Real Estate, Wellness and Work

Real Estate, Wellness and Work Author: Polly Ingestre Published: 24 May 2019

In the words of the late, great Paul Van Der Merwe, ‘Money makes the world go round’; but is it killing us? 

A client I met in the autumn of last year made a surprising declaration – their company’s staff numbers were declining. This wasn’t down to the usual “moving on to pastures new”, but because employees were either on long term sick leave or, dramatically worse, dying. The company was exasperated with investing time and money into developing some incredible team members only to lose them to a medical concern.  It was an alarming meeting, but gave me a chance to investigate this rather morbid predicament.  According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 595,000 workers in the UK suffered from work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/2018. The advances in technology have enabled us, as a society, to be reactive/active/responsive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s no end goal, no easy way to escape – and this adds to the current financial and social pressures.

Technology is enabling a 24 hour culture and these pressures are hard to resist. The latest Apple weekly summary report gives me worrying confirmation of this. I wanted to see if other firms within real estate and beyond were suffering with the same issue or if, having addressed that there was a problem, they had come up with an effective solution.

Illness and Financial Loss 

A number of firms have realised that the increase in financial loss comes hand in hand with illness.  Indeed, it is estimated by the HSE that in 2017/18, 15.4 million working days were lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety.

Landsec has spent the last two years developing a wellbeing policy that applies to all members of staff and includes, amongst other things, a compulsory health screening and flexible working options.  The company has also actively encouraged members of staff with an existing illness to speak up and inspire others to do the same.  CBRE, on the other hand, has invested heavily in wellbeing, and has appointed members of staff from all areas to promote and monitor mental and physical health across the firm.  Both Landsec and CBRE have worked hard to eliminate the stigma that comes with the admittance of having a mental or physical health problem.

The Importance of Wellbeing

Whilst it appears a number of organisations are trying to create a working environment where wellbeing is a priority, there is still a culture of presenteeism, which in itself promotes burnout.  One client confided in me that when they discussed the opportunity to take a sabbatical after working in the same firm for 18 years, it was met with disbelief and disapproval.  This individual wanted a sabbatical for three months, to spend time with their children and go travelling.  But their colleagues and clients wrongly assumed they were mentally or physically ill.  It appears the idea of taking some time off, without the pressures of work, still seems alien to a certain number of organisations.

The results from both sides of my research led me to ask candidates what was most important to them when considering moving roles – remuneration, wellbeing or both?  Interestingly, nearly all the candidates qualified their answer by saying that although the overall monetary package was essential, the ability to work from home and the feeling that an employer understood the significance of health and wellbeing was just as important.

Ten years ago, if a client asked me how they would be able to attract talent, I would have answered that a competitive salary should be high on their list of priorities. Now the emphasis is shifting, and if employers are serious about hiring and retaining talent, a comprehensive wellbeing strategy should take centre stage. Whilst salary is always going to be an important factor – after all, we can’t live for free – we also need to be able to reap the benefits.

For more information on this article please contact Polly Ingestre who is a consultant in our Real Estate Practice.

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