Stress Management Strategies for Facility Managers
FMs must find constructive ways to manage stress - including taking time away from the job.
This is not the part where we discuss the benefits of getting a massage, but facility managers do need to find constructive and effective ways to manage their stress. “Work tears you down,” says Braudis. “It weathers you. What are you putting back in to rebuild, so that you have a reserve of resolve, a reserve of energy for the work?” This is of particular importance for leaders in the facilities organization. “If you’re a leader, people will be taking from you, and you have to give. But you can’t give what you don’t have.” Harvard researchers recommend mindfulness practices, such as abdominal breathing, visualization, exercise, and maintaining a network of social support.
Taking time away is an important stress management strategy, says Crabtree. “A lot of research shows that our performance actually goes up when we take a real lunch break, a real weekend, a real vacation,” he says.
Paquet has found that having real downtime has been very beneficial to his team in managing stress levels. With a crew of five, they cover 60 sites over 100 square miles for the health system, which certainly keeps them busy, he says. But most of his crew works four 10s. “Having three days off a week helps them recover,” Paquet says, to the point that it’s hard for him to get them to take their PTO. A lot of times, he catches guys checking work orders when they’re off, and he has to push them to let it go. “That’s when you have to try to manage them so they break away and get that down time so that they don’t stress.” It’s a balance in approach he’s come to over the last 20 years, he says.
Maintaining proper perspective is also critical, he says. A lot of his crew are ex-airline guys, he says, including himself. “We keep a lot of things in perspective,” he says. “We’re not working the line on a 747 anymore, where you have 300 people’s lives on your hands if you make a mistake.” Not to take anything from the demands of facilities management, he says.
For managers, being able to take time off hinges on building a team they can trust to take care of things in their absence. Corey MacKnight, facilities division manager with the City of Winchester, Va., says he knows himself well enough to know when he needs to step away for a bit, though that realization came after 20 years of learning on the job. “I used to have the mindset of everything needs to be done right now, and it’s hard to break that,” he says. “In facilities management, that has to be one of the highest stresses for every one of us: wanting to please everybody all of the time, do a good job, and fix the problems.” But over the years he has learned to get perspective and how to step away. “You have to set up the means for yourself,” he says. “You have to mentally allow yourself to step away, knowing you’re in good hands.”