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19 June 2024

The Property Sector Needs A More Supportive Work Environment


GUEST COLUMN:

Lloyd Davies
Chairman
Conveyancing Foundation

Being a property professional can be extremely challenging and demanding. Over the past five years we have witnessed an unprecedented number of property lawyers and conveyancers leaving the industry due to the excessive and perpetual daily demands they face.

At the Conveyancing Foundation, our purpose is to enhance the lives of those working in the property industry. The results of our 2024 Wellbeing at Work Survey have just been released. This, along with last year’s survey, is crucial to understanding the ever-changing challenges property professionals face as a part of the home moving conveyancing process. By analysing key statistics and trends, we can assess specific areas that require attention and measure the effectiveness of implemented changes over time. Running the survey annually allows us to monitor progress, identify ongoing issues, and develop effective tools and strategies to enhance workplace wellbeing.

A key finding from the survey reveals that stress levels are still elevated, particularly among conveyancers and solicitors, with 68% reporting significant stress. Despite a slight decrease from last year’s 72%, more robust measures are needed. Conveyancing professionals suffer due to their high workloads, client expectations, lack of support staff, increased procedural and regulatory demand, frequent overtime, and the critical importance of data and cyber security in their roles. Additionally, the low utilisation of mental health support services, such as Mental Health First Aiders, which only 4% of respondents use, suggests we need to make these resources more accessible and better promoted.

Our survey also reveals that the happiest employees are those who can choose their work patterns freely, while fully office-based workers report the least satisfaction. This disparity indicates a need for more flexible hybrid working policies to improve job satisfaction across the property profession. By allowing employees to choose their work patterns, we can reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. This could include options for remote work, flexible hours, and hybrid models.

Working relationships within teams and across the industry is another crucial aspect of workplace wellbeing. While 80% of respondents value good friendships at work, only 66% find senior managers approachable, highlighting the need for better communication and accessibility from management. Improved communication can help Conveyancers and other property professionals feel more supported and valued, reducing feelings of isolation and stress.

Improving the approachability and communication skills of senior managers is crucial. Offering training programs that focus on leadership skills, empathy, and active listening can help bridge the gap between staff and management. Supporting team-building activities and creating opportunities for employees to connect can enhance workplace relationships. Mentorship programs and peer support groups can also provide valuable networks of support. Encouraging employees to track their stressors and providing tools to manage them can help show common issues. Regular feedback sessions and anonymous surveys can also provide insights into ongoing challenges and areas for improvement.

For business owners, senior management, and team leaders, it is essential to take a proactive approach in implementing change. Leaders should be visible and approachable, actively engaging with their teams to understand their challenges and support their wellbeing. One of the primary stressors found is conveyancer workload, with 42% of respondents indicating that hiring additional administrative support would help manage workloads better. Strategies such as increasing administrative staff, streamlining processes, and leveraging technology to automate routine tasks can significantly reduce stress levels in the conveyancing sector.

At the Conveyancing Foundation, we are committed to using these insights to drive positive change. We plan to establish best-practice blueprints with industry leaders, focusing on reducing stress, improving mental health support, and fostering better working relationships. By prioritising these areas, we aim to create a healthier and more supportive work environment for everyone in the property industry.

As we look toward 2025, it is crucial that the Wellbeing at Work Survey reflects significant improvements in key areas such as stress levels, utilisation of mental health support, and satisfaction with hybrid working arrangements. We must see enhanced communication and accessibility from senior management, and better workload management across the industry. These improvements will demonstrate our commitment to creating a healthier and more supportive work environment for all professionals in the property sector, ensuring that the changes we implement are making a tangible difference.



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