Acknowledging some of the issues members have raised, ARMA & IRPM commissioned a Wellbeing Survey in February 2022, the results of which illustrated the multiple challenges and complexities residential property managers face.
The stress of daily struggles while attempting to deliver the best possible customer service understandably has a serious impact on their overall mental well-being. The often unreasonable behavior of leaseholders, clients, and residents has been noted as the biggest challenge for residential agents. Practical solutions must be found to address these issues and help residential agents improve their mental health and well-being.
Striking observations of the Wellbeing Survey
The main aim of the Wellbeing Survey was to identify broad measures to build flexibility and enhance the mental health of residential agents. One key resource to achieve these objectives is the Unreasonable Behaviour Policy to deal with abuse. The following are a few observations of the Wellbeing Survey:
· Over 90 percent of respondents reported verbal abuse
· A rise in financial pressures
· Over 70 percent of residential agents adopted lifestyle changes
· Respondents dealing with the building safety measures are experiencing maximum health risks
· Over 64 percent of respondents complained about their mental health
Protecting property management staff from unreasonable behavior
Property management staff strive to provide excellent customer service across all customer segments. They often come across difficult clients who understandably have an emotional attachment to the property besides their significant investment.
However, any form of unacceptable behavior is unreasonable behavior. ARMA & IRPM have outlined a few examples of what they deem to be unreasonable behavior:
· Being unreasonably persistent – for example, ringing frequently to raise points already addressed; sending voluminous repetitive or irrelevant emails or letters; (Note that there is no set period for being unreasonably persistent as the nature of the persistence will inevitably vary. However, depending on the circumstances, we will consider whether a person is being unreasonably persistent by assessing the frequency of persistence throughout 3, 6, and 12 months).
· Rudeness – swearing (generally or directed at a member of staff), persistent interruption, name-calling, or general discourtesy.
· Anger – in volume or tone of voice, such as shouting.
· Aggressive behavior – threats of physical harm to person(s) or property; behavior which indicates that physical harm to person(s) or property is imminent or actual physical aggression. 04.05.22
· Insulting or disparaging remarks or comments – especially on the grounds of an individual’s sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, belief, or age
· Inflammatory remarks or personal remarks directed at staff
The Unreasonable Behaviour policy recommends multiple strategies for dealing with such unacceptable behavior. These recommendations include ending or limiting contact where possible and reporting matters to authorities to involve police or other relevant services.
Managing stress in day-to-day situations
The demands and pressures of the profession to deliver an appropriate service, despite the usual difficulties, can be excruciating. Having a stress mechanism can help people deal with pressure through motivation for actions. Up to a certain level, stress has a positive effect, but beyond that, it can affect the person's mental health and physical well-being.
The negative impact of stress is more likely because of the daily pressures rather than a single major event. Identifying the causes of daily stress and improving resilience for managing stress on a professional or personal level can help fight negative stress so that people don’t resort to unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking to mitigate stress, only causing further severe damage to their health
Daily stress management is vital to becoming flexible and achieving mental and physical well-being; Making conscious efforts to change our stress response is essential.
Mindfulness and positive thinking
Most individuals forget to live in the moment by constantly worrying about the future or dwelling in the past. Being consciously aware of one's thoughts and appreciating every moment can help improve one's mental well-being. Worry can be detrimental to mental health, and awareness of the present moment can effectively reduce overthinking which can lead to a build-up of stress.
Another helpful way of dealing with the removal of negative thoughts is engaging in meditation
Identifying thoughts leading to happiness and those causing negative stress can be an ideal way to manage daily stress for better mental health. One can change the outlook from negative to positive by practicing positive self-talk.
Property Management has always been a relatively stressful career to undertake and while the world is waking up to the struggles of mental health and the adage ‘in a world where you can be anything, be kind’ is banded around, this more often than not seems not to apply to the Property Management Industry. In the past few years with more and more health and safety legislation being created, and Service Charges being forced higher to allow for these additional costs, Residential Property Managers face the sharp end of the tongue at best, the face-to-face confrontation at worst, as a result of perceived apathy for these rising costs. Add Brexit (higher costs for materials and workforce) Covid-19 (more people working from home) and the cost of living crisis (financial) to the mix, and residents understandably, get angrier and angrier at any additional cost levied on them, with Property Management and thus Property Managers taking the brunt of this frustration. Having to try and do their best to provide a service at the best possible cost, with an immediate turnaround while adhering to all health and safety legislation, and under intense pressure from clients and residents who now have every way to communicate their frustration (email, phone, text, Facebook, Twitter even Tik Tok!) it is no surprise that stress is rife within the industry. The well-being survey goes someway toward recognizing some of these common factors and providing recommendations on how to deal with them.
From a senior management point of view, promoting mental health and well-being to staff shows you are concerned not only from a ‘work’ point of view but also from a ‘people’ point of view. One of the best ways this can be done is by setting up a committee with staff representatives to enable managers to understand the needs of their staff and how best they may be able to assist. Peer to Peer communication and buy-in is much more successful and provides real insight for managers to affect change where possible. However, Property Managers must take heed of the recommendations that have come out of the survey as while the best managers understand and accept that building resilience is vital for improving mental health, the onus must be on individuals to practice self-help.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
Strategic partnerships, holistic delivery/ opportunities, growth, value engineering, thought leadership
Ian Barber MD BTR Mobilisation & Leasing
Runs HQ & site lease-up teams. Drives rent pricing, mobilisation, marketing, happy residents!
Jon Curtis MRICS Head of Building Engineering
Chartered Building Surveyor. Lectures on EWS1 & building safety. Runs CapEx programmes.
Kate Robinson MIRPM MD Blocks/FM Management (London Region)
Master plan setup, ops and staffing and resident engagement. ISO45001 champion.
Lee Harle Partner Ringley Law
Plot conveyancing. Debt litigation. Group Company Secretary.
Anthony Kingdon MIRPM AssocRICS MD Blocks/FM Management (North Region)
Stakeholder engagement. Mixed tenure specialist. Budget management. Plant audit, PPM compliance.
Chris Georgalis MRICS Head of Commercial Valuation
Chartered Valuer. Rental valuations: retail, leisure. IRR modelling and valuations for secured lending. Compulsory purchase & rent reviews
Nichola Pughe MRICS Head of Residential Valuation
Chartered Valuer. Rental development & mixed use valuations, IRR modelling. Leasehold enfranchisement specialist
Libby Chen MSc Compliance Manager
Operational Plant & Equipment strategy PPM Compliance lead, Asset tagging Client major projects
Dipesh Parekh Director PlanetRent
Customer centric, vertically integrated PropTech/fin-tech solutions.
Leana Aristodemou MIRPM MARLA AssocRICS Strategic lead: ESG & Asset Business Plan delivery
Financial modelling, valuation analyst to support underwriting & fund reporting.
Natalie Birmingham Helpdesk Support Manager
Trainer & Helpdesk Manager: people, systems,contractors. ISO45001 supply chain accreditation.
Steve Norman Planning Director
Land due diligence (opportunities & constraints) Has contributed to a number of award winning schemes.