Study goals included identifying mental and emotional health trends and continuing to raise awareness.
“Mental health is the workplace crisis of our time.” This statement from a notable C-suite executive appearing in a recent Wall Street Journal article has become the vision and mission of the National Apartment Association’s (NAA) Mental Health Subcommittee. Since 2021, the Subcommittee has worked with researchers at Swift Bunny to develop and conduct NAA’s groundbreaking Mental and Emotional Health Survey to uncover the state of employee mental health within the rental housing industry. Three consecutive years of data are now yielding trends.
Survey findings from 2023, sponsored by MRI Software, were cautionary. After a slight rise in overall mental health awareness stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, all 12 survey questions yielded lower scores than in 2022. Employees expressed feeling more stressed across a range of scenarios and less emotionally well. They found their mental and emotional health to be increasingly interfering with their productivity at work and their personal lives at home. Employees felt less certain that their well-being is a priority at their organization, that their organization offers resources to support their mental and emotional health and that their organization’s culture encourages a reasonable balance between work and personal life. As a result, 28% stated they were unlikely to remain with their employer for the next 12 months.
Most concerning was that 40% of respondents reporting having to take time off in the last year due to not feeling emotionally well enough to do their jobs—12% took one week or longer. One respondent explained, “We have dealt with resident harassment, almost stalking, and still allowed residents to renew even with evidence of real issues. We have had multiple suicides on property and no emotional or mental help for employees. Our employees do not always feel safe in the community—residents know where we live.” Absenteeism and “presenteeism” due to mental health challenges are a bottom-line issue that all organizations need to address in today’s workplaces.
A white paper on these survey findings is posted for downloading on NAA’s website. Subcommittee Chair Kendra Butterfield, Swift Bunny President Jen Piccotti and Tramaine EL-Amin, Vice President at the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, presented these survey findings at this year’s Apartmentalize in Atlanta. They also offered actions and resources organizations could pursue to address mental health issues among their employees.
Among these resources was Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a skills-based course that teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health or substance use challenges. More than 3 million people have been trained in MHFA. NAA recently sponsored 12 of its members to become certified to teach MHFA to others. They are presently scheduling MHFA training sessions for NAA Affiliates and others. Interested organizations may submit inquiries on NAA’s website.
Participating employers from NAA membership were given a survey questionnaire to distribute to their employees, where responses were accumulated and tabulated outside of their organization. This methodology helped assure complete anonymity for respondents while prompting otherwise hard-to-reach onsite staff to respond. Of the 8,451 total respondents, more than two-thirds have been property management and maintenance personnel. Employers that received a minimum of 10 responses could request reports comparing their organization’s results against NAA’s national benchmarks.
Additional mental health resources can be found at naahq.org/mental-health-resources.
James Campbell is NAA’s Senior Manager, Industry Operations.