Article posted byon Nov 25, 2021
Isolation is a big problem for surveyors. There, we said it. And many of them are really feeling the effects of this. We regularly speak to surveyors who say the isolation they experience in their work is seriously affecting their mental health, with many pretty close to burnout and their performance at work being impacted as a consequence.
The result: surveyors are either off on sick leave, underperforming, moving jobs to try and improve their situation, or even leaving the industry altogether. Either way, it’s expensive for employers when they need to find cover for sick leave or replace someone who is leaving. And with the talent pool of surveyors already restricted, supporting experienced surveyors to keep them in the industry should be a priority for all employers.
We take a quick look at the main factors contributing to this isolation and explore some ideas of how employers can help improve the situation for their surveyors.
What’s causing the feelings of isolation in the first place?
The reality is that most surveyors are predominantly home-based, so working on their own is just a reality of the job. Surveyors spend their day visiting properties to conduct surveys and then writing up the reports from home, so there’s not much requirement or opportunity for them to be in an office with colleagues.
Most employers keep surveyors to one every 25-mile radius (the RICS recommended geographical coverage), so many will be working their own patch without any cross-over with another surveyor. There’s not an opportunity to interact with others and some surveyors can be really spread out, depending on the size of the company you work for and the locations covered.
There’s generally a lack of interaction between surveyors and it’s not a very sociable job. There’s also not much communication or interaction with others in the company. Some might have the odd call with a manager. Others might have some interaction if they are mentoring a more junior surveyor. But because they don’t tend to go into the office, interaction opportunities with colleagues are pretty limited.
Most surveyors just don’t know anyone else because there is no cross-over and they are ‘being left to it’.
Surveyors tell us they feel secluded and it is affecting their mental health. They don’t feel like they can open up to their colleagues as there is no relationship there and they don’t know anyone else in their team. There have been no chances to build rapport with other surveyors or colleagues, so they have no one to call just for a chat or to vent to.
It’s a highly pressurised job which also impacts on work-life balance. Without any support in place, it’s leading to burnout and compounding the feelings of isolation.
There’s still some stigma related to men’s mental health. This remains predominantly a male-dominated industry, and while it’s becoming more ‘acceptable’ for men to open up about their mental health and feelings, this perhaps is happening slower in this market. Those who bottle things up and try to just carry on regardless are the ones who ultimately burnout.
Whilst not always the case, isolation tends to be felt more acutely within larger organisations. Smaller companies appear to be slightly better at supporting their surveyors, as they tend to be closer-knit by nature and family-run, with the values in place to keep their surveyors together a bit more.
However, there are some simple things that companies can do to help improve the situation for their surveyors:
Breakfast or lunch clubs – we’ve already heard of a couple of clients trialling this, with surveyors grouped into nearby areas. Regular sociable meet-ups with like-minded colleagues can only be a positive thing.
Create online communities or groups so surveyors have others to talk to, share ideas etc. This could be through WhatsApp or monthly Zoom catch-ups, so people can take part regardless of location. This could also be used for regular training or development purposes, or simply to chat about things.
Wider team social events with all colleagues across the business, giving surveyors a chance to build relationships with others in the business beyond their surveyor colleagues.
Encourage regular trips into the office – either to attend specific company meetings or simply to work from the office, for example, once a month. This gives surveyors the chance to see other colleagues regularly and to feel part of a team.
Provide mental health support – set up support mechanisms for surveyors and offer ‘safe spaces’ - encourage them to open up and to talk about how they feel. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are also a great tool and offer confidential counselling support, among other things.
Set up a buddy system – pair up with another surveyor so they can build a relationship and rapport, so they have someone they are more familiar with and feel comfortable talking to.
Ask and listen! Talk to your surveyors and ask them directly what they think would help them and improve the situation. Listen and act on what they are telling you. You could conduct regular ‘pulse’ surveys to see if things are changing/improving. The important thing is to act on the results and demonstrate change.
Clearly communicate on a regular basis all of the support and tools that are available and where to access them, so that it is front of mind for surveyors.
While there are some realities to the role of a surveyor being quite isolated in nature, companies can and should be more proactive about encouraging and embracing change, and putting in place support mechanisms. Employers need to support their surveyors in order to avoid a mental health crisis and a substantial loss of talent from the industry. It is far more cost effective for employers to put in place the tools and support mechanisms now, than to do nothing and pick up the pieces later.
If you would like help or advice on retaining and recruiting surveyors or would like help to find your next career move, I’d love to help. Feel free to drop me an email to discuss further.
The article was written by Rebecca Mawer, Recruitment Consultant - Residential Valuations.
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How can residential property surveyors achieve a true work-life balance