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“The space between our expectations and reality is stress.”

-Author unknown

Whether we realize it or not, we all live in a stress gap. No matter the circumstance, we all have the vision of what we want to happen and what’s really going on. For a facility manager, that gap can be a monster that defines what their days, months, even years tend to look like. 

In my line of work, I speak with facility managers everyday. I hear when a trash can in the corner office is missed, I’m told when a maintenance crew is completing routine repairs, and I learn about security alarms, door issues, malfunctioning toilets, and all that lies in between. If you are the one that holds the lifeblood of a facility in your hands, your expectations are not your own—-they’re everybody’s.

When it comes to Facility Management, the stress that lies in the space between everyone’s expectations and the reality you face can be monumental. You want the stress to go away. You want your passion projects to take shape. You want the noisiness of complaints to be muffled to a whisper. 

In this post, we will uncover a few ways to manage the stress gap and minimize the time you spend dealing with issues so that you can get what you really want out of facility management.

Outsource Your Needs

Look at all the things you are juggling. Are you managing a grounds crew? A janitorial team? A maintenance crew? Are these teams controlled in-house?  When you have an issue, do you have to filter the problem through a seemingly endless group of people? If the answer is yes, it might be time to look at what you can delegate.

I understand that this might prompt an eye-roll since you are getting this content from a janitorial company. But just as my Business Development Manager says when speaking with potential clients, “We want to see you succeed.” Outsourcing might be the avenue to success and getting what you want out of facility management. 

When it comes to outsourcing, think about the areas you are receiving the most complaints and/or work orders. If it happens to be janitorial, outsourcing provides you a team of professionals with their own supervision to correct the problems. What’s better is that you no longer have a team to oversee, you can speak directly to a manager, and your pain has been funneled into a singular space.

Delegating your biggest headaches closes the stress gap. If you are losing energy by juggling all the pieces that have fallen on your plate, consider what outsourcing might do in regards to how you manage your facility. What would your landscaping look like? How about snow removal, maintenance, laundry services, or anything else you’re struggling to manage? Bringing on a team of professionals who are governed under a sole area of expertise will greatly minimize the stress you see from day-to-day and place you on the path to success. 

(If you’ve already outsourced and are still experiencing issues, you can click here on what to do when your outsourced work is giving you a headache.)

Take Control of Your Day

It’s often easy to get caught up in just putting out the fires. A problem arises and you are the first to respond. However, that is what your position has been relegated to: the fixer. You are the one that’s called when something breaks. When something happens, you’re on speed dial. You’re at the whim of everybody who needs you.

The issue is, you’ve become reactive. You spend the bulk of your time preventing pain. Your work is no longer a proactive space to work on those passion projects that are collecting dust beneath the tower of work orders. The space between your expectations and reality is growing wider with every new issue that pops up. 

However, there is an easy way to move those projects forward.

Take a moment and think about the effort it takes to go to the gym. We understand that if we put in the effort, we’ll shed those pounds and eventually see the results we want. But we have to put aside our day-to-day responsibilities and actually take the time to show up. If you are always responding to the problems around you and not intentionally placing effort into the work that would move your position forward, you’re never going to get what you want out of the work you do.

In order to take control of your day, it’s important to work intentionally. Carve out 30 minutes to an hour every day to work on something that’ll move your position within facility management forward. Generally, this sort of work is not urgent and can sit comfortably on the back burner. However, by only concentrating on the work that puts out the flames, you are unable to work on something that might keep that fire from starting in the first place (there’s a great article which unpacks the psychology of this principle, which you can find by clicking here.)

What would you like to see for your department? Is it a new system for reporting work orders? Is it putting together a proposal for energy-saving costs? Will these new systems help extinguish the fires you are seeing daily? Dedicating a little time every day to the things you want to happen will eventually make them a reality.

Set Boundaries Around Your Accessibility

How many ways are there to contact you? I bet you have an email address, a smartphone filled with text messages and voicemails, maybe even a desk phone, a walkie-talkie, and a company mailbox. The issue is that you have too many strings operating the puppet. You have created a system to be pulled into conversations without any boundaries.

It’s time to funnel your level of accessibility into a more organized space. As with outsourcing, the benefit of streamlining your accessibility means you have less to manage. Funneling everything you hear into one medium allows you to prioritize more easily without being sidetracked or knocked off course.

If you identify with any of this and want the noise to settle down, create a space to easily decide what requires your time and energy. Implementing a strategy that puts all the issues and problems into one easy-to-sift-through spot means you are no longer being derailed by phone calls, text messages, and things that may seem a priority to the party expecting your assistance.

The strategy you implement could be as simple as setting up a proprietary inbox in your email. You can easily follow this up by alerting everyone that there is only a singular medium to which you will now be responding to issues. With very little effort, you can establish healthy boundaries to protect your self and the facility you manage. 

Even further, consider creating a process that requires all issues to be submitted through a work order or particular system. Instituting measures for those that run to you with every little problem makes them pause and consider how emergent their issue is. By creating a successful avenue for which you respond to issues, you gain the opportunity to take more control of your day and cut the strings of being pulled into multiple conversations at once.

Closing the gap between expectations and reality isn’t easy. Especially when you are juggling the wants and needs of others. However, starting with these simple tricks can be the secret to managing your facility all that is being thrust upon you. By outsourcing work that’s giving you a headache, setting time aside to focus on projects that haven’t gotten enough attention, and setting boundaries to how accessible you are, you will see a great decrease in the stress you feel. 

Because what a facility manager wants is less stress and that starts by closing the gap. So, focus on your expectations instead of everyone else’s. And then make it a reality.