Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team
The following article is based on a presentation by Jenna Smith at the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted and organized by ZenMaid. Jenna Smith is the owner of Maid in Texas and is the Maidivation Muse for Rescue My Maid Service.
After surviving the challenges of 2020, many cleaning business owners know firsthand about burnout. Burnout is mental and physical exhaustion caused by stress and is linked to low morale, low productivity, and employee turnover.
For Jenna Smith, the challenge was steering her maid service through its second year of business, while raising a young child, during the height of the pandemic. Jenna not only made it through the demanding times, she’s become an expert on preventing burnout.
Today, Jenna helps her employees manage stress with a framework she developed.
She also helps other business owners manage their stress and wellness by curating self-care products for Rescue My Maid Services’ Maidivation subscription box.
Read on for Jenna’s tips for preventing burnout for your employees – and yourself.
What does burnout look like?
It’s not always easy to identify employees who are experiencing burnout. And many employees won’t reach out for help. Know the signs of burnout so you can be proactive about prevention and support.
Employees who are experiencing burnout may be:
- Quick to anger
- Unable to work because of recurring illness
- Less productive
6 common causes of burnout
For cleaning techs, burnout is often caused by one, or a combination, of the following factors:
1. Lack of breaks and downtime
The cleaning industry operates at a fast pace. That’s why it’s important to give job applicants a clear picture of what an average day on the job looks like.
Once they’re hired and onboarded, create moments of calm, fun, and delight to help ease the stress. Some things you can do:
- Provide free snacks and drinks
- Leave surprises for employees when they return to the office, whether that’s at the end of the day, once a week, or once a month.
- Plan team bonding activities, in-person or virtually
2. Impossible requirements
Are the responsibilities you give your team realistic? Burnout is likely if employees feel like there’s no way they can complete all of their tasks. Here are ways to keep their workload manageable:
- Don’t overload schedules. Consider things like the distance between homes or house sizes when you schedule cleaners. Let cleaners know what to expect before they get to a house so they’re prepared mentally. You don’t want them to expect a two-bedroom apartment and arrive at a 5,000-square-foot home. Also, schedule free time between houses so your cleaners have an opportunity to rest and recharge.
- Provide the correct tools and equipment. Underequipped cleaners will feel frustrated because they can’t get the job done properly. Double check your process to make sure they always arrive at jobs with the tools they need.
3. Unclear requirements
Lack of clarity about their jobs can lead to employee stress. To prevent this:
- Have clear and defined responsibilities for your staff roles. This is especially important for office staff. Clarity prevents miscommunication, duplicate tasks, and conflict among staff members.
- Create a comprehensive training program that prepares employees for every aspect of their jobs. This includes written materials they can reference in the future.
- Give employees their schedules as soon as you can so they can plan ahead for their workdays and for obligations outside of work.
4. Lack of personal control
While your employees have to follow your processes and rules, give them opportunities to express themselves as individuals. Here are some examples:
- Let them personalize aprons, uniforms, and carts with pins and other accessories.
- Provide staff easy ways to give you feedback. If you make changes based on their feedback, let them know.
- Allow two-way evaluations. Give office staff a way to give feedback on cleaners, and vice versa.
5. Poor communication systems
Make it easy for your employees to communicate with each other.
- Set up technology, such as Discord or Slack, so your team has an easy way to stay connected.
- Create and share guidelines for how and when to use this technology. For example, if a cleaner is sick, who do they contact and how? How do they request changes to their schedule?
- Create clear policies on how staff communicate with clients. Often, clients will tell cleaning techs about requests or changes in schedules instead of calling the office. How will your cleaners share this information with the office staff? Make that process clear.
6. Lack of recognition
Recognizing and rewarding good work is great for morale. But keep in mind, not everyone is comfortable in the spotlight.
Ask employees whether they would like to be recognized publicly or privately. Gather that information ahead of time through a Google Form or include a question in your hiring or onboarding documents.
Public recognition includes praise on social media, displays in the office, or a special parking space.
Different generations, different preferences
Your staff may include people from different generations. While keeping people’s individual personalities in mind, it can help to understand generational differences.
Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964): This generation is goal oriented, competitive, self-sufficient, and optimistic. They are also team players and respond well to team challenges.
When making changes, provide Baby Boomers with data and goals. They’re less likely than other generations to ask for help, so check in with them often.
Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980): This generation values work-life balance. They’re flexible, independent, collaborative, and open to feedback. Their energy and positive attitude helps boost team morale.
Gen-Xers value learning opportunities, so provide plenty.
Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995): Millennials want to feel heard and make a difference. Give them opportunities to provide feedback. They’re task-oriented, not time-oriented, so make deadlines specific.
Like Gen-X, they value work-life balance. When giving them performance evaluations, keep in mind that they tend to prefer conversations over written feedback.
Generation Z (born between 1996 and the present): This generation was born into the world of technology, so they can be helpful in training less tech-savvy employees on how to use software and computers.
Give them a consistent and predictable schedule to give them a sense of stability.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Just because you have a long list of tasks to complete, doesn’t mean you have to do them all at once. Give yourself permission to take breaks and strive for work-life balance.
As author Curtis Tyrone says, “Just because you take breaks doesn’t mean you’re broken.”
Breaks will help you ease your stress, recharge, and show up as a better leader.
For more resources on how to grow and perfect your cleaning business, check out the replays from the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted by ZenMaid. The summit featured more than 60 presentations from other maid service owners who shared tools and strategies to help you achieve the highest levels of success in your business.
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