January 26th - 2014

Stressed out: Managing workplace stress

In today’s go-go-go world, where wireless connections allow for instant communication any time of day or night, no-one is immune to stress from the fast pace of life.

Stress written in red pencil

Stress written in red pencil

In today’s go-go-go world, where wireless connections allow for instant communication any time of day or night, no-one is immune to stress from the fast pace of life.

In real estate, unusual hours and an unpredictable schedule can add even more stress, over and above the everyday demand for speed and service. The EDGE newsletter spoke with three experienced REALTORS® about their busy schedules and how they manage their stress.

“I have a hectic life,” said Linda Pinizzotto, a sales representative in Mississauga. “It’s completely insane -- if it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

And no wonder. In addition to working in real estate for 34 years, Pinizzotto is founder and president of the Condo Owners Association Ontario as well as serving as the Mississauga Real Estate Board’s government relations chair. Add in her family and you’ll see a woman in constant motion.

Pinizzotto finds it stressful when clients view her as all-knowing, expecting answers from her on every question, whether or not it’s part of her role as a REALTOR®. “I sometimes feel like a therapist, accountant, administrator, you name it,” she said. “We wear so many different hats in real estate. It can be overwhelming, and I find I have to be careful not to get too drawn into my clients’ lives or take their problems too much to heart. It can overwhelm you and make you sick if you let it.” 

She regularly reminds herself to keep things in perspective. “Although the job is very important, it’s not the only thing in life. You need balance, and if you work constantly seven days a week, you won’t get that balance. Family and friends are vital, and I’m fortunate to have a beautiful husband, children and grandchildren.”

For fledgling REALTORS®, Pinizzotto has some stress reduction advice: make time to get involved with a real estate board or other professional organization. “You’ll learn more about the field, which reduces anxiety as well as broadening your horizons.” Taking extra real estate courses beyond those mandated and pursuing interests outside of work are other strategies. “These steps can alleviate stress and help you re-focus when things aren’t going well.”

Rennie Lowes, a Peterborough sales representative, left the software consulting business to work in real estate.  In some respects, the challenges are similar, he said. “The hours can be stressful, given the short notice when you have to be somewhere,” Lowes said, “but this work allows us to plan our personal time. That more than offsets the erratic hours. I was fortunate to be able to go on all my kids’ school trips.”

Now a 10-year-veteran of the field and a past president of the Peterborough Real Estate Board, Lowes acquired wisdom with his experience. “I came to realize that stress is a choice,” he said. “You must do the right things in the job: try to understand the clients and what their needs are. If you do that, you will have fewer surprises and that will cut down on your stress.” Stressed out REALTOR

Technology can make life easier if used correctly, Lowes said. Although people expect quick answers, exchanging documents electronically saves time. “You don’t have to drive to the office to pick things up, which saves time and reduces stress.”

Technology can be a double-edged sword, agreed Pinizzotto.  The Internet provides excellent exposure for your business, but the demand for instant results is challenging, she said. She tells her clients, “If you email me and haven’t received an answer, then follow up with a call or text, because I get so many emails.”

The key to using technology, said Simcoe broker Brian Holden, is not to let it control you. “Technology can be very demanding, and although I keep my cellphone with me, I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t let it rule me.”

Now a 25-year veteran of real estate, Holden said he sometimes felt financial pressure when he was new to the field and had a young family. “It was sometimes hard to make sure commission cheques were there at the right time, but I’ve learned to avoid spending everything that comes in this week because I might need it for a rainy day next week. I’ve learned to do that very effectively.”

Deadlines can also cause stress if you let them, Holden noted, but it’s worth taking the time to make sure your work is accurate and thorough. “Sometimes, time pressures make it difficult to cover all your bases,” he said. “But if you do the deal right the first time, you never have to worry. There will be very few things to stress about. Make sure you check over everything and then take a deep breath.”

Being in a smaller real estate market makes it easier to control the pace of a deal, Holden said. “We don’t get the big swings up and down of a large city, so we can control the timing better and adjust deadlines so that no-one is making a decision when they’re tired or stressed out.”

Stress can have its uses, the sources all say. “Stress in this line of work can be a good thing,” said Holden. “It keeps us on our toes and keeps us performing well.” Pinizzotto concurred. “All these activities [her work, the Mississauga Real Estate Board and the Condo Owners Association] keep me motivated to make a difference.”

Temporary stress can work to one’s advantage, agreed John Trougakos, a workplace behaviour expert and management professor at the University of Toronto. “A bit of stress can block outside distractions and really allow you to concentrate,” he said, and the stress of closing a real estate transaction is a good example.

However, too much stress over a long period can become chronic and cause problems. “Constant stress and fatigue can lead to burnout,” he said. “When this happens you’re not as sharp as you could be; you might make mistakes at work and be less effective than usual. It can spill over into your personal life and cause illness.”

Psychological stress is common in today’s workplace, said Trougakos, but people often don’t recognize stress. They try to push through it, or even if they recognize it, they think they can overcome it.

“In terms of when and how they work, REALTORS® have a lot of leeway,” he said. “On the other hand, they have to be careful not to push themselves too hard and know when to take breaks. You cannot go 100 per cent every day. None of us is wired for that,” Trougakos said. “In any line of work, you must prepare yourself to be at your best mentally for those moments when the crucial work has to be done.”

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations


416-445-9910 ext. 246