In every city and at every apartment community I visit, everyone is working harder than ever. Stop and think about it: do you know anyone who is not rushing to work, feeling stressed by their workload, and then rushing home to get to their child’s ball game or other event? It seems that everyone in this country is over-worked due to economic challenges, but the stress levels have reached alarming highs in the multi-family industry. When times got tough, we scaled back our staff and increased the workloads for both managers and employees. However, now that occupancy has recovered, our employees are asked to maintain their burgeoning workloads without extra help. Stress in small doses can be handled fairly well by most people. However, when you hang on to stress for days, it becomes unbearable. It affects your work productivity, your relationships at work and at home, and it affects your health. People who experience excessive stress have more sick days, more health issues, and lower sales performance. Typically, they do not advance in their careers as fast as those who have a better balance of work and home life. As a result, it is necessary for everyone working in the multifamily industry to maintain a positive work-life balance and reduce our stress levels. Only we can cut down on the stress in our work and personal lives. Does this sound difficult or farfetched? It really is not. Once you make a few simple changes in your daily life, your world starts to fall into place. Very quickly, you find that you are more productive and happier at work, have better personal relationships, and you feel less stressed and rushed. Here are a few simple tips to get you on the right track towards a balanced work life and personal life: (I know 7 tips instead of 5…without stress I was able to add two free tips!) 1. Simply recognize that work life and stress-related issues are important and can affect your health, happiness, and work performance. You cannot address solutions to a problem until you have identified the problem. 2. Next, communicate your stress and work-life balance challenges to others, including your leadership, coworkers, family and friends. Don’t keep problems with excessive amounts of stress or workloads to yourself; shared stress is easier to handle. Good managers and leaders create an environment in which people can talk about their stress, their workloads, and request time to be with families. 3. Unplug from work. When you are at work, be totally focused and 100 percent engaged. You will be more productive and happier, and you will not be thinking about all the work you didn’t get to when you are at home. When you are at home, be completely focused on – and engaged with – your family and personal relationships. One way to do this is to literally turn off your smart phones and other mobile devices. I know, it’s a shocking thought. But after you try it for even one night, you will notice how quickly your stress level goes down and how connected you feel to family and friends. Several of my employees committed to going phone-free in the evenings for one week straight. You would be amazed to how they smiled more at home and how refreshed and focused they were when they went into work the next day. It is similar to taking a cruise or an extended vacation where your phone may not work. Think about how refreshed and energized you feel after a vacation like that… (seriously…just try this…it won’t kill you…and yes…we can all survive a week not posting on BOOKFACE, FacePage etc…) 4. Communicate your work schedule to your family. For many of you, your job demands that you work from home after hours. I completely understand that. Set aside a specific time for that, time that you are focused solely on work. Then, stop work at the time you said you would and spend time with your loved ones. For example, you can tell your child, “I am going to work from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and then we will play together”. Then, follow through and disengage from work, instead of responding to emails throughout the evening. 5. Be organized at work . Naturally, people who are organized and prepared for their work days have less stress. They do a better job of handling unexpected events, because they have the rest of their work day under control. One organizational tip: spend the last 15 minutes of each work day preparing for the next work day. That way, you don’t spend the evening at home thinking about tasks for the next day. Write down – on paper or in your computer or mobile device – the things you need to accomplish the next day. 6. Have fun at work. Enjoy some lighter moments and breaks throughout the day. When work is serious 100 percent of the time, the stress level of employees and managers spikes. Take time to celebrate your team’s successes when staff reaches predetermined goals or produces great customer experiences. If you do this, everyone’s work enjoyment increases, productivity goes up, and stress is reduced. 7. Include employees in the decision-making process. It could be as minor as having employees help set the time for team meetings or as major as providing input on the company’s investment in resources. Involved employees are more motivated, more productive, and less stressed. When we talk about work-life balance, I am not saying that everyone should just work their allotted 40 hours a week and go straight home. What I am saying is that, while you are at work, be as productive and stress-free as possible. You should be excited and happy about your job, and put all your energy into what you are doing. Then, when you go home, be truly engaged with your family and your home life.