a reply.

So, what happened to our communication with the invention of Facebook, email and other electronic means to communicate? Fast forward 20 years, and email is the go-to form of commercial communication. But research carried out decades ago has shown that in communications involving ambiguity, disagreement or strong emotion, the actual words we use only communicate 7 per cent of the intended meaning. Body language, expressions and tone of voice collectively make up the remaining 93 per cent.

The prevalence and reliance on email communications has not stood our industry well when it comes to dealing with difficult conversations. Moreover, clients often define “availability” as the most desirable trait in a strata manager or professional, and we all benchmark our “communication skills” by how quickly we respond to client emails.

Managers are fearful to lose a client, to raise their fees to an acceptable level and appear to over-service clients just to keep them “happy”. The inability to deal with the increased workload has led to many managers and staff becoming burnt out.

In our industry, there is a major need for overhaul of what managers can deliver for a reasonable price without having staff on stress leave, burning out or moving from one business to another in the hope of finding a happy medium.

Again, in the old days, the company title scenario promoted a form of “community” that seems to have changed over time to a situation where everybody wants everything for themselves, and the value of over time services has been significantly reduced. The challenge for the industry is to determine how businesses can be sustainable, how

the expectations of staff can be met, and finally how that translates into an excellent service delivery to the ultimate client: the owners.

The Pendulum is Unbalanced

As an industry, we need to consider the sustainability of ourselves and our team.

Our world in 2022 consists of instant messaging and instant communication. We, and our teams, are faced with emails, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google reviews. All of which initially came with the best of intentions to make us accessible and expedient, but we can all agree that the pendulum has swung too far, forcing us all to be overly accessible.

Gone are the days of waiting until 9am on the next business day to pick up the phone and make a call, or better yet put pen to paper, write a letter, post a letter and patiently wait for a response. Gone are the days of face-to-face meetings as we now live in a world of hiding behind screens where clients’ expectations of immediate responses are exponentially increasing.

Where does this leave us?

We have all had those days where we walked into the office, opened our emails and immediately become overwhelmed by the amount of emails in our inbox. Before we know it, it is 5pm and we think to ourselves,” I did a lot but didn’t actually achieve much”. This leaves us with feelings of stress, negativity, burnout and fatigue. We have turned into an industry whereby we allow our days to be governed by our inbox.

What can we do?

What is the solution for us all to have sustainable careers in strata? It starts with reclaiming your day without it being governed by our inbox. We need to take control over our days and run them how we see fit. To achieve this, we need to change our mentality and put in place simple rules for ourselves. Examples could include:

1.    Plan your day the night before so when you get in in the morning you know what you are doing and when.

2.    Think about when you are the most productive – if you are like many this will be in the morning, so use your morning to do your substantive work.

3.    Use time blocking methods to control your day as much as possible.

4.    Make your emails a task, not a habit. This means try not to open your emails until 10am or even 11am in the morning. You will then have your focus on your substantive work and will not be absorbed by emails.

5.    Simple things like reorganizing your emails into conversations can reduce the overwhelming feeling of how full your inbox is.

6.    Set up a rule if you are ‘CCed’ into an email, it gets set to a different folder in your inbox and you check it once a day.

Very simple, yet very effective. However, it does take self-discipline and a change in the mentality of yourselves and your team.

Most important however is making it ‘ok’, especially to your team, to have control over how your day is going to play out. Leaders need to make their team confident and comfortable in having control over their days and juniors need to learn by example.

How can platforms and planners help?

Finally, make use of platforms and daily planners. Platforms like Calendly eliminate unnecessary and unproductive large email chains to organise a simple meeting. Calendly allows you to set your availability, send a link and the other party can choose a convenient time. So simple, yet so effective and ultimately this means you and all your staff reclaim control over your day.

Grace Lawyers has also created our own daily planners which can be made available immediately upon request. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office to obtain a copy.

When we feel on top of things and under control it reduces stress and gives us time to live our life. Once some of the above strategies are implemented, it will lead you and your team to both sustainable but also a positive career in strata.

View Comments


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *