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“We are in an epidemic of loneliness.” 

– Dr. Vivek Murtly, U.S. Surgeon General, May 2023

 

Real Estate feels more challenging than it has in the 38 years since I began my career in sales. Over the past few weeks, I have reached out to many brokers, managers and team leaders to inquire about what they are experiencing. The ones I spoke to all related to me that many of their agents were struggling with mental health challenges.   

With this information in hand, I began researching what other industries and research organizations are learning about mental health post-pandemic, and it does indeed seem like we have an epidemic of loneliness.  

In this article, we will look at the symptoms and causes first, but please read through to the solutions. Whether you want to help yourself or help people around you, this could have a valuable impact.  

The reported effects of loneliness are significant: low motivation, low drive, depression, impaired immune system, cognitive decline and premature death. In fact, America’s Surgeon General states that the effect of loneliness on our health is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

So, what’s going on? 

Loneliness isn’t about a people deficit; it’s about a connection deficit. While people were already lonely before the pandemic, the social isolation during the lockdown and many of our new ways of operating have greatly exasperated the situation.   

Working from home, the loss of community spaces, our discomfort with social situations, social media addiction, and increased travel costs are all limiting our human interaction and social connection. 

“Many of my agents haven’t been able to return home to see their close family in over three years,” says Stefanie Hostetter, CEO at Re/Max Sea to Sky in Whistler, B.C. Many of her agents come from far away, as Whistler is a destination market. Hostetter hails from New York, and she hasn’t been back to visit yet. Travel restrictions during the pandemic and our changed habits around travel have greatly reduced the amount of time that we spend visiting family and close friends. 

She notes, “Some people haven’t been able to celebrate new babies or mourn the death of loved ones.” Travelling both abroad and within Canada can be stressful and expensive as the travel industry struggles to find balance. 

“I run coaching and training sessions live in person at my brokerage, and only a tiny fraction of my agents show up,” says Wade Webb, broker/owner of Royal Lepage Kelowna Lake Country. Webb is a very sought-after, high-level coach and best-selling author, so this lack of engagement speaks volumes about his agents’ state of mind.  

Structural barriers, financial insecurity, previous health or mental health challenges and life events can cause the loss of social connection. Those of us contending with loneliness have unique experiences and can’t all be solved the same way, but I have laid out some of the things that may help you reconnect with people and build community (which are both key skills for real estate success):

 

  • Answer your phone instead of letting it go to voicemail. You never know when something delightful might happen. 
  • Join a local community of people. Think sports, workouts, hobbies, spiritual, charity, volunteer, chamber of commerce, meet-ups, etc. There are unlimited possibilities. 
  • Call a friend or acquaintance instead of messaging them. They may also need the connection. 
  • Say yes to social opportunities even if you initially feel hesitant.  
  • Limit your social media time. Research confirms that most social media increases our social anxiety.  
  • Go to the office. Create a comfortable shared space at the office where colleagues can visit, collaborate and co-work. I borrowed this idea from the tech industry as they work creatively to get employees to want to come back to the office and collaborate with each other. 
  • Create a mastermind or support group with colleagues in your area and meet in person. Be sure to pick like-minded, positive-thinking people. 
  • Organize an office event. Consider a fundraiser, outdoor adventure, swimming party or summer BBQ.
  • Improve your teleconferencing (zoom) skills. Be more natural, create casual time before or after a meeting, and invite others to connect after the meeting one on one. 

 

What are other some other opportunities to connect and build community with people? Please share your ideas in the comments. 

If you or someone you know is unable to work through the loneliness or is suffering from significant social anxiety, professional support may be beneficial. Seeking this support is extremely common in our modern society and is a sign of strength and courage.   

 

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