For Mental Health Awareness Week, Guy Windsor-Lewis, chief executive and founder of the Locale Group, argues for the real estate industry to place occupier happiness at its center, from design to operation, with the support of digital tools.

This year, Mental Health Awareness week tackles the subject of loneliness. The last two years has taught us a valuable lesson highlighting the grave effects of loneliness and isolation and this has made me even more determined to combat this not only within my team but also across the communities we operate in.  Loneliness is a silent predator and knows no boundaries; it can be at home, in an office or a shopping centre. Interestingly, health and wellbeing and prioritising the mental health of occupiers has traditionally not been the primary goal of the real estate industry. Yet the sector has been experiencing a steady, yet powerful, happiness renaissance, where developers and operators in the construction, design, and operations of properties across the globe are increasingly focusing on elements such as engagement, temperament, flexibility, and convenience to create buildings that are future-proofed to occupier health and happiness. It’s no longer seen as an afterthought, but now a science to master, as it too evolves.

Asset operators and developers are undertaking significant and serious research into understanding how to achieve optimal happiness, from reinforcing identity to relaxed conditions to the digital tools needed for spaces that are safe, secure and connected. Resi, a UK residential architecture practice, published The Science of a Happy Home in 2020, with architect and campaigner George Clarke writing, “industry practices are not typically encouraged or taught to consider optimisation of homes for happiness and wellbeing as a standard part of their process…(it) should be the foundation of society, and a defining goal of this next decade.” And occupier happiness is certainly accelerating within real estate with a new Happiness Index was launched with the purpose of becoming a global benchmark that measures happiness in the built and work environment.

Smart solutions that support occupier happiness

From IoT technology that creates optimal light, air, and temperature conditions to experiential PropTech tools that drive engagement between occupiers, their buildings and their local area, real estate operators have a breadth of technologies at their disposal to combat loneliness and positively contribute to the underlying happiness factors. At Locale, we are constantly evolving our products and services to support communication and engagement with occupiers because, ultimately, PropTech is not just for operational efficiency, it’s to improve our quality of life and living. Our features such as Event and Groups, Announcements, Offers & Promotions, Polls, and Portfolio Data are designed to ensure occupiers are engaging, interacting with the wide range of stakeholders within a building and have a platform to feel heard, ensuring managing agents can elicit direct and instant feedback, access data to pinpoint concerns and challenges, and understand where resources are needed.

Happiness is real estate’s ultimatum

Occupier happiness is not a short-term strategy, but a long-term commitment – a lifelong pledge. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that occupier happiness and mental wellbeing is real estate’s ultimatum. Rejection of these terms is no longer an option. We must work towards building spaces that are adaptable, connected, and innovative. With the right digital tools and technologies, properties can create relaxed, comfortable, and productive environments that support mental wellbeing, health, and happiness.

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