The pandemic has put mental health into sharper focus more than ever before and companies across the property industry could be facing a potential mental health crisis.

Restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus in the UK has driven stress, anxiety and depression are far in excess of levels usually seen in the UK*. A major study into the mental health impact of the pandemic found that in the early stages of lockdown 57% of those who took part reported symptoms of anxiety, with 64% recording common signs of depression. (*Source: University of Nottingham, October 2020).

While the mental health problems improved as restrictions eased, scientists at the University of Nottingham warn they may worsen again as infections rise and more aggressive nationwide lockdowns are introduced during winter.

Shocking research from The Office of National Statistics (ONS) also shows that the number of male suicides have reached their highest in two decades, peaking in the 45-55 age category. The male suicide rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 is the highest it has been since 2000.

As a male-dominated industry, the property industry, particularly contractors and construction, will account for a huge proportion of these deaths. Benenden Health, has launched a new whitepaper exploring the impact of poor mental health on the UK workforce, is encouraging employers in the construction and engineering sector to talk with their teams and encourage them to speak about pressures they may be facing now – especially considering the impacts faced by many during lockdown.

The property sector needs to look at ways of supporting their staff through these challenging times.

Mish Liyanage, Managing Director of The Mistoria Group comments: “Unfortunately, twelve months ago, one of our young staff members committed suicide and it was a massive shock for all of us and took us months to recover. Without doubt, this year have been very stressful for everyone within the property industry. Whether it has been worrying about catching COVID-19, redundancy fears, bereavement or the practicalities of working remotely, while home-schooling kids, landlords, investors, tenants and contractors have faced huge pressures this year.

“Business owners across the property sector have also been under incredible strain, dealing with challenging trading conditions, implementing the furlough scheme, managing staff working from home and reconfiguring their offices to make them COVID-secure for returning employees.

“The pandemic has perhaps highlighted the real need for change in terms of addressing employees’ mental health needs. The industry needs to recognise the risks of mental health in the workplace and act on it to reduce the short and long-term impact.

“It is important to give employees the chance to get professional mental support if they need it along with training, counselling and time off from work. Remote working has brought many advantages, such as cost savings and greater flexibility around family life, but there are undoubtedly drawbacks, such as loneliness.”

Below are some tips on improving mental health in the workplace:

Maintain regular catch-ups with your team
Regular team catch-ups are an excellent starting point for maintaining a sense of connection with your team. While your current work setup may make these catch-ups trickier to implement than normal, they’re worth scheduling.

Look out for signs of struggle
When it comes to assessing how employees are coping, keep an eye out for changes in demeanour. Body language (if you’re still seeing staff in person) can be a fairly reliable indicator of mood, as can the underlying tone of emails and phone calls and the speed at which employees respond.

Set up regular meetings with staff you’re concerned about
If you’re getting a sense that someone in your team needs support, make sure you follow up, preferably in a private setting or on a one-to-one phone/video meeting where you can encourage them to speak openly about their feelings.

Provide support, both in and beyond the workplace
If one of your employees is struggling, be responsive. Where possible, approve requests for leave or consider arranging modified duties that will reduce the immediate pressure, while enabling the staff member to stay connected to work. If they need more structured support, connect them to your employee assistance scheme, or to other high-quality mental health resources and services external to your business.

Keep an eye on your own mental health
As a manager, it’s easy to get distracted by meeting the needs of those around you while forgetting about your own mental health. It’s important to take the time to check in with your own feelings and make sure you’re still on track. Maintain regular catch-ups with trusted colleagues or friends who have some insights into your professional situation and be frank about the challenges you’re experiencing both at and beyond work.

Sharing your experiences with your team can also be beneficial – acknowledging the difficulties you are experiencing with this new arrangement can help staff feel more comfortable speaking to you about their difficulties early on and can also help you clarify your own feelings.

The Mistoria Group is a high yielding student buy to let investment specialist, offering HMOs and armchair investments in the North of the UK, generating combined net cash yield up to 13% (Rental and Capital Growth). For more information on the firm’s current available investments and the services it offers email or call 0800 500 3015.