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Your Real Estate Staff Aren’t At Your Beck and Call

Updated: May 1, 2021

Be respectful of their time and personal lives, unless you want to watch them walk out the door!

Have you ever watched the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”? In it, Meryl Streep plays a dismissive, egomaniacal editor of a major fashion magazine and her signature move is to treat her staff like garbage. Her assistants were expected to read her mind, have their phones on 24/7, to respond to any and all work situations regardless of what was going on in their own lives. Needless to say, most assistants didn’t last 12 months under this regime.

Paying someone a salary doesn’t give you rights to their entire lives. Worse still, assuming that they will do whatever you ask because they’re afraid of losing their jobs is mercenary behaviour that will leave you sitting in your realty office, all by yourself!

Demanding unpaid overtime from your staff on a practically 24/7 basis isn’t ethical. It’s unlikely that anyone would take a job knowing that they could be called at any hour of the day or night and be expected to ‘hop to it’, without also demanding a salary to match. Worse still, it leads to a high rate of assistant burnout.

Case in point: I have a candidate who just called me to say she had booked the long weekend off some time ago to vacation in a location where she won’t have a cell signal and her employer said to her: “You better keep your phone on and find a way!” She’s always on call and therefore isn’t free to arrange her personal time as she sees fit. Wrong. A salary is not a right of access to owning these employees as slaves. It’s remuneration for a job done as outlined in the contract, for a specified number of hours per week. Your staff are not operating personal not-for-profits. They want to be able to do their job and have a life too.

If you expect more than a strict 37.5 hour work week from your assistants, since real estate doesn’t happen to be a 9 to 5 kind of world, here are some ways you can deal with that so that you aren’t left watching to door swinging as everyone leaves!

Here are the top three reasons for employee burnout, according to a 2017 survey by Future Workspace and the management software giant Kronos:

  1. Unfair compensation

  2. Unreasonable workload

  3. Too much overtime / after-hours work

So what should you avoid if you want to keep your staff happy?

Start as you mean to finish

This is obvious but if your office works on a policy of 24/7 access, you have to tell people that up front. Hiring people without mentioning your requirements and then expecting them to be happy about it because they have a job at all is wrong on so many levels.

Since 24/7 isn’t a realistic proposition, you need to organize your staff in such a way that the times you need coverage are covered, but your staff still have personal time away from the office too. Perhaps have alternating weekends for being on duty, with two assistants rotating the effort. This is more effort for you, but essential if you want to keep your staff!

Pay for it

Whether in time off or in additional salary, you can’t expect people to work indefinitely, beyond their normal hours, for free. Negotiate with them as to what they can expect in return for their commitment to being available. After all, even if you don’t call on them during a given weekend, being on call means that their time was not their own and they have still had to put their own plans on hold ‘just in case’.

Don’t be indifferent to their lives

You may think that their personal lives are not your problem, but you’re wrong. If your demands are causing stress for an individual or a family, it’s very much your problem. It’s unrealistic to think that just because you go 24/7 building up your realty office, that your staff will too. They are employees, not entrepreneurs, and didn’t sign up to have their whole lives hijacked. Talk to your staff and take an interest in their personal lives. They’re more likely to be honest with you if some of their work activities are causing problems for them personally.

Don’t expect your staff to be on call while on vacation

Everyone needs time to disconnect. So to that end, respect personal time. If they have booked a weekend off in the woods, they are entitled to have that time uninterrupted and without having to run into town to check their cell phones!

Value your staff

Everyone works better, harder and more happily, if they feel valued. Involve your staff in the planning and decisions of the business if you want to get their buy in and so that they can feel their input is respected. You’ll find they will be more giving of their time to you if they feel you value them.

Hiring staff for a real estate office is all about finding the people who will support your business and help you grow it but you can’t expect someone who is your assistant to care about it at quite the same level you do, particularly if you don’t seem to care about them and their lives. Respect your staff and their time and you’ll get it back in spades!


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