Community association managers have stepped up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to guide boards with operational support and advice. The increased workloads and responsibilities are impacting managers’ mental health, with some reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety, or burnout.

High resident demands and expectations have been challenging, especially when communities implemented restrictions and closed amenities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “People come to (community managers), and their expectation is that we have all the answers, that we’re the strong ones,” says Michael Dee, CMCA, AMS, a manager with FirstService Residential in Kansas City, Mo. “It was very difficult (in the beginning of the pandemic) because we were learning as we were going, so we had to be careful and calculated.”

Dee, who is part of FirstService’s senior leadership in Kansas City, says that the responsibility of putting together best practices for community managers to use during the height of the pandemic came with increased stress and pressure that made him feel overwhelmed. Expressing how he felt to his immediate supervisor and the people on his team led to a company-wide shift to “embracing the power of vulnerability,” he says.

During the pandemic, FirstService organized weekly virtual meetings for employees to share thoughts, feelings, or struggles and for the management company to provide information on resources to benefit mental health.

Providing a space where managers can be vulnerable and share insights with others in the profession allows them to feel heard and understood, says Kara Cermak, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, senior vice president of learning and development at RealManage in Palatine, Ill., and a CAI faculty member. “This particular job is incredibly stressful. It’s about recognizing that and knowing that you’re the kind of person who actually enjoys the challenge of making communities better,” she remarks.

When feeling overwhelmed, Cermak recommends breaking down a task into small steps. Completing it can help generate the momentum needed to make other tasks more manageable. However, managers also must recognize when they need to stop and take care of themselves so they can help their communities while feeling their best.

“As managers, we can help create a sense of belonging, support, and purpose. By doing that, we’re improving not just that community, but I’d like to believe that we’re improving society as well,” Cermak explains.

Community association managers need to remember two things: You can’t give away what you don’t possess; and it’s alright to say “no,” says Dee. “Quit saying ‘yes’ to things just because you want to be liked, and instead say ‘yes’ to the things that you have control over and that you know you can do.”

SESSION SPOTLIGHT

“Emotional Health at Work: Manage Stressful Situations and Increase Productivity” and “Healthy Habits for a More Productive Day: Music, Movement & Mindfulness” will be two of the in-person sessions at the 2021 CAI Annual Conference and Exposition: Community NOW, Aug. 18–21, in Las Vegas. View the complete education session lineup and event schedule at www.caionline.org/2021AnnualConference.

Kiara Candelaria

Kiara Candelaria

Kiara is associate editor for CAI’s print and digital publications. Before joining CAI, she worked for a trade media magazine focusing on the oil refining sector. Kiara also worked as an internal communications intern at the Library of Congress in 2015 and was a student journalist while attending college in Puerto Rico, where she was born and raised. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information and journalism from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, in 2014 and earned a master’s degree in communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., in 2020. Kiara currently resides in Arlington, Va., and enjoys watching movies and television shows, playing videogames, and spoiling her cat Kyoshi.

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