How one company director is using the pandemic to review staff structure and practices

“It’s never nice to deal with difficult clients, but it’s a reality of our profession.”

While these times remain challenging both inside and outside of the workplace, it has provided many of us with a natural reason to reflect on our lives, professionally and personally.  Within the industry we are witnessing continued disruption to normal office practices with many companies still working from home, with individuals juggling childcare and other personal issues.  The ever-present threat of lockdown raises anxiety levels across the board.

I experience and witness the anxieties of conveyancers under extreme amounts of pressure.  Not only responsible for the day to day communication with clients, but also ensuring compliance when carrying out legal requirements involved in their role.   Many also face additional pressure and abuse from industry relations and clients. As an experienced Conveyancer I can totally empathise with the unbalanced work / life balance we often face.

As an industry, we have a collective responsibility to cultivate and protect the mental health of our colleagues.  So, with that in mind, how do we give our professionals the full spectrum of tools to deal with the stresses of the current situation along with the already challenging Conveyancing process?

Open office policy

We have an open plan office and with that, I encourage open and honest conversation between all staff members.  My team find this useful to recognise and understand the individual pressures team members experience.  Good communication lies at the heart of any successful business and keeping the lines of communication flowing between peers, staff, clients and third parties is essential to avoid confusion and mistakes.  As our risk profile is already high, avoiding errors is essential and I find open conversation is the simplest way to do that.

Training

Answering phone calls, responding to emails and talking through difficult conversations is a daily occurrence for many of us. Conveyancing is a stressful business and avoiding additional confrontation is a big priority for me.  Many of my younger staff are learning how to deal with stressed clients for the first time.  While the stress factors are generally out of our control, we work to train and educate them on how to manage difficult conversations respectfully. How to listen and respond effectively, avoid confrontation, manage expectations and offer realistic solutions.  It’s never nice to deal with difficult clients, but it’s a reality of our profession and equipping my staff to deal with it constructively helps them deliver a better service without compromising on their welfare.

LawCare

LawCare is an incredible service that our legal community should be proud of and tap into more often.  If you’re experiencing a professional issue that you can’t discuss with anyone in your company, trained LawCare experts can listen and offer emotional support.   Their peer support programme, offering one-to-one support, is excellent.  The work they do to promote good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace should be something all conveyancers tap into and actively encourage the use of.

Mentors

Having worked with an excellent business mentor this year, I am now a strong advocate for the merits of this professional development technique.  Being mentored gives you new perspectives and allows you to learn from someone else’s experiences. It’s a chance to focus on yourself and your career and in these challenging times, provides structure and guidance on your company, your vision and where your career is headed.  For me, it increased productivity and time management.  In turn, I now find the staff members I mentor all achieve greater success at work, along with boosting self-esteem, confidence and helping to manage a better work-life balance.

Looking forward

This is an excellent time to revaluate and refocus what works for your career or your business.  Develop your company vision and mission, what makes you different, how can you contribute to improving our industry.  Spend time defining and implementing your core values and take the steps needed to ensure those values are delivered.  There may be tough decisions or awkward conversations but embracing change the most effective way to take steps forward.

The pandemic may have exposed the cracks in many Conveyancing firms, but let this be an opportunity to review how your business works and how you support staff to get the most out of them in challenging times.  People still want opportunities for career development.  In my company for example, we have paired team members at different levels to support each other professionally, which is something we will take forward from this pandemic.  We’ve made tough decisions with our management structure knowing that in the long term, we’re now prepared to manage the workload 2021 will bring.  Now is the time to do the same and if we’re all prepared, 2021 could be the best year yet.

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