Guest Blog: How We Can Raise Mental Health Awareness in the Property Industry
By Verka Hammond, chief operating officer at Ringley Final Accounts Services
With millions having spent lockdown grappling with feelings of isolation and loneliness, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week had a special poignance, as Britain comes to terms with the continuing fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Having long been quietly ignored out of stigma, mental health had thankfully started to rise up the business agenda before Covid-19. Companies of all shapes and sizes had started taking initiatives to safeguard the emotional and psychological wellbeing of their employees, while staff were increasingly encouraged to speak out on their experiences with depression and anxiety.
Property management is not an industry you would necessarily associate with high levels of stress. Yet new research reveals a growing mental toll on building managers.
A new report published by the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) and The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) revealed that 60 percent of respondents said their mental health was at risk because of their work, while almost all respondents said they had been treated rudely in the last 12 months. Some had even experienced physical assaults at work, or been the subject of hate crimes.
Given the above, it is unsurprising that property managers consistently score below ONS averages when asked about how worthwhile their life is, their life satisfaction and their levels of happiness.
Britain’s cladding crisis is partly to blame. Property managers involved in cladding remediation were 90 percent more likely to have left the sector in three years’ time compared to the staff not involved.
It is difficult to imagine the feeling of living in a home deemed unsafe or potentially worthless, and the papers are rightly filled with countless stories of leaseholders having sleepless nights over the prospect of a fire breaking out or being bankrupted by cladding remediation costs.
Understandably, leaseholders stuck in this terrible situation are angry, and often it is property managers who bear the brunt of this anger.
Yet even in properties unaffected by the cladding crisis, property managers frequently receive abuse from leaseholders.
Speaking from experience, all of the directors at Ringley have personally experienced negative interactions with leaseholders.
We are fully committed to the safety and wellbeing of our staff, at all levels and particularly those working remotely or at times alone working on site, and will always support our colleagues should anyone be subject to undue pressure.
As a result, we are delighted to see the proposed Unreasonable Behaviour Policy from ARMA and IRPM, which will help give our employees further protection.
Corporate entities often face criticism from clients, and while we do not claim to be perfect at all times, it is never acceptable for people going about their job to be physically or verbally abused.
If leaseholders are unhappy with the way their building is managed, rather than attack staff, they should seek legal advice on how to take control of the management.
The key things for avoiding disputes is communication and transparency. That is why at Ringley Group we have invested heavily in technologies, policies and procedures that are underpinned by a customer-focused approach to ensure openness and clarity.
Mental Health Awareness Week may come and go but we should all strive to create positive working environments all year round, where everyone feels comfortable and secure in their roles.