Hero Hero

SIOR Report Article

Return to SIOR Report Articles

A Mentally Healthy Environment

By: Rachel Antman

Commercial real estate brokerage, even at the best of times, is no career for the faint-hearted. Few brokers enjoy overnight success, and the lack of guaranteed, steady income can create financial challenges. Add to this backdrop threats of a recession, high interest rates and construction costs, as well as the post-pandemic challenges facing the office market, and you have a recipe for immense stress. How can brokerages help themselves and their employees to cope? Several experts weigh in:


Some firms are taking concrete steps to relieve stress and promote mental health among their employees. For example, Rich Commercial Realty in Raleigh, N.C. has established an unlimited time-off policy. The firm, says principal Street Jones, SIOR, recognizes that “everyone is an adult” and that “you can get your work done while also having time to attend to the most important aspects of your life outside the office.”

Casey Flannery, senior associate in Foundry Commercial’s Nashville office and a member associate at SIOR, appreciates the many ways her company supports a collegial environment and encourages self-care. She points to several office parties and events, including a scavenger hunt around the city and a week where employees volunteer and give back to the community. Flannery and her colleagues also benefit from paid time off for volunteer work and for birthdays. Furthermore, they can access webinars on self-care and work/life balance through the firm’s insurance provider.

“Ultimate flexibility” is a hallmark of Investors Realty, Inc., in Omaha, Neb., says Ryan Zabrowski, SIOR, the firm’s president. He urges employees and brokers to: “do what the client needs, but also take care of yourself and know when that needs to be prioritized.” Flexibility applies to a year-round “9/80” schedule (9 days/80 hours), which gives employees every other Friday off, and the opportunity to work from home when needed. Furthermore, an open-door policy empowers employees to approach leadership with any concerns. “The wins have been tremendous,” Zabrowski reports, noting that the emphasis on work/life balance has fostered a more client-focused team.

If you’re not healthy mentally, there’s really nothing you can do to be effective in serving clients and helping other people.

Employees of Tripp Commercial in Charlotte, N.C., enjoy similar levels of flexibility. According to Tripp Guin, SIOR, the broker in charge, they can also take advantage of the office’s 24-hour gym when they’re in town. And every weekday they join huddle calls, which Guin likens to a “virtual water cooler,” where they talk about what’s going on in their lives and work.


Many leaders of brokerages set a good example by taking care of their own mental health. Brian Smith, SIOR, owner of Regent Commercial Real Estate, also located in Charlotte, N.C., started prioritizing his mental health following a stressful period when his business took off – and his marriage hit a crisis point. He and his wife began seeing a counselor on a weekly basis for six months, which Smith believes not only saved the marriage, but also improved the relationship far beyond his expectations. He frequently shares his experience to illustrate that the health of one’s business is not always synonymous with one’s personal health. “I think the demands of being in a high-rejection, commission-only industry can often make you feel like you have to choose between work-life balance, your health, your marriage, your kids, and your business,” he says.

Today, Smith is thriving in each of these areas. He and his wife have quarterly check-ins with the marriage counselor. He exercises five to six days per week, adheres to a healthy diet, tries to get a good night’s sleep, spends quality time with his kids, and maintains close connections to his church and his community. Paying off the mortgage on his house has further relieved stress in his life; he encourages other brokers to pay off their debts as soon as they can.

Jones takes pains to separate work time from family time. He explains: “I do not want my children growing up to say, ‘Daddy is always on the phone!’ Therefore, I carve out specific time where I am ‘unplugged’ to be present and live in the moment.” He finds that this strategy helps him to recharge his battery so he can be on his A-game when he needs to be.

Zabrowski focuses on managing a balanced calendar and enjoys regular exercise and reading. He also says that practicing gratitude keeps him grounded. Flannery finds that walking her dog is a productive way to start her day. She also works out at the gym and travels frequently to see family members.

These brokers understand, as Smith suggests, that “if you’re not healthy mentally, there’s really nothing you can do to be effective in serving clients and helping other people.”


Brokers who want to improve their mental health and relieve stress can follow these models, but they can also start with small steps. Raffaella Cassese, SIOR, an office specialist at Target RE in Milan, Italy, advocates objectivity. “Take your work seriously, but with some personal distance,” she advises, noting that a failed deal can result from factors out of a broker’s control. In her view, competition should not affect one’s self esteem.

“Be open about the challenges that you face, both personally and professionally,” recommends Jones. “Everyone is struggling with something and the more you talk about it, the more you find that others either have been or are dealing with the same and are willing to give advice as to how to overcome the challenges.”

Guin believes that brokerages should talk to each other about best practices in helping their employees with these challenges. Now is an opportune moment to start: As Jones points out, “the industry has always been a challenging one, but in today’s environment, it is easier to burn out more than ever. Transactions are becoming more involved as clients are expecting commercial brokers to provide more and more resources, and deals in the marketplace are painfully slow to get to the finish line. The post-pandemic office world still remains volatile, interest rates are high, and capital markets are struggling.” He concludes that it can be tough to maintain a positive attitude and overall good mental health amid these conditions.

With that in mind, let the conversations begin.

Sponsored By SIOR Foundation
This article was sponsored by the SIOR Foundation - Promoting and sponsoring initiatives that educate, enhance, and expand the commercial real estate community. 
The SIOR Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-forprofit organization. All contributions are tax deductible to the extent of the law.



Media Contact
Alexis Fermanis SIOR Director of Communications
Rachel Antman
Rachel Antman
Saygency, LLC

Rachel Antman is a writer, public relations consultant, and founder of Saygency,  LLC.