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How can managing agents protect employees’ mental health and wellbeing?

How can managing agents protect employees’ mental health and wellbeing?
2nd June 2021 Editor

Clear Building Management highlights some of the key issues raised in the recent ARMA and IRPM wellbeing survey report and shares some advice on how to protect property management and site staff’s wellbeing, whilst delivering excellent block management and happy leaseholder relationships.

As property managers we are used to carrying out a variety of roles for our customers and residents – fixers in chief, neighbourhood negotiators and, of course, agony aunts! Add to this the 15 months and counting of COVID and, of course, the emotional and practical challenges presented by the ongoing wrangles over who pays for fire safety works – and it’s no wonder many property managers and their site staff are feeling pretty frazzled. With this in mind, Clear Building Management welcomes the recent ARMA and IRPM wellbeing survey report, which has provided a ‘mental health check’ of the industry to help better understand the wellbeing and resilience of the individuals involved in residential leasehold property management.

Physical and emotional safety

Property managers taking part in the ARMA and IRPM wellbeing survey were asked about the types of abuse they had received in the last 12 months, with the results showing that 74% noted being shouted at, 25% said they had been sworn at and 30% recalled being threatened in a non-physical way. Perhaps most alarmingly, 7% of respondents had been physically threatened and 5% of respondents were victims of hate crimes.

Clear BM advice: While it’s important that residents are able to air reasonable complaints, absolutely no staff member should be subject to abuse under any circumstances.  ARMA and IRPM agree, and since conducting the survey they have created an ‘Unreasonable Behaviour Policy’ – a framework that managing agents can use to better safeguard their staff against unreasonable or abusive behaviour. The framework can be downloaded here.

We believe it’s important for all managing agents to have a framework like this in place, tailored to your business. It should clearly state that unreasonable behaviour towards staff should not be tolerated, no matter the context, and explain how such behaviours will be dealt with.

Tackling complaints or addressing issues quickly can however help de-escalate a situation before things get heated. Though making it easy for a customer to complain may seem counter-intuitive to hassle-free property management, an easy-access complaints policy can actually help to reduce complaints going forward. If you can demonstrate both empathy and urgency when addressing reasonable complaints, then a disgruntled customer can quickly become an advocate.

Impact of the cladding crisis

The post-Grenfell cladding crisis has been handled extremely poorly, with leaseholders left footing the bill for remedial costs on properties they bought in good faith and with the understanding that they met agreed building standards.

Despite the fact that responsibility really has to lie with those who approved these original building standards, it is leaseholders and property management staff who are taking the brunt of people’s frustration. This in turn has serious implications for mental wellbeing. It is perhaps no surprise that the survey reported 70% of staff managing cladding remediation thought their mental health was at risk. This is 37% more than the staff not involved in cladding.

Clear BM advice:  Talk to your leaseholders and be empathetic but ensure they understand that your property managers and site staff are only the messenger and not the cause of the problem!

Managing agents have been made de-facto gatekeepers of the government’s fire safety funding lottery, creating an incredibly difficult and stressful situation. Many of us are leaseholders too and we desperately want to see a fair resolution to the fire safety situation – we share leaseholders’ anger and understand their stress.

On a practical basis, it is vital that you request access to every pot of funding possible and look for solutions that can mitigate the need for expensive waking watch solutions.

Job satisfaction

Encouragingly, a key takeaway from the survey is that property managers and their teams are generally a resilient bunch. When asked if they saw themselves remaining in property management for the long term, just over half say yes, with 29% feeling unsure and 19% saying no. Retaining this committed workforce is one of the biggest challenges the sector faces and looking after staff wellbeing is pivotal.

It can sometimes feel like property managers are a sponge for every bit of negativity; complaints about dropped litter and neighbour disputes are important to the individual concerned, but the increased workloads due to the pressure of fire safety works and COVID-related delays has taken its toll on individuals’ wellbeing.

Clear BM advice: Sometimes, keeping the human touch can go a long way. Sharing positive reviews or messages of encouragement from RMC directors, leaseholders and residents who are pleased with the service being provided, can really bolster team spirit.  Team motivation is important – and so is giving them space to let off steam!

At the end of the day, property management is a people business. Look after your staff and they in turn will look after your customers – a mantra that is now more important than ever.

The ARMA and IRPM wellbeing survey report highlights just how important complete transparency and open communication are – two elements that are key to the property management service that Clear Building Management provides.

If you’re ready to bring a new lease of life to your block and its community, please get in touch.



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