• Wellbeing – Faculty of Party Wall surveyors newsletter summer 2023

    Jan 16th, 2024

    Let’s be straight, I have no qualification in wellbeing or stress management but like many, apart from finding professional life hugely rewarding, it can at times be stressful or at worst, excessively stressful.
    Over the past couple of years, this has brought me to focus the mind on personal wellbeing and in particular on stress management which has been a hugely positive journey albeit work in progress!

    So, what is wellbeing?
    The Oxford Dictionary definition of wellbeing states:
    1. With reference to a person or community: the state of being healthy, happy, or prosperous; physical, psychological, or moral welfare.

    Why are we discussing wellbeing in the FPWS journal?
    The answer is perhaps obvious; one’s wellbeing is intrinsically linked to the quality of both personal and professional life and should be considered a key factor in being healthy, happy and effective in one’s work.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has undertaken a number of studies on wellbeing and how it affects mental health noting the following:
    Without effective support, mental disorders and other mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work, capacity to work productively, absences and the ease with which to retain or gain work. Twelve billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety alone. Depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year predominantly from reduced productivity.

    How can work negatively affect our wellbeing?
    From personal experience, one of the key issues that influences ones stress and in turn wellbeing, is the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance something that to this day remains a bit of an enigma.
    Modern technology blurs personal and professional life, the change of which was accelerated during the global pandemic with the advent and embracement of home working. Working from home and having full access to work on mobile devices has its advantages but how often do you drift into the office outside of traditional working hours only to be drawn into full work mode for longer than you had intended or wanted? How often does your mobile device ‘ping’ at all hours of the evening or weekend of which you may not address but have mentally registered? Indeed in our practice we’re finding that Whatsapp messages are used more and more by clients that are seeking a quick response which can be a further intrusion into your personal life when sent outside of normal working hours.

    Undeniably the demands and expectations on service providers has increased significantly with the advent of technological advancement.

    Other factors that can influence stress is the management of workload. Often this is a variable that is not easily controllable and is a contributor to stress and anxiety. Although at least as principles we have a choice, rarely do we say no to new instructions even if we’re extremely busy. How often when you’re almost to your work load limit do you learn a contractor has dropped the ball and caused damage to an adjoining owners’ property with the urgencies that this at times brings? As a surveyor appointed under s10, we can’t say we’re too busy to deal with a matter simply because we’re busy.

    Changes in legislation, case law, standards, requirements and expectations on professionals brings its own pressure and stress. Keeping up to date is crucial in maintaining knowledge and professionalism and represents its own stress and pressure. Fortunately on this front the Faculty is proactive in assisting its members in maintaining professional standards and is always ready to offer guidance and support.

    So how do we address these issues and keep control of stress and maintain wellbeing?

    Everyone will be different and the purpose of this article is not to preach, rather to discuss key issues and raise possible ideas for consideration.

    Self-awareness is critical. If we are able to recognize that we are under prolonged unhealthy stress brought on for example by poor work life balance, then we’re immediately informed and can act accordingly. If we don’t step back at times to consider what is going on around us and the impact it is having on our wellbeing, then what possibility have we got to address it?

    Setting boundaries between working hours and non-working hours is very important. This is something that I am personally quite poor at which is not helped as the majority of the time I work from home. In our case, we’re constructing a home office in one of our outbuildings which will mean I will have to ‘travel to work’, albeit 40 meters down the garden. It will also mean at the end of the working day, the office can be closed and left until the next day (subject to keeping any mobile device sufficiently far).

    It is well documented and generally accepted that physical exercise is key in keeping one’s mind and body healthy not least due to the release of dopamine during exercise. Thanks to YouTube, there are a plethora of free keep fit programmes excellent for ones wellbeing, one such programme is Adriene Yoga as covered in an article published by the Sunday Times during the global pandemic. Adriene produces 30 days’ Yoga programmes all free of charge that guide the novice through 30 days of light indulgent yoga and breathing techniques. Since Adriene has been producing these programmes for many years, there is enough free Yoga to keep you going for at least a year without the need to attend a regimented class restricted to set times of the week.

    Knowledge is power! I have recently discovered Doctor Andrew Huberman a Neurologist at Stanford University, another YouTuber providing free information through detailed scientific lectures which are delivered in an accessible way to those that don’t have a scientific background. The Huberman Lab lectures are extraordinarily informative on all manner of subjects including sleep, alcohol, caffeine, smoking, positive thinking, stress, diet etc. The lectures provide simple scientific tools that can be adopted to manage and improve wellbeing whether it’s to improve mental performance through drinking coffee half an hour before cognitive activity or improved sleep through diet and behavior such as not consuming caffeine within 12 hours of sleep and sleeping in a progressively cool room to deepen sleep.

    Although Professional life is rewarding, make time for what you like doing, for me amongst the Yoga and family life, I find self-indulgent Sunday afternoon sketching works a treat, and here’s one I prepared earlier.

    Wellbeing is a matter we should all take seriously for personal and professional enjoyment and success. Work on your ‘work live balance’ and take an honest look in the mirror to strive for and maintain personal wellbeing and success.