Has anyone else found a new interest in podcasts over lockdown? During the midst of it all, I looked forward to choosing a daily podcast (often one with a catchy title) to listen to on a walk. Did you know there are 30 million podcast episodes available to us – that’s a lot of walking!
I soon found that I was drawn to podcasts that focused on mental health and life balance. Whether that be the science behind mental health, the personal stories people were willing to share or the strategies to help us look after our brains better.
1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems of some kind in England and the number of people suffering from mental health issues is predicted to increase, particularly surrounding the extra challenges a pandemic has brought. An international study has revealed that 41% of the UK population’s mental health is at risk because of the Covid-19 crisis.¹
Within the Property Industry
Whilst listening to these podcasts I contemplated how mental health is dealt with in our property sector and how we, as an industry, can improve mental health awareness for future generations working within the profession?
The LionHeart charity states that 95% of people who have taken time off work due to workplace stress give a different reason to their boss.
According to MHFA, mental health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year due to low productivity, absenteeism and employee turnover. And following 2020, it would be reasonable to assume that these figures will only increase. Consequently, investing in increasing the mental health awareness and support within companies is a win: win scenario for our brains and our profits!
LionHeart is a charity for RICS professionals and their families to help support mental health and well-being, providing free professional advice: https://www.lionheart.org.uk/. The LionHeart charity states that 95% of people who have taken time off work due to workplace stress give a different reason to their boss. I found this quite a shocking statistic and one I personally believe every company within the industry should take responsibility to bring down.
The Estates Gazette is also setting a good example by publishing articles and interviews surrounding the topic of workplace wellbeing which are well worth a read. https://www.egi.co.uk/mental-health/ In addition, Purplebricks founder Michael Bruce has recently launched a foundation called ‘Agents Together’ to help improve the public perception of estate agents and provide mental health coaches and volunteer mentors.
These examples of charities and discussion forums are undeniably great and provide a useful source of support for many. However, it generally relies on people going and looking for them. No doubt there are individuals who do not feel they need these services and will therefore not read about the support and techniques available. This is particularly true in what is often seen as an industry that is still lacking in diversity; the Mental Health Foundation’s YouGov survey found that 28% of men who had had mental health problems had not sought medical help compared with 19% of women.²
This is why it is important for each company within the industry to establish a set of mental health policies and training so that even if managers/colleagues are not suffering themselves, they are equipped with up to date tools and information they need to help others in their teams. Mental health is not a one method fits all approach and the signs/behavioural changes can be very minimal therefore professional training on how to deal and talk about these sensitive and personal issues is paramount.
Allsop pride themselves on being a people company so it is important that our mental health is also looked after. Services that we offer our staff include:
- Access to the Employers Assistance Programme – an anonymous 24/7 support helpline
- Access to Bupa services allowing free counselling and support
- All Staff training courses which are run via LionHeart
- Manager training courses which are run via LionHeart
- Mentor scheme
- On site resources such as quiet rooms, break out areas and general encouragement of mindfulness activities such as yoga/gym and running in lunch breaks.
- We are also aiming to set up mental health ambassadors within the firm.
What can we all do better?
Work-place burnout is all too common, and with the current uncertainties and new challenges our minds are working in over-time. There is no shame in having a ‘digital detox’ or actually having a holiday without feeling guilty that you are not at the end of the phone.
In my office, we love to talk! And it’s important that wellbeing and mental health is on the discussion board. This is key to normalising the topic and eradicating the uneasiness of talking about our struggles and weaknesses. Encourage a morning pilates session, or grab a coffee with a work colleague/team member and ask them how they are. If you feel able to, share your own experiences, it often encourages others to acknowledge what is happening to their mental health. These little things can make all the difference.
As we slowly open our doors again, board the trains and head back to our workplaces it will take time to adjust to reality. It is therefore important to understand what the property industry and more specifically your company has in place to support mental wellbeing.
Notes to editor
Vicky works in our Leeds Residential Investment and Development team and specialises in providing strategic advice on the disposal and acquisition of residential investments, including student accommodation and HMOs and purpose built stock.
Vicky Bingham MRICS
Residential Investment and Development &
T: +44 (0)113 236 6682