Gina Piper called it her "radical sabbatical." About 15 years ago, she temporarily moved to Maui. During the five-year period, she commuted back and forth to California to continue her real estate business.
“I was so overwhelmed. I was making good money but was miserable and unhappy, and I worked too hard,” says Piper, owner/founder of Elation Real Estate, Pleasanton, Calif.
Every couple of weeks, she’d come back to the mainland for a while so that she could work. She’d also worked a little in Maui, but she spent most of her time enjoying the natural beauty of the island.
“I really got into yoga,” she says. “I’m a huge advocate of people taking time for themselves or fulfilling their dreams or just turning off the phone for a day or two. It’s critical to our mental health.”
The Importance of Mental Health
Much research has been done on the effects of overworking. For starters, most Americans don’t take their vacation time (and when they do, they're still "on" for work), which is proven to harm their mental and physical health.
For real estate practitioners who are responsible for setting their vacation time and taking it too, this is likely true. When the pandemic shifted work from the office to the home, the lines work-life balance lines blurred for many, including real estate agents, which led to longer workdays.
One-third of surveyors told the American Psychological Association that their workload makes it difficult to take time off. Plus, 42 percent of those who take time off dread coming back because their workload has piled up.
According to a study published in the journal Psychology & Health, Syracuse University researchers discovered that those who vacationed more in a 12-month period had a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which increase the risk of heart disease, than those who spent less time on vacation.
But not taking days off or even weeks off can lead to job burnout like it did Piper. Burnout is "an occupational phenomenon" so prevalent that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a syndrome in the International Classification of Diseases. The WHO explains that burnout results from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been addressed. Symptoms can show up as:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
- Increased mental distance from your job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to your job.
- Reduced effectiveness.
Additional research shows that stress can cause major health problems including fatigue, alcohol or substance abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or vulnerability to other illnesses, which makes taking care of mental and physical a top priority for one’s longevity and quality of life.
Setting the Example
Piper believes making it a point to take time off in the busy world of real estate can change your perspective and improve your health. After all, many come into the business because of the flexibility and scalability of the business. It’s easy though, to get caught up in the hustle and focus on the grind rather than use the flexibility to one’s advantage.
“But then they never leave and are married to their clients, and oftentimes aren’t making a lot of money,” she adds.
As the leader of her company, she sets the example, showing her agents and staff that they, too, can enjoy life outside of work. She travels often and makes it a point to take vacation time, but she also holds annual sessions on vision and goal setting for her 25-member agency. During this session, she intentionally talks about and helps her agents plan their time off for the next year.
Her co-founder and partner, Viviana Cherman, co-hosts the session with her.
“She takes a lot of vacations, too, and she’s newer in the business. I mentored her, and she promotes time off in the office, too,” Piper states.
She also promotes an environment where her agents feel empowered to take time off. She encourages agents to help one another out when one is on vacation or to have an open dialogue with their clients when they know they’ll be off. She does this by leading by example as well and sharing her experience.
“Most clients are super nice and gracious and don’t contact me when I’m gone,” Piper adds. “Or I leave my business to someone else or take it with me. That’s the beauty of working remotely.”
Empowering Peers to Take Time Off
The mental damage that the pandemic inflicted on everyone was something the committee for the Illinois REALTORS® Young Professionals Network didn’t want to ignore.In 2022, the group decided that all their events for the year would center around ensuring their membership had the tools needed to take care of themselves physically and mentally, says Connie Vavra, immediate past chair of the network and branch vice president of Coldwell Bank Realty, Orland Park, Ill.
They produced a webinar titled “Taking a Break from Your Business Without Breaking Your Business.” The live Facebook and Zoom meeting garnered over 100 attendees and is still available to anyone interested in watching it.
As a coach and mentor at her company, Vavra works with agents at all different points in their careers. She often hears excuses about taking time off such as, “I just don’t have the time” or “What if my clients need something?” She agrees that they are all valid points, but she also believes that won’t be able to be good to those around them – clients and family alike—if they are not good to themselves.
“I have always joked with them that if you need another deal or need to get that pesky listing under contract, board a plane. It never fails. The moment you are out, someone needs something, and that’s okay,” she says.
The simple solution is knowing who you can lean on in your company for support so no client feels the effect of your absence, Vavra adds.
She says that personally, she has always known she needs to reset and recharge.
“I find myself to be an absorber of people and their energy. I give 1000 percent, and sometimes, it can leave me feeling 1000 percent empty. I know I need those breaks,” she says.
If she doesn’t take a rest from it all, her business starts getting messy, and she doesn’t function at the same level.
Time off is essential to running a sound business, but more importantly, it’s a key player in optimal health and well-being. It gives you space from the issues of the day, which can provide a new perspective and gives you the opportunity to fill your cup so you can in turn fill others.