Conveyancers and other property professionals believe their mental health is better than it has been since before the pandemic despite high levels of stress, a report for the Conveyancing Foundation has found.
Researchers also said a significant minority of conveyancers (18%) wanted to work from home more often, three times the number who wanted to spend more time in the office.
Most (57%) of the 524 property professionals who responded to the survey by Morale Solutions earlier this year were conveyancers, while 26% worked in other roles at conveyancing firms and 17% for other types of business, such as estate agencies or auxiliary service providers.
Asked to rate their mental health over the past three years, the proportions that gave themselves a score of seven out of 10 or better began at 41% in 2020, before falling to only 37% in 2021, the year of the stamp duty holidays, and rising to 51% in 2022 and 63% in 2023.
The report, Wellbeing at Work, found that 72% of 10 conveyancers said either that “there is a lot of stress in my role, but there are some moments of calmness and times when things are not so bad” (50%) or “workplace stress is a constant factor in what I do – there is never a moment at work when I don’t feel stressed and under pressure” (22%).
This level of stress was shared by only 36% of people working for conveyancing firms in other roles and 46% of those working for other types of business.
When asked to state which factors would be most likely to reduce their levels of stress, the top two were reducing the volume of work (45%) and recruiting more people in administration and support roles (39%).
On working from home, more than a third of property professionals (38%) said they were either working from home full-time or they had the option to choose this, with 31% working on a hybrid basis and a quarter (25%) fully in the office.
Almost half (47%) said they were happy with how things worked, with a quarter (24%) saying it was “pretty good most of the time”, 18% saying they wanted to work from home more often, and 6% to be in the office more often.
When thinking about estate agents, half of property professionals (50%) said things were “mostly OK, but with some difficult individuals” and 10% thought “most people tend to be really difficult”. However, one in six (17%) described their relationship with estate agents as “brilliant”.
The pattern was similar when thinking about conveyancers, with more describing them as “mostly OK” (64%), fewer describing them as “really difficult” (5%) and more thinking their relationship was “brilliant” (22%).
More than half of property professionals (56%) had access to complimentary counselling services, but only one in 10 used them. A similar proportion (52%) had access to mental health first aiders, but only 7% used them.
When asked what one thing about their job would most improve their wellbeing, most cited improvements to “feeling valued”, team work and culture, followed by improved relationships with clients and industry partners. After that came improvements to workload and working from home.
Lloyd Davies, chairman of the Conveyancing Foundation, commented: “Flexible working arrangements, increased access to mental health support, and a reduction in workload are necessary to address the challenges faced by professionals in the property industry.
“The foundation plans to use the survey results to establish best-practice blueprints with industry leaders, revolutionising how the property industry approaches wellbeing at work.”
Relatedly, leading conveyancing firm ONP recently reduced the number of matters that each case manager handled by 30% to 65, which it said was “substantially below the levels of our competitors”. The levels are lower still for trainees and those relatively new to the job.
It said: “This strategic decision stems from ONP’s commitment to prioritise the well-being and mental health of its case managers, as well as dedication to improve the level of service both for customers and intermediaries.
“This reduced workload has been trialled over the past quarter and as a result, both its customer satisfaction levels and its Net Promoter Score have increased by an impressive 25% with a corresponding 56% reduction in complaints.”
ONP has also reduced the number of trainees in the business, focusing on experienced case managers. “It also means that each trainee receives more dedicated training. This has lifted performance, sped up transaction times and increased levels of customer service.”
The firm said its case managers had reported reduced stress levels, heightened productivity and an increased ability to manage their workloads effectively.
ONP has hired a dedicated senior resource and capacity planner to support the initiative.