This industry might have to take a structural look at how it manages its work-life balance. Mortgage professionals spent the last year coping with the onset of a global pandemic only to then face 10 months of record-shattering business volume that shows no signs of slowing down.
A working model whereby originators are taking calls and handling clients seven days a week might make sense during brief periods of high volume, but running like that for months on end can do serious harm to the mental and physical health of individuals. In addition, that kind of strain can potentially risk the overall operating capacity of the business as the sheer grind of immense volume starts burning out the people a company needs to survive. An eye towards personal and organizational sustainability might be in order.
“A work-life balance is set by the corporation,” said John Lynch (pictured above), founder and CEO of PCMA Private Client Lending. “It’s very difficult to have a real work-life balance when the corporation has a 24/7 operation, even just a seven-day operation…. It can be fine to accommodate intermittent surges, people can handle it to get the job done when it needs to get done. But what happens when you get a surge that lasts all day, every daym for months? What I experienced firsthand in 2003, when the industry did $4 trillion in loan volume, is that you just can’t stay in that space for an extended period of time. At some point, you’ve got to push back.”
That pushback, Lynch explained, has to come from a genuine assessment of company capacity. He likens operations these days to running a high-end hotel that’s fully booked and still getting calls from people demanding a bed. Sure, you could start putting cots in the hallway and technically deliver a place to sleep, but that would degrade the experience for everybody involved and wear out the staff who have to serve all these customers. As much as it goes against every bone in an originator’s body, Lynch believes that at a certain point companies need to tell customers that they just can’t accommodate their request at this time.
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Lynch isn’t advocating burning bridges with clients, merely establishing boundaries. He stressed, too, that by building those boundaries politely and empathetically, an originator isn’t necessarily going to lose that client. Rather, they’ll establish a dynamic of respect and high-quality service, rather than an overstretched and busy service that barely manages to keep the client on the book.
Building these barriers is a skill that takes serious training. In addition to teaching new hires how to establish firm, sustainable boundaries with their clients, the PCMA team teaches those hires how to set aside crucial time for themselves.
“When we onboard folks, we share with them that the culture they used to belong to is not what they’ll be part of at PCMA,” said PCMA’s VP of training and development, Rick Cortez (pictured immediately above). “We explain that their workday has a firm start time and end time and that after that period, or on the weekends, that time is for friends and family.”
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Taking this sort of approach takes serious discipline. It means turning down the potential of new business and short-term gain for a healthier term and a deeper long-term sustainability. Lynch believes that company leaders, to keep themselves disciplined, need to remember their own obligation to the health and safety of their teams.
“Most companies struggle with this,” Lynch explained, “because when you open your doors you say ‘I hope someone calls.’ When we get a call we instinctively want to accommodate, but the reality of it is we have to say ‘no’ sometimes. We don’t do that well enough as an industry, and I’m not perfect either.”