Mental Health in the workplace

Andrew Simmonds, Managing Director of Mcilroy Smith explains the thinking behind his firm's robust Care in the Workplace policies.

Every employee is under pressure of one sort or another at work – but property managers can be particularly susceptible to work-related stress.

Long and frequently anti-social hours, the constant drive to perform financially and round-the-clock responsibility to the residential blocks in their care can have a punishing effect on the most resilient.

That’s why newly-launched Weston-super-Mare property consultancy Mcilroy Smith prioritised a meaningful Mental Health policy for all its employees from day one.

Managing Director Andrew Simmonds explained: “My own business background and experiences convinced me that wellbeing in the workplace was far more than a box-ticking exercise.

“After a prolonged and highly stressful business separation I found myself under so much pressure I suffered serious depression and anxiety, even sudden heart problems where paramedics were blue-lighted to me one afternoon.

“I was obliged to take ten months off before I was ready to think about starting up all over again and setting up a new property consultancy.”

Andrew Simmonds is determined to ensure his employees aren’t exposed to similar strains.

“Our industry is client-facing and is, by nature, highly demanding. Our clients expect immediate response to any issues they raise – no matter what time of day; after all, they are at home when we are home too!

“A good Property Manager will make it their business to go along to Residents’ committee meetings to uncover any issues or complaints.

“But these can go on long into the night – leaving people miles away from home and extending the working day still further. We are based in Weston-super-Mare but our patch stretches from Swindon to Plymouth.

“If staff are on call 24-hours a day, it’s essential to allow flexible working patterns and we encourage members of staff to take breaks during the day, visit the gym and get out to the pool for relaxation.”

He went on: “As far back as the 1960s, whilst working at MIT, Douglas McGregor created the X & Y Theories of management and nothing has changed in today’s business world.

“I first learned the McGregor theories during my Business Studies A-Level course and it’s held firm in my memory since. Although McGregor spoke about employee motivation; its effects on mental health and wellbeing are only now becoming prevalent.

“Not only do I want to engage the best colleagues, but I want to ensure people fit in to the business.”

Andrew Simmonds went on: “I know of companies where each property manager was responsible for an unusually high number of residential blocks or housing association schemes. They can be called out at any time of day to deal with everything from gardeners not cutting the grass short enough to sea gulls making too much noise!

“The poor old Property manager might be practically lynched by residents when the issue was not even their fault.”

Abusive calls and emails from annoyed residents are often seen as part of the job but can cause enormous stress to the person concerned.

Modern mobile phone and laptop technology is designed to speed processes - but can sometimes become overly distracting.

“But the flipside is that you are constantly in demand – you literally can’t switch off. It’s worse if you try and ignore a message and plan to deal with it when it’s more convenient for you.

“We prefer to be old school where possible – using paper diaries for instance, to reduce the pressure to respond to every message and constantly check dates online. This is a surprisingly effective way of combating workplace stress.”

Andrew Simmonds said they ensured all clients were made aware of their wellbeing policies and duty of care to employees before proceeding.

“We tell all our clients from the outset ‘we have lives too’. We will support you if there is an out-of-hours emergency but we would hope they respect the fact we too have a private life.

“All our clients are totally on board with this. They recognise that employee wellbeing is paramount. We believe all industries should be looking out for their employees’ welfare.

“We truly believe that in order to provide the best service to our clients we need to ensure a good work life balance of our team.”

 

Mcilroy Smith is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and can be found at www.mcilroysmith.com or call 0330 1243757.

Reviewed: July 2019