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More than half of surveyed agents feel workplace is NOT Covid-secure

More than half of the 753 Property Industry Eye readers surveyed yesterday revealed they felt their workplace had not been made Covid-19 secure following the government’s decision to keep the housing market open for business.

Some 55% of the readers who took part in the poll, which closed at 7pm yesterday, said they do not feel safe in their workplace during this lockdown.

Estate agency employees expressed the greatest concern, but many agency owners are also worried about current working conditions.

Safety in the workplace has been an issue during the pandemic which goes back to the initial lockdown. This is despite the government issuing a set of new national restrictions for agents in England earlier this month, with adherence to safety and social distancing absolutely crucial.

A number of agents have expressed concern over the government’s decision to keep estate agency offices open amid the current national lockdown, but Property Industry Eye would be interested to hear about specific instances of Covid-unsafe working practices in agencies. Contact us in confidence: news@propertyindustryeye.com.

Following a continued increase in the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalisations there have been growing calls for the housing market shut down to manage virus spread.

A petition for all estate agency branches to close during lockdown attracted more than 2,000 signatures yesterday.

The decision to keep the housing market operational and estate agency branches open, which is a key difference between the existing lockdown and the first one of March 2020, is an issue that has divided the property industry, as illustrated by some of the comments posted on EYE yesterday.

However, using rapid Covid testing to reduce risk for agents and the need to isolate would almost certainly increase confidence, the survey findings suggest.

Every key worker who cannot work from home will soon have access to a rapid 30-minute test twice a week, the government announced earlier this week.

The government wants to offer the lateral flow tests as part of the Community Testing Programme, with testing sites across England mobilised in a “phased” manner in the coming weeks and months.

But the list of people who look set to qualify the rapid Covid tests does not currently include agents, despite the housing market being open for business and property viewings permitted to go-ahead, as the government looks to keep the economy moving during the pandemic. But many agents are hoping that will soon change.

 

Should agents be added to the list of people who cannot work from home, enabling them to qualify for the weekly rapid Covid tests?

As an agent, are you confident that your workplace is safely operating in a Covid-secure manner?

Are you:

 

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40 Comments

  1. MAMaster

    I am sure many agent are doing there utmost to be Covid secure however this is not the case for everyone and personally feel this is an unecassary risk.  It only takes one lapse in judgement, one error to be potentially fatal to staff and clients

    I work for one of the largest estate agents and although “head office” have given guidance this is ignored by line managers to hit targets. We DON’T do virtual viewings. Anybody can view regardless of position or ability to proceed.. What is a virtual valuation? My team of five have had 179 face to face contacts in the last seven days!

    I have a member of staff who should be shielding and working from home but is frightened she will sacked as staff have been warned about being “awkward”.

    With a full team in it is impossible to social distance however this has been eased thanks to track and trace. Almost every week since the beginning of December we have had at least one member of staff having to self isolate due to coming into contact with someone who has tested positive. This has been such a problem that my area manager is “encouraging” staff to uninstall the App as he describes this is a business killer. One thing that I do find ironic is that area managers etc are all working from the safety of their own home

    The younger members of staff are not socially distancing and seeing friends outside of work despite being reminded of their responsibilities. However my two teenage step daughters are doing the same. and they should know better as they have disabled mum who is critically vulnerable

    The feeling amongst staff is not IF one of us gets Covid but WHEN and certainly the older members are frightened.

    We have just gone through a mini boom over the last seven months and any agent worth his salt has a bumper pipeline especially with the speed of solicitors at the moment. I not a saying we should shut entirely as we need to convert our pipelines which we could do with minimum of staff from the safety of home. Income would still be coming in and with the benefit of furlough payments.

    To continue doing face to face appointments is unacceptable and to be quite frank just plain stupidity!!!

     

     

     

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    1. James Christchurch

      Any Estate Agency Area Manager should be ashamed of themselves if they are  “encouraging” staff to uninstall the Covid track and trace app as they describe it is a business killer

      no wonder this industry has the reputation it has — ****** disgusting

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      1. Lexigreen77

        No matter our personal perceptions on the gravity or risk of this pandemic, regardless of the media opinion we align ourselves with, what is really disturbing is the assumption that those who feel there is little risk are labelled mercenary while those who harbour genuine concern are accused of a lack of commitment to their career and a stunted work ethic.
        Individual circumstances will dictate our views on all of this, taking emotions out of the equation and instead of passing judgement it is really quite simple.
        Are we essential workers? Would a pause in the market prove economically catastrophic? What has changed in all honesty since the March lockdown? Yes we have risk assessments and guidelines and PPE galore but all businesses have access to this and only a select few allowed to operate.
        We are being given conflicting messages and instead of attacking each other maybe we should focus on those who are regulating us and the motives behind their decisions. Is the outcome they hope for beneficial to us in the longer term? Is it important to us that longer term goals supersede the acknowledgement our personal safety is irrelevant in comparison to the success of our industry, or are we safe guarded enough for the risk to be minimal. Am I potentially cannon fodder for indecisive or reckless decision makers or am I harming the career I love by not adopting the ‘business as usual’ stance that demonstrates my complete commitment during a world wide pandemic when experts determine we are now protected enough to withstand the risk we faced in March. Either way I accept that our opinions are varied but discussion and debate should not resort to mocking and ridiculing others viewpoints.

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    2. EstateAgent20

      My estate agents is exactly the same, management working from home but telling us to work in the office and even being forced into carrying out physical viewings with people who are not in proceedable positions. It is completely possible to work from home but they simply do not want us to and it’s only a matter of time before even more of us start catching and spreading this virus.

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    3. bestandfinal51

      MAMaster. “To continue doing face to face appointments is unacceptable and to be quite frank just plain stupidity!!!” 
       
      No! The way your agency and colleagues are  conducting themselves is unacceptable; if what you report is accurate. Do not tarr everybody with the same brush. Some folk in the agency world are taking their responsibilities seriously, and acting respectfully whilst also supplying a service.
       
      Last year the lockdown was in place and eased for the agency world – rates dropped during that period.
       
      This time round with a more contagious variant, the agency world remains ‘open’ whist other less fortunate sectors are restricted, and rates appear to be falling everywhere.
       
      Act like a grown up with half of brain cell and assume everybody else is missing their half, and you will find the measures in place, if followed correctly, can work.  

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      1. petsinestateagency

        “Rates appear to be falling everywhere”. This is not true. Rates are falling in some areas, but still rising in others. Rates in our area are rising.

         

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        1. bestandfinal51

          petsinestateagency. I used the word “appear”. After all thats what the National media are telling us. Oh, the media; lets not even start on that one.

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          1. petsinestateagency

            Ha ha, yes I agree, the media is gauranteed to raise the blood pressure! It was more the “everywhere” which I responded to. No offence intended, and now it feels a bit petty on my part. Hey ho. Sense of proportion restored, off to watch Bob Mortimer doing Train Guy, always puts the world to rights in my experience. 

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            1. bestandfinal51

              lets never fall out with our peers – after all we need them to ensure us we are not the only fools in the work we call a job!

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      2. MAMaster

        Bestandfinal – If you read my comment I start with saying agents are doing their utmost! However not everyone is playing their part.

        As I look out of my office window to the dozens of people milling around my High Street. The group of young mums laughing while drinking their coffee not socially distant.

        To the old man who announced at the end of an MA appointment that he had tested positive three days earlier.

        I have lost count how many times I have seen people who are coughing during viewings.

        My local Tesco’s had seven staff members test positive the week before Christmas.

        Thinly veiled threats from line managers which mean staff are under pressure to take risks.

        My area has almost twice the national average and  I think it totally reasonable to be worried especially when we see cases popping up all around us.

        Someone who is looking to either sell or buy is not suddenly going to change their mind if they have to wait a couple of weeks.

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        1. smile please

          Its not good they make you feel like that but guess you have been at CW man and boy, maybe time to move on if this does align with your beliefs?

          You do have a choice ……

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  2. AlwaysAnAgent

    Your workplace may be unsafe as you claim it isn’t operating within the rules. Your step-children are also ignoring the rules, as do some other younger people, but this isn’t your employer’s fault.
     
    I follow the rules and my workplace is as safe as anywhere else. I’ll continue to operate as my clients need me, albeit with a “locked door” approach.
     
    I’m disappointed in this campaign to close the sector over the last few days. If you look at the stats following the unlocking of agents back in May, the housing sector didn’t present a risk then and it doesn’t now. If, that is, the rules are followed.
     

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  3. Rose

    Our employers haven’t done anything to make our offices Covid secure except lock the door and put a sign in the door ‘by appointment only’ but people just stand there until you let them in!
    We can work from home but we’re not. We did in the first lockdown but now the housing market is open our employers think that means it’s okay for us to all be in the office.
    I understand it’s good the housing market remains open but if we did it working from home the risk of spreading this awful virus is cut.  I mixed with six different people yesterday my colleagues did the same same had appointments with more people but after each appointment we all go back to the same office so imagine how many people in total we could have infected during the day, is that acceptable? Working from home means I would have met six people full stop, no contact with others and this is how we’re supposed to stop the spread.  If we are allowed to operate, then we should at least be following the work from home rules.
    On another point it’s almost a year since this started yet no money spent on investing yin virtual viewing technology!

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    1. julianodell

      Hi Rose, I think your comment is spot on. Thank you. You clearly have more common sense and a greater degree of social responsibility than your employers. I am fascinated how anybody could dislike your post – I can only assume it is the owners of the business you work for or others with a similar set of principles. Going forward, if you decide to stay in the industry, I would urge you to consider finding an agency to work for who invest in their staff and their business. Do get in touch if you need any recommendations. Best wishes and stay safe, Julian

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      1. James White

        Julian

        You are echoing everything that we believe to be ethical in our own business; and it is right that staff call out their employers.

        If they can work from home they should be allowed to.

        Much of this is ego driven.  Keeping an eye on staff.  Not trusting staff, or worse, exercising a coercive power as employers.

        Putting profit before people is simply unethical.

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  4. htsnom79

    Having this as the lead story every day is tedious, everybody has an opinion, it will be on the spectrum of stay at home / go to work and everything in between. I don’t need to know where individuals sit, just follow the law.

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    1. AlwaysAnAgent

      Wise words.

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  5. E-Observer

    My employer is making me work, can you believe it???  She won’t pay me to stay at home. Give me 70% of my wage and I’m heading for the sofa. Nom mom 🙂

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  6. Simon B

    The government should never allowed estate agent to work in their offices as staff can easily work from home.
    A customer wishing to view a property should only be done after they have had a virtual viewing.

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  7. Edgar

    To me it seems like the government advice is a big green light for agents to “carry on as normal”.

    The only beef I have with my employer is the inflexibility of working from home, or not as the case may be. I’m a back office member of staff, on a computer all day, so clearly could work from home.

    I think bosses basically do not trust us, think that the tech is no substitute for face-to-face conversation etc.

    To be fair we are socially distanced in the office, no client or tradesperson comes in without an appointment and PPE, and I don’t feel unsafe; and we only do appointments for proceedable/motivated people. I get that the business needs to operate, and a team of negs needs to be in the same “sphere” so that they can communicate properly. However it really should be only these essential people in the office.

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  8. majortom1

    It would be interesting to, as of today, for PIE to clarify the position of the top 10 Agents in terms of outlets  as to what they are all doing.

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  9. cpjr_3347

    I work for a large corporate agency, all we receive is claptrap from up above about how safe we are, and how we are ‘frontline workers’.

    We are not frontline workers, they are people who work in the NHS, battling daily to save lives. I am not calling for the property market to shut, I am calling for common sense to prevail. If viewings are virtual, valuations are made into desktop, there is nothing I need to do in the office that cannot be done from home.

     

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    1. smile please

      Also by the sound of it no need for staff. Well done voting for redundency! 

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      1. Southcoast Agent

        Clearly not what is being said here. Just remember not all agents are being as responsible as you!

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  10. smile please

    All this moaning about employers making people work.

     

    YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE!

     

    Dont like it go somewhere else. By the sounds of it you will be doing your employers a favour.

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    1. cpjr_3347

      Not everything is as black and white as you seem to think.

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      1. smile please

        Course it is, if its not right and you dont like it leave.

        Nobody is forcing you to stay.

         

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        1. majortom1

          So is it Ok to work in a branch with staff rubbing shoulders all day. Is that in the sprit of what the whole country is trying to do-well most if it bar people like you

           

          I dont think anyone on these posts are saying they dont want to work-they are just saying they want to work remotely/very safely until things get better. Most agents get 50% plus of their pay through commission-not working then is not an option but surely there should be support for people from people like you  to be able to do it remotely. If your worried about your team not working hard remotely you have recruited badly my friend.

           

           

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          1. smile please

            As i have said in previous posts,

             

            Staff have their own work stations min 2 meters apart, provide PPE and adhere to government guidance for viewings = NO Problem.

             

            Staff dont like it, find another job. Really is as simple as that.

             

            Why do i want my staff to work remotely? I have a number of family and friends working from home and seems like a complete doss for them!

             

            And guess what, a number of people i know working for banks from home now are being made redundant as they are not productive.

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            1. majortom1

              I am so glad I dont work FOR you

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              1. cpjr_3347

                They will respond with “I wouldn’t employ you anyway”

                Reminds me of someone I used to work for, purely money driven, no empathy for peoples concerns. The “don’t like it, get out attitude” is sadly still prominent in this industry. I bet the turn over of staff in that company is very high!

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                1. smile please

                  Your right on the response wrong regarding staff turnover.

                   

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  11. Woodentop

    This is the dilemma with Covid-19. Stay shut and keep safe …. business collapses, debts rise = staff become unemployed.

     

    Stay open and staff and customers are at risk, not matter what precautions you take. At some time during the process contact with the virus directly or indirectly will occur for someone and while you may recover, ‘someone’ who its passed onto will die.

     

    Can we afford to shut? Many can’t to survive, what a dilemma.

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  12. Russell121

    I doubt supermarket workers want to go to work either at the minute. But someone needs to sell those Pringles for a day at home watching loose women.

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  13. Interested Party

    I’d suggest you’re more at risk completing your weekly shop. Follow the rules and we can get through this.

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  14. ModernAgent1234

    I am a Purplebricks LPE and we wont get any salary if the market shuts. Zero. No source of income but i still genuinely believe the right thing to do is to stop face to face viewings & valuations for the next couple of weeks. Money can be earned again but time cannot, I am sick of not being able to see my family and loved ones. Its going to be a painful next few months but we will get through this together

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  15. James White

    A high street office is a permanent advert for your business and a collaborative environment for staff.
    No argument from me.
    I have an office, and I have several members of staff too.
    My staff and I are all working from home, arranging viewings, valuations, sales and lets.  We are collaborating, working hard and communicating with clients, suppliers and everyone else we would if we were all sat in the same place.
    We have closed our office (turning the lights on daily and meeting contractors etc if we have to by appointment only), in part as a show of solidarity with the other businesses in our small town who have been forced to close; and guess what, this is doing us more good than harm. 
    We are not a business thumbing our nose at the other local businesses forced to close.
    We go on our appointments as usual, taking all the appropriate precautions.
    We have cloud-based tech that has allowed us to do all of this stuff for the last four years or so.
    We are not rocket scientists. 
    This stuff is easy.
    The government says, stay at home, work from home (unless you HAVE to go to your place of work).
    Clearly, this is unfathomable astrophysics to some…….
    If you had lost family members un-necessarily to this (no matter what age they are), you would respect the health and wellbeing of those you employ. 
    Remember, you don’t only provide them with a living, it is they who provide you with a living too……..

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    1. Southcoast Agent

      Good man! If only more led by example. Nice touch.

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    2. Johnhp01

      I do not see the harm in having an office maned by 1 person on a regular basis, others working from home. This then secures the high street awareness and doesn’t put other staff members at risk. Keep the office door locked, if people do want to come in and discuss, have the conversation at a distance outside. Just wear a coat!!

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      1. James White

        I could live with that…

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