Wellbeing in the workplace: opening up about mental health

HBD Executive Director, ADAM BRADY, argues that mental health deserves more attention and open discussion. It’s time for the property industry to examine its culture and make sure that support and encouragement is available for those affected by the issue.

There has been more and more commentary in the national press about mental health in the past few years. It’s now much more common to hear about people’s personal experiences. Even Prince Harry has spoken publicly.

Mental Health
Physical and mental in balance – pictured as balanced balls on scale that symbolize harmony and equity between Physical and mental that is good and beneficial., 3d illustration

I am happy to go on the record and say that I’ve had to confront these issues myself, largely as a result of the stress and overload that I’ve experienced at various points in my career. Historically, there was a lot of shame surrounding this subject and, we have to be honest, it might have been seen as a sign of weakness to open up about it. Particularly in a dynamic environment like the property industry.

My view is that it’s important to have this discussion as we move into a period of real economic uncertainty. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the implications of Brexit are inevitably causing a great deal of anxiety. At the same time, people have been plunged into very new ways of working. Being based at home brings its own set of problems and challenges.

We might have anticipated more work-life balance, but it turns out we can find ourselves stuck in back-to-back Teams and Zoom meetings, leaving little time to do our actual work. I’m also conscious that we’ve had eight new people join HBD this year, who haven’t yet had an opportunity to work face-to-face with their colleagues in an office environment. Unthinkable before this year.

I have three young kids and it’s nice to be able to drop them off and pick them up from nursery and school. At the same time though, there’s no real transition between work and home – no process of unwinding gradually while commuting on a train, for example. I work in a room next to the kitchen. And when I’m finished for the day and open that door, I’m plunged straight back into frenetic family life.

So what can be done to make a difference? Well, thankfully, wellness and individual wellbeing are being taken increasingly seriously by businesses and they’re definitely a priority for HBD. We can always do more, although I do think some responsibility lies with the individual too.

Personally, I feel it’s important to watch out for signs of any impending problem and to take action. For me, that might mean making time for exercise – walking the dog or getting out on my bike. I think diet is very important too. I also use meditation apps, which you can fit in before or after work around your schedule.

Moving beyond the personal, wellness is going to be a massive trend in the real estate market too. People will be looking for buildings that help to facilitate wellbeing. We’ve been undertaking our own research in this area, collaborating with experts and thinking about how our new and existing workspaces can help to bolster the mental health of the people who work there.

Overall, my message is that we have to be more open about these issues, recognising that a significant proportion of us will face these kinds of challenges in our daily lives. I hope that by writing this piece, I’ll encourage others to feel that it’s okay to speak about psychological health and that we can work collectively towards a culture that truly values and enhances everybody’s wellbeing.

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