We all dread walking into the office to find out one of our colleagues has called in sick, or they are away on holidays for two weeks, and today is day one. The process for covering leave is the same whether it be a sick day, planned leave or that gap that sometimes appears between one property manager leaving and another one stating.
I have worked with many offices and very few has mastered this process yet. Most of them have great processes in place to ensure cover is provided without fuss. For sick days, every person in the office has a pair. If one person calls in sick, they also let their pair know, and their pair jumps into action. While the system is great, it doesn’t effectively cover the role of the property manager on leave. What you find is that the portfolio being covered only receives attention for urgent items and other fall by the wayside unattended.
Leave cover needs to tick three key boxes. Firstly, from a client facing perspective, the portfolio needs to continue to operate at the minimum level, continuing to service clients as normal. The landlords, tenants and tradespeople of the agency, shouldn’t feel the pain of an absent property manager. Phone calls and emaile should be returned without delay.
Secondly, from an internal perspective, work should continue to be done. As best practice, an absent property manager should ensure all their periodic inspections are up to date and none have been scheduled while they are absent. Most other tasks should continue as normal.
Thirdly, the property manager that is absent, shouldn’t have to come back to a portfolio that is spiralling out of control. I have met many property managers that won’t take leave because they don’t want the headache of coming back to a mountain of emails, phone messages, and more often, complaints from their loyal clients.
There are two ways to solve this problem, the first is to restructure the team into our three tier model, as outlined in the book Building Blocks. Not an easy fix but in the long term, will provide a more robust team structure. The second way you can do today. Ensure leave is planned well in advance. That way the team has time to prepare for it. Rather than place the entire weight of the portfolio on one person, the team should step up. Have one person be the spokesperson and handle all phone calls. The rest of the tasks split up between other teams members. One person does arrears and another does repairs and so on.
Daily standups are a great idea everyday, but if you are not doing them everyday, at least do them while a team member is on leave. They are a great way to meet for 5-10 mins each morning divide up tasks that need to be done, not just for the portfolio being covered but for all team members.