“For too long businesses have put themselves first and the needs of their employees second,” says Doug Crawford, CEO of My Home Move, a leading provider of mover conveyancing services.
The company says it has turned this approach on its head by not only providing access to flexible working for its employees, but creating a team of home working conveyancers who have the same benefits as office-based staff.
The conveyancers [residential property lawyers] can set their own hours and manage their own portfolio of clients.
My Home Move employs around 280 people in its conveyancing group and up to 80 of these work from home.
There are a higher proportion of women in the home working group than the site-based group, many of whom are mums, but both groups are treated equally, says Karen Pay, Director of Human Resources at the company.
The home working initiative, which was launched in January 2016, was prompted by several factors, including demographic pressures.
A large proportion of the company’s conveyancing workforce are young parents. “We were seeing people making choices to leave the industry because they didn’t have the flexibility they needed to get a good work life balance,” says Karen.
Another factor was that conveyancing is such a difficult industry to recruit into. My Home Move, as a major and growing employer, needs to ensure it attracts and retains the best, says Karen.
Over the last two years the company has increased its transactional volumes by 25%. Earlier this year it acquired Leeds based firm Advantage Property Lawyers, meaning it is now on track to help around 100,000 people move home a year.
The company has already been offering flexible working for some time and Karen says it has not yet turned a request down. She adds that a lot of work was put into researching home working to make sure home workers were offered the same access to training and engagement as those working in the office.
That meant looking at technology like Teamviewer which enables staff to have face to face meetings remotely.
Teamviewer also gets around the visibility problem that some homeworkers suffer from and the company has a strong emphasis on promotion of flexible workers. It also has a virtual academy which delivers training.
All of the homeworking conveyancers come into the office for initial training and to get a feel for the company’s culture then some work wholly from home while others come into the office regularly or occasionally and hot desk.
Others are mainly site-based. Karen says it is all about giving experienced conveyancers more control over their working time and trusting that they will get the work done.
The company offers a strong engagement programme, including family fun days, and conveyancers work in small teams of up to 10 people to ensure regular contact and a good social network. There is hourly contact with managers.
Karen acknowledges that home working is not for everyone, but she says the company wants to ensure no workers face the isolation issue many homeworkers feel.
Site-based employees interact well with homeworkers, she says, and homeworkers can decide to work more in the office and vice versa if they want to.
One benefit of the scheme is that My Home Move doesn’t lose staff if they have to relocate. In fact they are currently talking about setting one employee up in Spain.
Not only do they retain talent, but they are able to expand where they cover at no extra cost and can recruit conveyancers from anywhere in the UK.
Karen adds that take-up of home working was quick – in the first four months the company had 40 conveyancers working from home. “It’s been a real success,” she says.
“We’ve increased significantly the number of people looking to work with us and are industry leaders with regard to technology.”
The company is now working with recruitment agencies to get the message out about the initiative. Other competitors have tried to do it, says Karen, but they often find it hard to scale because they don’t have the technology in place.
“Our offering is very much tech-driven. Our clients access us through our online portal. That model helps us to offer home working,” she says.
Doug Crawford adds: “We trust our people to deliver on their work commitments and in return we respect their need to balance their work with their family life.”