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Just how stressful can it be to work in property?By: Joanne Cuckson

Just how stressful can it be to work in property?Property professionals have the highest levels of stress in the UK market, according to figures by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

The March 2014 issue of People Management magazine reported that the property industry is feeling the strain more than any other business sector, including financial services. This may come as a surprise given the prolific nature of “stressful” banking jobs but, according to this CIPD report, 54 per cent of property professionals are on the road to career “burn out”.

This is an interesting topic based on the highs and lows of the property market since the economic downturn of 2008. Following a number of high profile collapses of both quoted and private property companies, along with a spate of mergers and acquisitions among the agencies, there has been a great deal of ‘fall out’ in the industry.

Fortunately, this year has seen a significant upturn in market conditions, with the London market leading the way, but the stress incurred by the property profession over the past few years is obviously taking its toll.

This is not only due to economic challenges, but is also down to a culture of long hours and social pressures. It is widely known that the most significant commercial property deals are often agreed ‘off market’ and this requires a strong network of contacts. To develop these contacts, Agents are expected to socialise with their peers outside of office hours, as well as fulfilling their day jobs. Overall, property is a friendly industry but it certainly helps to be part of the ‘clique’.

Then there are key industry events to attend, such as MIPIM, the IPF, Regional and National Awards Dinners and so on; lists 52 property events in May 2014 alone, and that does not include any of the overseas events! Property is a tiring business and seemingly one which does not ‘shut down’ outside of the statutory 9 to 5 working day. It is not surprising therefore that property professionals feel unable to ‘switch off’ from work and relax.

On the upside, Surveyors genuinely tend to enjoy their jobs and show real passion for their industry. This does not mean that the effects of stress are not felt, but it helps to provide a sense of purpose and motivation during the difficult times.

Furthermore, with the market fast improving, there has been a significant increase in job opportunities, leading to more stability and satisfaction within the industry. Over the past few months, recruitment in the property industry has ‘turned a corner’, particularly in the areas of asset management and investment. Signs of recovery in the development market have also resulted in new positions within property companies and fund management firms.

Most activity at present seems to be within the ‘value-add’ investment space, as both real estate private equity firms and fund management companies spill into this sector of the market. These investments are typically development led or asset management intensive, so candidates with this type of experience are highly sought after.

The Private Rented Sector is also a new and exciting area for the commercial property industry, with investment management firms such as M&G Real Estate and Legal & General Property setting up dedicated Residential Fund Management teams for the first time.

So, there is certainly a silver lining to the stress and anxiety of the past few years! Those who survived the five year property slump are now well placed moving forwards, as the market has ‘thinned out’ and there is less competition for the growing number of vacancies.

This does not however mean that the job market is fluid. Candidates of late tend to be more risk averse about moving, preferring the comfort and security of their current employer. At the same time, clients are being very specific about finding someone who is an exact match for their role criteria. As a result, it is creating something of a ‘bottle neck’ in the industry.

Recent vacancies that have reached the offer stage, often following a prolonged recruitment exercise, have frequently been turned down. This is mainly due to significant ‘counter-offers’ being made, where candidates have received a hefty salary increase and, in some cases, an overdue promotion to persuade them to stay with their current employer.

Within the agencies, where the bonus culture rules, it will be interesting to see the inevitable changes over the coming months. With bonus payments due at the end of June, there will no doubt be a few strategic departures once people have collected their hard earned cash! Once again, this will positively ‘shake up’ the market and create new opportunities.

Overall, the green shoots of recruitment are most definitely there and an increase in demand for property professionals is a positive sign for the whole industry. It may not negate the stresses and strains of the day job, but an improvement in pay, market conditions and better prospects will go a long way towards career satisfaction and a better work/life balance.

About the author

Joanne Cuckson, Summit Search & SelectionJoanne Cuckson is a Director at Summit Search & Selection Ltd

Features June 2014

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