The Mind Really Matters

 The John O’Halloran Initiative, through the charity LionHeart, is bringing health and wellbeing to the attention of the property industry, writes RealService consultant Claire Middleton

Mental health is finally on the agenda in the boardroom.

Phrases like “work-life balance”, “mindfulness” and “wellness” have been trending on social media, and high-profile advocates like the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex have shone a light on what were previously taboo, dark corners. There seems to be a lot of information out there. A quick internet search revealed ‘Time to Talk Day’, ‘Eating Disorders Awareness Week’, ‘World Bipolar Day’, ‘Stress Awareness Month’, ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and ‘World Mental Health Day’, which fell on October 10.
However, if yours is one of the 80 percent plus of businesses which does not train its managers to manage mental health issues in the workplace, the world wide web is a daunting place to start – and might just send you scurrying straight to the stress awareness page. It’s the statistics which have made big business sit up and take note. Stats like the realization that billions of work hours are lost around the globe every year because of mental health issues.
The property industry is not immune to these numbers and, indeed, as the disruptors change the nature of where and how we work, could be particularly vulnerable. Health and wellbeing is now a core part of the sustainability agenda and developers and landlords are having to incorporate at least the physical aspects of those features – gyms, landscaping, even climbing walls – into commercial and residential schemes.

Property performance starts with the customer experience. Customer experience needs to be at the strategic core of the planning, design and building of the property. It needs to be the driving factor for property managers and occupiers. In a disrupted industry, you need the loyalty of your customers, be they your staff or your clients, and embracing health and wellbeing, to provide a great customer experience, is key to retention, reputation and revenue. -Howard Morgan, the founder and managing director of London-based customer-experience consultancy RealService

Worldwide diversity and inclusivity policies are starting to turn the tide. In Australia, for example, Lendlease says: “To create the best places, we need a culture … where people can bring their ‘whole self’ to work and feel safe, empowered and motivated to be the best they can be. Diversity and Inclusion is a key enabler to realizing our vision to create the best places.”
For those who need outside assistance, there is LionHeart, the charity for past and present members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and their families. Their services include financial support, health and well-being packages, counseling, support and legal advice – and many of these are available for RICS members across the world.
GRESB partner RealService was one of the founders of the John O’Halloran Initiative, which was set up following the death of O’Halloran, the former managing director of BAA Lynton. He took his own life in 2015 having secretly battled depression for many years. The Initiative, which is now run by LionHeart, puts on regular wellbeing workshops and webinars and, in addition, during 2018, four symposium events – in Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester. “Each year, the number of RICS professionals contacting us for help with mental health problems is increasing,” said LionHeart’s Jo Grant.
“Last year [April 2017-18] 15 percent of calls to our helpline were about mental ill-health and common problems like stress and depression. This means we are beginning to see the impact of the growing awareness of mental health issues within the property industry. “However, we need more evidence as to what companies are actually doing – as opposed to what they say they are doing – and the benefits that they get for taking this approach.”
Property giants Cushman and Wakefield have created their diversity and inclusion programme, Inspire. “We started working with LionHeart mainly because they were able to provide support when we really did not know where to start”, said Prina Shah, the Cushman and Wakefield Associate Director (Valuation and Advisory UK) who heads up the health and wellbeing agenda for Inspire.

Prina Shah, Cushman and Wakefield Associate Director (Valuation and Advisory UK)

“Inspire is run by volunteers, but we have been trying to increase awareness and have invited key speakers, organized Time to Talk sessions and generally tried to put the message out that it is okay to speak about how you feel. There is buy-in from senior management and we have attended events run by the John O’Halloran Initiative, which have been incredibly useful,” she said.

We have not put any figures on it, but it makes business sense if you can reduce absenteeism and find a way of easing stress in the workplace. It is still quite new to us, but it is becoming an important issue and the increased awareness is making it far less taboo.

With major players like Cushman and Wakefield and CBRE (who have also worked extensively with LionHeart) becoming involved, and a British Council for Offices 2018 report entitled Wellness Matters promising “a strategic roadmap to health and wellbeing in offices” the stage is set for the property industry, finally, to place mental health at its heart.
This article is written by Claire Middleton, Senior Consultant, RealService

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