Has ‘FOGO’ Really Replaced ‘FOMO’?

Property Management,  Property Managers

We’ve all heard of it. And we’ve all experienced it. It’s FOMO…otherwise known as the ‘fear of missing out.’ During COVID-19, most of us have felt a sense of FOMO for our former lives, craving the atmosphere of a buzzing office, dining out, enjoy a few drinks at the bar or simply catching up with friends or loved ones. However, while this may sound a little bonkers to those longing for their ‘pre-rona’ lives, many are now experiencing FOMO’s antipode – FOGO or a fear of going out. Here’s why.

A phenomena best described as ‘reverse culture shock’ exists for travellers and expats returning back to their home country after an extended period of absence. The concept dates back to the 1960s, where US psychologists John and Jeanne Gullahorn observed that after people travel, experience an initial culture shock and then finally return home, there’s more ups and downs: readjusting to their previous life. And while it may be a long bow to draw between living through a pandemic and returning from overseas after an extended period of time, one common thread exists: Whether we’re ready or not, we’ve got to be ready to return to ‘normality’ as we knew it at some stage. For some, this prospect is distressing.

Psychologist Ronita Neal says Australians have experienced a fairly traumatic start to 2020 with the onset of bushfires, floods and a global pandemic. These tragic events have prompted us to be glued to our television screens or social media, addicting ourselves to updates and breaking news and pushing further over the edge than ever before. Pack all that with the constant changes in our lives and it’s left some of us feeling anxious to say the least. “All of this has resulted in a higher level of underlying anxiety for many people, and this won’t suddenly be resolved because some restrictions have been lifted,” explains Neal. “While people were at home there was a sense you could have a higher level of control over risk – you could clean your home, practice proper hygiene and be careful when you went out where the risk was perceived to be.”

In any ordinary day, property managers come across a variety of people – tenants, clients and of course, their colleagues. So it makes sense you need to be cognisant of how people might feel when restrictions continue to ease. As a starter, Neal advises property managers look out for abnormal reactions from co-workers, tenants or clients as a sign they may be experiencing some level of reverse culture shock. “People may find it difficult to communicate effectively about what’s bothering them and may make decisions that don’t make sense to those around them,” says Neal. “It’s important everyone, both employers and staff, are thoughtful and considerate of the concerns others might have about returning to work or the outside world. Things haven’t “returned to normal” just yet, and the way we deal with returning to work is an opportunity to show we care for our colleagues, tenants and customers too.”

With the Queensland Government recently releasing its official three-stage guidelines that mandate how we manage the physical aspects of returning to work, principals and agency staff need ensure everyone feels safe, psychologically speaking. Some may have concerns about conducting routine inspections, by-appointment private inspections for a vacant property, meeting with clients face-to-face or simply sitting in the office with other co-workers. Neal is quick to stress the onus is on management to create an environment that feels safe for staff to report any feelings of anxiety they may experience when completing routine tasks. “Make an attempt to accommodate their needs and be supportive when discussing this as a team,” adds Neal. “With time, they may feel more comfortable and confident in their safety, but “pushing, shaming or making a joke” of how they feel may result in a poor long-term outcome.”

In the interim, this might mean allowing flexibility for certain staff such as allowing staff to return to the office when they feel comfortable or allowing them to conduct virtual inspections as opposed to in-person. This needs to be extended to tenants and landlords too. Having strangers come through your home for inspections or showings may be quite challenging for tenants to accept. Neal explains that property managers should maintain an open dialogue with all parties as well as highlight how they’re complying with the State Government’s health directives to put any fears at bay. “Keeping your own emotions in check when communicating with tenants or clients, and being aware that others may be experiencing high levels of stress will be important to managing difficult situations that may arise,” says Neal. “Courtesy and consideration will be good tools to help everyone make this next change more successful.”