Property management firm Mcilroy Smith has launched a mental health policy for its employees - possibly the first company in the private rental sector to have done so.
Managing director Andrew Simmonds says: “My own business background and experiences convinced me that wellbeing in the workplace was far more than a box-ticking exercise.
“After a prolonged and highly stressful business separation I found myself under so much pressure I suffered serious depression and anxiety, even sudden heart problems where paramedics were blue-lighted to me one afternoon.
“I was obliged to take 10 months off before I was ready to think about starting up all over again and setting up a new property consultancy.”
Simmonds says he is determined to ensure his employees aren’t exposed to similar strains.
“Our industry is client-facing and is, by nature, highly demanding. Our clients expect immediate response to any issues they raise – no matter what time of day; after all, they are at home when we are home too
“A good property manager will make it their business to go along to Residents’ committee meetings to uncover any issues or complaints. But these can go on long into the night – leaving people miles away from home and extending the working day still further.”
His company is based in Weston-super-Mare but stretches from Swindon to Plymouth.
“If staff are on call 24-hours a day, it’s essential to allow flexible working patterns and we encourage members of staff to take breaks during the day, visit the gym and get out to the pool for relaxation. Not only do I want to engage the best colleagues, but I want to ensure people fit in to the business.”
He adds that abusive calls and emails from annoyed residents are often seen as part of the job but can cause enormous stress to the person concerned.
Modern mobile phone and laptop technology is designed to speed processes - but can sometimes become overly distracting.
“But the flipside is that you are constantly in demand – you literally can’t switch off. It’s worse if you try and ignore a message and plan to deal with it when it’s more convenient for you.
“We prefer to be old school where possible – using paper diaries for instance, to reduce the pressure to respond to every message and constantly check dates online. This is a surprisingly effective way of combatting workplace stress.”
Simmonds says they ensured all clients were made aware of their wellbeing policies and duty of care to employees before proceeding.
“We tell all our clients from the outset ‘we have lives too’. We will support you if there is an out-of-hours emergency but we would hope they respect the fact we too have a private life.”