EG, the market-leading supplier of data, news and analytics products and services for the commercial real estate market, has reported that more than half (53%) of UK real estate professionals believe that working from home during the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
The results of the EG mental health survey launched in September 2020 underlines the importance of the office and the return to the workplace for individual wellbeing.
EG spoke to real estate leaders from across the sector about the importance of the office. Allianz Real Estate West Europe chief executive Alexander Gebauer told us, “The office is irreplaceable as a place to exchange, to create, to invent”. Great Portland Estates chief executive Toby Courtauld said, “A long-term shift to homeworking would be “nonsense”. Helical chief executive Gerald Kaye said, “Offices are vital, and homeworking is pretty lonely and boring”.
Workers in the sector, many of which are involved in the building, leasing and buying of office properties across the country, said that being away from the office had distanced them from colleagues and made their jobs harder.
“The lack of face-to-face meetings and interaction has been difficult to manage,” said one survey respondent. “The ad hoc chats and ability to bounce ideas off colleagues just isn’t there. It makes the job harder. We’re humans, and humans are sociable animals. I think the change in working practices has been unsettling.”
Two-thirds of respondents said the Covid-19 situation had had a negative impact on their mental health, with one of the biggest concerns for individuals being the fear of job losses.
Feeling isolated from colleagues and experiencing anxiety as a result was another widely held concern, as well as feeling overwhelmed with a growing workload whilst working remotely.
Half of all property professionals surveyed said they have experienced unmanageable stress and/or mental health issues in their current role, up from 42% last year. This is much higher than the national average: according to NHS statistics, one in six people will experience a mental health illness while working.
Around 77% of respondents said that they knew of colleagues suffering from a mental health illness or unmanageable stress, up from 72% in 2019.
Some 43% of workers surveyed said that working from home had been beneficial to their mental wellbeing with less pressure to exhibit presenteeism and more flexibility around working hours.