Taking care of the mental wellness of teams will be a priority for real estate principals and leaders in 2022, but there is support to make that easier.
The presentation of a prestigious industry prize to the Rise Initiative at the recent REB Women in Real Estate Awards highlights the importance of mental wellness in real estate according to industry experts.
The Rise Initiative was the winner of the Wellness Program of the Year for its work on The Realcare App at the prestigious awards ceremony held at The Star in Sydney.
“There is an anecdotal “knowing” amongst top real estate leaders that we urgently need to address mental health in the real estate industry,” said Rise co-founder and director Sarah Bell, who also won the Innovator of the Year Award for her work with Rita and AIRE.
“This intuition is supported by data which shows that our people are not coping and are not thriving – and are susceptible to mental illness at much higher rates than the general population.”
Ms Bell said that while Covid has created a growing awareness of the importance of managing mental wellness, the current mental health crisis in real estate was not just Covid related.
“Covid has amplified the impacts of what was present before the pandemic and highlighted both the importance of resilience and the need to make mental wellness a priority for 2022 in how we manage our teams,” she said.
A longitudinal research program, running since 2016 by The Revive Project indicated that the challenge of mental health and wellness is significant compared to the general Australian population.
Where Australians suffer mental illness at a rate of 20% in any given year, 65% of the respondents to the Revive survey indicated that they have felt stressed either, often or always in the past year and 47% had experienced physical symptoms relating to anxiety either often or always.
Even more tragically, in 2014, the Victorian Coroner officially classified real estate as a ‘high-risk industry’ with an average annual suicide rate of 13 people per 100,000 employees, placing it higher on the danger spectrum than policing.
Additional recent research by Grohol (2018) suggests jobs with the highest rate of mental health difficulties, including depression and anxiety, tend to be those which require frequent and difficult interactions with clients, have high levels of workplace stress and low levels of physical activity.
Beyond these factors, an environmental scan of the real estate workforce shows an impaired level of work-life balance, high level of burnout, sleep deprivation, and barriers to help-seeking due to stigma and a highly competitive peer group.
Smartphone-based mental health apps present a unique opportunity to expand the quality and availability of resources, with over 88% of Australians owning a smartphone. An app for help-seeking around mental health and wellness ameliorates the barriers that include stigma, accessibility and knowledge.
“The Realcare app has been designed to put help into the hands of every real estate agent and property manager regardless of who they work for, and in a way that can be used discreetly at any time,” Sarah said.
“It is a free app designed with extensive industry consultation that offers care in the form of crisis hotlines and personal counselling at a time of crisis, plus tools to help you manage your mindset and performance such as breathing exercises, stress stretches, dealing with anxiety and sleep issues.”
The development of the Realcare app was made possible through the generous support of Domain which has made its Agency Employee Assistance Program available through the app. This delivers up to three private and confidential counselling sessions with a trained counsellor to every user.
But Sarah said the Realcare app had also been designed for daily or weekly use to enhance performance through its mindset mastery tools.
“We tend to think of mental health as something that you “catch” and that makes you unwell,” said Sarah.
“But in fact, mental health is a spectrum that is a constant in our lives with a sense of flourishing and top performance at one end, resilience in the middle and languishing and darker feelings at the other.”
The Realcare app has been designed to build resilience, support agents and property managers to address and turn around feelings that make you unwell and to help practice and harness positive behaviours to deliver our best performances sustainably.
“We all have a voice in our head,” said Sarah “Using apps like Realcare help us to train that voice to speak more kindly to us and to become a powerful cheer squad rather than a critic.”
In addition to the Realcare app, the Rise Initiative hosts the Rise Conference which will be held on May 24 in Melbourne and the Rise Leadership Retreat, an invitation-only two-day series of workshops and masterclasses for real estate leaders. Rise is also working with its partners to deliver additional programs in 2022.
“Mental wellness will be the number one priority for principals and leaders to manage in 2022 and a key differentiator when it comes to performance,” Sarah said.
“We are already seeing the evidence that those teams with strong and resilient cultures focused on client service outperform those with traditional command and control structures that are focused on commission and in 2022 we can expect that gap to widen even further.”
The Realcare app is available and free to anyone working in the real estate industry AND their families.