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Five minutes with... 12th December 2022

Rachel Robertson MRICS, Senior Building Surveyor, tells us about her additional role as Workman’s Women’s Equality Employee Network Leader, and the progress achieved so far.

What three words describe Workman?

Collaborative, diligent, personal.

What has been your standout moment at Workman so far?

Probably calling Hedley Jones, Head of ESG, Refurbishment & Development, to let him know I had passed my APC after he had personally witnessed at least 40 of my tearful breakdowns in the run up to the interview.

The confidence boost I got from passing the APC can’t be overstated.

How do you put your skills to their best use on Workman projects?

I’m quite personable and find that I’m good at building relationships with both clients and occupiers. Unexpected things can occur on construction projects, so having frank discussions with all stakeholders – and working together to find solutions and compromises – has help instil confidence in my ability to successfully deliver a project.

What first led you into the property industry?

After originally considering a career in psychology, I read an article that said there were limited jobs in the industry, so I quickly ditched the idea in favour of a career in building surveying, which I was assured came with plenty of opportunity.

The mixture of office and site-based working really appealed to me, and I knew that whatever was going on in the world, buildings would exist and need to be maintained/refurbished, so surveying was a solid career choice.

Tell us about your role as leader of Workman’s Women’s Equality Network, and why you feel this is important to the firm?

In this role I hope to support the sharing of knowledge and experiences between the women of Workman, and to encourage progressive policies that facilitate women’s success within the company.

Workplace policies that support women’s unique requirements throughout all career stages (from family planning through to menopause and beyond) will result in employees feeling valued, understood, and supported, and will likely lead to improved output and better staff retention.

The Women’s Equality Network has already helped build supportive relationships between women who may not have otherwise interacted due to office location or lack of department crossover. For example, an intranet post shared by a network member for Menopause Awareness Month in October 2022 has already resulted in arranged lunchtime walks and chats between women who previously felt isolated.

Workman’s updated maternity policy was also very well received, and the enhanced support has no doubt left the women of Workman feeling supported.

And what difference do you believe this kind of approach can make to the industry as a whole?

The property industry can sometimes feel very male-dominated, and while this is rapidly changing, policy sometimes isn’t as quick to catch up with, or to accommodate, the shift in workplace demographics.

The benefits to Workman (satisfaction, output, retention) apply to the wider industry, and the property sector has a real opportunity to set the tone for employment standards. Forward-thinking policies result in more women in the workplace, bringing with them a diversity of approaches, opinions, perspectives, and ideas – which can only be a good thing!

What more could the industry be doing to make change happen?

Enhanced maternity and paternity support packages should be considered a standard business requirement rather than something offered as optional benefit.

Similarly, without good workplace policies being seen as standard, women dealing with menopause symptoms, baby loss, fertility treatment, or adoption will have vastly different experiences with how they are supported through these life events.

The industry should also ensure women have access to peer-to-peer training and mentoring with other women within their firm (or even within the wider industry) and should consider the inclusion of women when planning client or team socialising activities.

What change would you make to a single aspect of the wider property sector? And why?

I would love to see more investment in the regions across the UK. There is so much development in big cities (mostly London) that smaller towns or areas with huge potential are often overlooked by investors.

What are your spare time pursuits and how do they feed into your role at Workman?

I play in a social netball league with some of my fab colleagues from the Bristol office, which helps let off some steam and allows us to get to know each other outside of a work setting. I also enjoy a nice cold pint, a good book, trashy reality TV, and a jaunt around a historic estate.

What is your favourite building worldwide and why?

Highclere Castle – a gorgeous, historic building AND the setting of the greatest television show of all time; Downton Abbey of course!

What three dinner party guests would you choose and why?

JK Rowling, because I was a huge Harry Potter fan growing up (yes, I have the tattoo) and would love to chat politics with her.

Taylor Swift, because she is the undisputed Queen of music. She keeps releasing bop after bop and I’d like to find out how many of the fan theories are true.

My Nana, because I’d give anything to have another dinner with her. She was the warmest, funniest, and most ridiculous person ever, and I’d love to hear her advice and perspective again.