Burnout in the Restoration Industry | Part 1

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software

Editor’s Note: 

This is the first article of a multi-part series on employee burnout in the restoration industry.  Part one introduces the nature of burnout and summarizes findings from a study on burnout in the restoration industry. Part two begins a discussion on things restoration companies can do to manage one of the most complicating factors for burnout among restoration professionals – workload. Part three advances the conversation and discusses what restoration professionals can do at the individual level to manage workloads more effectively.   


Since the 1990s, experts have been declaring burnout levels are reaching epidemic proportions among North American workers (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). Since that time, most people would probably agree that work-related stressors have only intensified with the proliferation of metrics, technology, and the need to be “on” all the time. A recent study by Gallup (Wigert & Agrawal, 2018) surveyed 7,500 full-time employees in the United States and reported that 67% of the respondents experienced feelings of burnout on the job. Another study by Deloitte (2018) surveyed 1,000 full-time professionals in the United States and reported that 77% of respondents said they had experienced burnout in their current job. In addition, the World Health Organization announced it would be revising its definition of burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, effective Jan. 1, 2022. One of the primary changes will be how burnout is classified—this revision will involve a change in classification from “a type of psychological stress” to a “syndrome.”

Disaster restoration professionals operate in a niche of the construction industry that is inherently stressful. Their work often demands being on call and working long hours under stressful and dangerous conditions following fires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and a variety of other catastrophic events to structures. In addition, there are performance demands driven by metrics related to response times, project completion rates, customer service, and many other factors. Such conditions make restoration professionals more susceptible to burnout; therefore, it is important to understand the nature of burnout and how the effects may be mitigated.

“Burnout is defined as a crisis in a person’s relationship with their work, as well as a syndrome of three distinct feelings that comprise the dimensions of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy (Masiach & Leiter, 1997)”.

The reasons for burnout can be complex and are addressed at length in many studies and books that have been published on the topic over the past few decades. Many have debated the reasons for burnout, whether occasional feelings of burnout can be good for someone, the complexity of burnout and the degree to which non-work factors may contribute to feelings of burnout on the job (and vice-versa), and where future inquiries into the subject should focus—among other topics. While many of these factors are still being debated and explored, there are many things scholars and professionals have come to understand about burnout and agree upon. Specifically, it is important to understand that some industries have higher burnout rates than others and that contextual factors such as organizational culture and the capacity to cope with stress within individuals vary widely.

Regardless, there is much for an industry to gain by having a deeper understanding of employee burnout among professionals and to explore strategies for improving the health and lives of its members. The primary goal of this article is to discuss the nature of burnout, share findings from a recent study on burnout within the restoration industry, and begin a practical discussion related to how we, as an industry, can seek to thrive with the inherent challenges the industry faces. We hope many productive conversations develop from this article.

Restoration is a great industry that does great work for the great people of our society. It is inherently challenging and stressful, but rewarding for those who enjoy working hard and doing good work for good people in need. This article seeks to candidly discuss the challenges of burnout for restoration professionals and begin a productive conversation on how we, as an industry, can do our work in a rewarding, enjoyable, productive, and effective manner.

Burnout

Burnout is defined as a crisis in a person’s relationship with their work, as well as a syndrome of three distinct feelings that comprise the dimensions of burnout: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).

Dimensions of Burnout

The three dimensions of burnout help us understand the primary characteristics of burnout and provide insight into the nature of the burnout experience.

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software
  • Exhaustion: The feeling of being overextended and physically and emotionally drained. “[It] is the first reaction to the stress of job demands or major change” (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). When someone is feeling exhausted, they lack energy and are unable to unwind and recover (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
  • Cynicism: Leads to people developing a distant attitude toward work and the people surrounding them at work. In a sense, it is a defense mechanism that is deployed to protect oneself from exhaustion and disappointment (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).
  • Professional Efficacy: Relates to feelings of effectiveness and adequacy regarding a person’s work. Accomplishment is vital and it is important for professional development and self-confidence. As someone loses confidence in themselves others lose confidence in them (Maslach & Leiter, 1997).

Worklife Context

(Sources of Burnout)

Equally important to understanding the components of the burnout phenomenon it is essential to examine the primary sources that influence exhaustion.  There are six sources of burnout that mediate feelings of exhaustion:

Summary of Findings from a Recent Study

A recent study on burnout conducted by two of this article’s authors, Dr. Avila and Dr. Rapp, sought to explore the nature of burnout and worklife context (sources of burnout) among restoration industry professionals (Avila & Rapp, 2019). We distributed a survey that consisted of a demographic questionnaire, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, (MBI), the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), and a set of exit questions that gauged respondents’ turnover intentions. A total of 318 respondents completed the entire survey.

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software

The results on burnout revealed that, when compared to other industries, restoration professionals were experiencing higher levels of exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. The researchers had not anticipated this interesting finding. The model, as discussed in earlier in this article, suggests that as exhaustion increases, cynicism increases, and professional efficacy decreases. Why would restoration professionals have increased professional efficacy when the mediating factors suggest they should be experiencing the opposite? Is it their resilience? While years could be spent studying this to find an explanation we aren’t going to be doing that.  It is time for a practical discussion. We know restoration professionals experience burnout so it is imperative for us to discuss why we think this is the case and what we (professionals and employers) can do to mitigate the effects of burnout.

“Results of the six sources of burnout found that workload was the only source having a statistically significant effect on exhaustion for restoration professionals.”

Moving forward, an important part of the discussion on burnout should explore the reasons restoration professionals would experience burnout in a manner that is so unique and different from other industries. What factors do we think are contributing to this dynamic? Could findings on the sources of burnout help us understand how and/or why restoration professionals would experience burnout in the manner the study has revealed? Could the amount of hours restoration professionals work be contributing to them having a high sense of professional efficacy? Could factors related to the number of years they have worked in the industry influence their sense of professional efficacy?

employee burnout, restoration management, restoration management software

Results of the six sources of burnout found that workload was the only source having a statistically significant effect on exhaustion for restoration professionals. From this point, the researchers had to look to answers respondents provided in the demographic questionnaire at the beginning of the survey. There were two primary data points in the demographic questionnaire where the researchers discovered correlations to workload:

  • Number of hours worked: Respondents self-reported the number of hours worked and the average was 52 hours per week; however, some respondents reported working more than 80 hours per week. As the number of hours increased, the respondents were move likely to report a heavier workload.
  • Number of subordinates: Respondents self-reported the number of subordinates supervised and this finding was negatively correlated with perceptions of workload. As the number of subordinates supervised increased the respondents were more likely to report a heavier workload.

While workload, in itself, can involve many factors, we will explore ways in which it can be managed effectively at the company and individual levels. In the second part of this series, we will start to discuss how to manage the burnout.

Special Thanks

The authors wish to extend special thanks to the members of Business Networks who have graciously shared their experiences, NextGear Solutions who opened the door for public discussion on these topics among restoration professionals, and other industry professionals who have engaged us on the development of the study throughout the entire process. Thank you for the support, feedback, and valuable insight.

Lisa Lavender, Contributor and Co-Author

Managing Contracts And Documents With iRestore

restoration management, restoration management software

 

iRestore helps you manage and execute your documents and contracts without the burden and expense of multiple part forms and paper juggling. Your job contracts are integrated into your system and can be easily executed and shared. When you are on the go, your contracts and documents are with you via your ipad.  The extensive document feature allows all your company contracts and documents to be easily stored and accessible in the proper location. It goes beyond job specific documents. Document organization tools can be found in Job Files, Company Files and Employee Files. Whether it is a contract you sign with your phone company or a subcontractor agreement with a paint sub, don’t buy more file cabinets! Simply scan and upload to the “DOCUMENT” tabs in your system and never hunt for a document again.

Rest assured that when you execute contracts from your iRestore system signatures are date, time and GPS stamped for maximum security.

Ryan Smith, President & CEO

Designed To Gather The Right Info – Consistently And Easily

industry tips, restoration management, restoration management software

 

Your iRestore is designed to gather and connect all the critical information on the job. It is of critical importance that all required information at the interview is gathered accurately and consistently. Upon setting up a new job in iRestore, information will be synced to all platforms: desktop, iPad and phone. When utilizing the tech wizard, the first step will be to verify the accuracy of the information on the new job. To create buy-in from your team, invest in explaining and create understanding of the value and importance of all the information. Consistency in gathering all information is of the utmost importance in linking data and getting the most out of your system through the following features:

  • Job Management
  • Contracts
  • Marketing and Relationship Development
  • Reporting Features

Read more about the iRestore job management features.

The Phone Rings And Then…

industry tips, restoration management, restoration management software

 

By: Lisa Lavender, VP of Operations Design

It is of critical importance that whoever is answering the phone in your restoration company projects soothing confidence to the caller who may have just experienced damage to their home, their business, their property or sometimes even worse…


The person who answers the phone may be having the very first impression of your company, and everything from tone to knowledge will have a direct impact on the confidence level the caller has in your organization from that point forward. In addition to giving empathy and evoking confidence and trust, we have to begin the process of interviewing. There is quite a bit of information necessary to effectively and efficiently deploy restoration services. A couple of tips to help you start strong when the phone rings:


1. Choosing The Right Words
Consider the use of a script and make sure that the person who answers the initial call understands their role and its importance. If using a script, choose your words carefully. It may not be best to have a default script that calls for an enthusiastic, “It’s a great day!” After all, someone may have had significant damage to their property, and their lives may have been drastically impacted. Likewise, the person who is taking the call should be prepared to answer a variety of questions and have the right information at their fingertips.

2. Classes and Training
It is extremely beneficial to invest in office staff’s technical training. By having some training in classes like water, fire, smoke, odor, mold, etc., they will have an increased level of confidence when assisting your customers. The customer will find their technical knowledge assuring. In addition, having technical knowledge will help with the gathering and communication of critical information in the rendering of services. Overall, this helps with the company’s efficient deployment.

3. “Decide What You Want From The Interview”

  • Facts and Information– Collect name, address, contact information, preferred method of contact, date and referral source. Make it protocol to get phone numbers immediately after the interview starts in case there is a disconnect for any reason.
  • Insurance Information– Collect carrier, adjuster, policy, agent and related contact information. Was this loss reported to the carrier? Is there a claim number? 
  • Loss Information– Collect the cause of loss, date of loss, extent of loss, types of materials affected and quantities of contents.
  • Other Information– This is any additional information that is pertinent to the loss or rendering of the services. It is good for all personnel to be trained to understand the concept of “meaningful contact.” All meaningful contacts should be documented and recorded. Examples can range from: “Beware of dog in rear yard,” to “A resident has a chemical sensitivity – review all products used with property owner before application.”

Read more on the art of interviewing the customer here.

The Value Of The “Call” After The Initial “Call”

The phone rings and you are called to duty. Whether it is a new water loss, fire, or mold, you have been given the opportunity to serve and the opportunity to fulfill your mission as a restorer.  As important as it is to deliver high-quality services in a timely manner to your new customer, we do so with the understanding that beyond each individual person you serve lays more opportunity. Consider the following:

  1. Branding: The neighbors of the new customer will see your truck with your company logo and phone number.  Everyone who sees you in action on the way to that job will be touched by your brand. Keep your fleet looking clean as they are out and about representing your organization; this will help lead to referrals from those in your community who “saw your trucks.”
  2. A New Happy Customer:  Once you have successfully served your new customer, you have a new fan.  Consider the power of a new promoter of your organization. The following Harvard Business Review touches upon the concept of a Net Promoter and the power of developing the relationship:
    • Reviews: The Acquirly system is a great tool to engage your new Promoter to give you a raving review online, positively impacting your SEO and your credibility with the next potential new customer.
    • Referrals: Friends, family, and neighbors who have a disaster are likely going to hear from your previous customer regarding who they should call for help.
  3. Other Relationships to Develop: Serving a new customer gives you the opportunity to build relationships based on credibility and trust.
    • Adjusters: Communication and well-documented loss information can help you build a foundation for a long-term positive relationship.  Read more in the following article: Adjusters are People Too
    • Agents: Insurance agents are at times in the sphere of influence during an insurance claim.  Serving a mutual customer is a great way to start or build a relationship.
    • Other: There are a variety of other contacts and interested parties that may be involved in a job that may lead to opportunities to build and foster relationships for future referrals.

HOW TO GROW YOUR COMPANY FROM ONE INITIAL “CALL”

To enjoy all the opportunity that lies within each loss and call, your team must consistently operate at peak performance in their service to others. Although there is not a simple formula to ensure this, the following is a list of things to consider:

  1. Execution:  There are processes and details that must be consistently executed and documented.
    • Checklists
    • Contracts
    • Moisture Monitoring and Logging
    • Scopes/Pictures/Notes
    • Equipment Tracking and Documentation
    • Tasks
  2. Communications: Effective and proactive communications are essential within the organization, both with those served and interested parties. There are a variety of means and preferences of communication in today’s world: email, phone, and text, to name a few.  The expectations of those we serve regarding quality, quantity, and types of communications is a constantly evolving demand that must be met.
  3. CRM:  Managing and engaging the new positive relationships that were formed is necessary to enjoy all the benefits from the new customer, the new referral sources and the new opportunities that can be enjoyed from successfully serving.

AN AFFORDABLE SOLUTION TO MANAGE THE JOB, THE RELATIONSHIPS, AND THE COMPANY

iRestore is a restoration management software system that is affordable, user-friendly and designed by Restorers for Restorers.  It is a solution to effectively manage the job from the time the phone rings until it is complete.

This software includes a fully integrated CRM that will even allow you to continually engage previous customers and other important relationships.

iRestore can help you realize The Value of the “Call” after the initial “Call”. Although iRestore will not be able to clean your vehicle, it can help you keep your fleet running and well maintained.