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Industry heavyweights Rise to the challenge of mental health

Nine out of 10 real estate agents in Australia experience high stress at work, and 65 per cent of those agents say that stress has led to mental health issues.

The alarming statistics came from a recent survey by Domain, which came from a poll of 200 real estate agents from throughout the nation.

The high levels of stress being experienced in the industry have been partly attributed to last year’s unprecedented restrictions on the real estate sector, coupled with a competitive and unpredictable work environment.  

Sixty per cent of respondents stated their workload was their main pain point, while only 13 per cent cited money worries as their primary concern. 

Furthermore, only one third of the agents surveyed said they had sought help for their stress and mental health issues, although 60 per cent said they would be open to using an app that focused on the mental health of the industry. 

Domain CEO Jason Pellegrino said although it has long been acknowledged that real estate agents work in a high-stress environment, “it has been confronting to see the findings of our research”.

“The property world has traditionally been a high-pressure working environment, and the restrictions on the real estate industry over the past 18 months have certainly amplified the challenges faced by real estate professionals,” Mr Pellegrino told Elite Agent

“That said, we were intrigued and somewhat surprised to hear people are still very challenged. 

“Real estate is a very competitive and unpredictable sector and that translates to what agents told us are big workloads, which bring a lot of stress.

“It reinforces the importance of putting a spotlight on mental wellness,” Mr Pellegrino said. 

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE

The research led Domain to team up with First National Byron Bay Principal and mental health advocate Chris Hanley to develop some initiatives to address mental wellness in the industry.

In addition to his role at First National Byron Bay, Mr Hanley is also a Director of the Rise initiative, which delivers programs that facilitate wellness, mindfulness and fulfilment.

Earlier this month, Rise held a conference in Melbourne that was attended by more than 1200 agents from throughout Australia and New Zealand, and 150 who participated virtually.  

Mr Hanley told Elite Agent the event was unlike other real estate conferences in that it focused on stripping back the focus on “the performance and ego that dominates our industry”.

“After the lockdowns of COVID, it was wonderful to gather together again and there was a real sense of gratitude about the day,” he said.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT… 

Mr Pellegrino explained that after engaging in discussions with Rise, it quickly became apparent that their ideals aligned and both entities were interested in creating an ongoing partnership. 

“Since then we’ve supported both the Rise conference held in Melbourne (on May 5) and helped to fund the Real Care App, as well as extending our EAP offer to all Domain customers, which is available in the app itself.” 

The Real Care App is designed to give agents the mental, physical and financial tools and resources they need to be sustainable in their work.

“It helps you manage your commissions and finances – because money is often a source of stress – and it has exercises to help you reduce stress, exercise, sleep better, meditate and manage anger,” Mr Hanley said.

“Thanks to Domain we have now also added a real estate specific counselling service, which means if you are an agent in crisis, there is someone you can talk to confidentially.

“You might not need to use it every day, but it’s there for you when you do.”

Mr Hanley said the app had its genesis at the first Rise conference, which was held in New Zealand in 2019.

“After the original Rise conference in Christchurch, a bunch of really good people got together because we wanted to do more ‘good’ for real estate – it’s how the Rise Initiative was born,” he said. 

“Around that time, I met David Stanley from Utility Creative who has an extraordinary reputation for health care and had recently built an app for police forces around Australia and New Zealand in the mental wellness area. 

“It worked on the theory that prevention is better than a cure and that you can give police a tool to help them manage the stresses of the job.” 

Mr Hanley said the thinking behind developing a similar app for the real estate industry was, “Well if it works for police and the terrible things they have to deal with, surely it can work for a bunch of agents”.

It was a sentiment echoed by Mr Pellegrino, who said giving agents a resource to help manage their mental wellbeing “and get the support we all need from time to time” was of great importance.

“With many agents operating independently or within small businesses, there are often limited tools available to provide the necessary mental wellness to support the stress that agents feel from working in this high-pressure environment,” he said.

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Both Mr Pellegrino and Mr Hanley said destigmatising the issue of mental health in the real sector was vital.

“It is critical that as an industry real estate is more open about discussing mental health and that we all support each other, particularly when we are struggling,” Mr Pellegrino said.

“We need to remove the barriers to getting support with mental health, and that includes removing any stigmas associated with it.”

Mr Hanley noted that despite some people traditionally conflating mental health struggles as a weakness, those who sought help were often surprised by how much assistance was available.

“If you do put your hand up, if you do say ‘I’m not great’, you are usually amazed to find out how many people around you have had a similar experience and can relate to what you’re going through so you realise you’re not alone – it’s not just you,” he said.

“There are also people around you always in your life who genuinely want to help. As an industry, we need to agree that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and be clear on what the pathways for help look like so that it is easy to help friends and colleagues who are going through a rough patch without making a big deal of it.” 

Mr Pellegrino said he believed discussing mental health was slowly becoming less taboo than it has been in the past.

“I think we can all identify with being stressed and anxious at some point in our careers and the impacts that has had on our mental health and even family,” he said. “It’s time for the judgment to stop.”

You can learn more about Real Care app or find out more about Domain’s Employee Assistance Program

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Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson was the news editor for Elite Agent. He worked with the company from February 2020 to June 2020. For current stories, news alerts or pitches, please email [email protected]