Eliminating busy work to free up employees’ time in your property management company

Linda Day Harrison
Linda Day Harrison | 4 min. read
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Published on April 9, 2012

Walk around your office and ask folks in different departments which tasks they absolutely hate to do ,or what seems pointless. You will gain a ton of insight about your processes and procedures. Find out why you do that task. Make sure you dig down deep and study the ‘what-ifs’ of each task.

For instance, each time we do a batch of “X,” a paper printout is generated. The paper is then put into a bin and we file it by property. Every single company, building, and system is different, so this example is just an illustration. The point is to ask, “What is the value of this task?” If you file this print-out by property, what is the value of that print-out, and how many times is it referenced or utilized? Why are you printing it at all? Can the printing function be turned off? How long is the data retained? There are many questions to ask, but the most important point here is, somebody just needs to ask.

Tracking and naming files and logs is very time-consuming, so you should ask yourself and your team a few questions: Is it meaningful? How often do you reference the information? What happens to the information after one month, one year, etc.?

In one case, we had a supervisor instruct the staff to pull down a report, save it to a file, and create a name for the file each time a certain event occurred. On top of that step, the supervisor created an Excel spreadsheet to document the occurrence, and listed it out by date. They did this each time. While doing my weekly walk (remember PMBWA?), I asked a team member what they were working on. They let me know about this logging task and how they felt about it.

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Once we discussed this with the supervisor and assured her that this data entry and log were not warranted, we were able to stop this process. There were cheers heard throughout this department as people were so glad to find out this busy work was going to stop. It turned out to be a task that took 4 employees approximately 10 minutes every single day to accomplish. That task was eliminated, which reduced the waste of data entry labor, server storage, and management oversight to the tune of $5000 in inefficiency. If we couple that with several other tasks we found and eliminated, we were able to add more properties without adding staff, which is the name of the game. It is not that we ever want to eliminate our personnel and talent, but we want to focus on how we can help them, and the company, grow without adding to our team!

In property management, there are many important things we do, but we do not have time to do execute all of these tasks. You need to find the essential work (responding to customers, marketing properties, attending educational seminars, etc.) and get rid of the busy work! If we feel we do not have time for those essential tasks, are we filling our days with too much busy work? Is the owner or accountant making wasteful demands of our time? If outside demands start to add up, you may have to ask the property owner if they really need all these reports, or if they would rather have their property 100% occupied.

I am not saying that this solves all of your efficiency problems, but eliminating wasted busy work is a start! It is amazing how much you will find out about your operation by finding out what people hate to do most. In exchange, replace the task with more important functions that will bring in more rent, fill the property, make it safer, or increase its value. That should be the focus, not the mundane tasks!

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Linda Day Harrison

Linda Day Harrison works for The Broker List in Chicago, Illinois, an online platform for finding brokers, deals, services, and vendors.

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