Last week, I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel at an event put on by pro-manchester discussing flexible working. I keep bleating on about flexibility in the workplace because I’m incredibly passionate about the positive impact I think it can have and so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to sit on the panel and share my views on the subject.
Also on the panel were Adrian Stevenson from Workplace, Donna Smith of Grant Thornton, and Heather Lacey from Eversheds Sutherland. Alison Bull of Mills & Reeve kindly chaired the event.
In a relatively short amount of time, we tried to grapple with a number of issues relating to workplace flexibility. We looked at how far along the journey we are to making flexible working accessible to a broader range of people, touching upon current attitudes towards flexibility, the barriers that presently exist to more people working flexibly, and the benefits of flexible working.
We’re always told that millennials have different expectations when it comes to their careers and, as a millennial myself, I’ve always wanted my career to fit into my life, not for my life to have to fit around my career. Indeed, when I co-founded Realm in 2015, one thing that I had at the forefront of my mind was my disdain for the culture of presenteeism that was rife within the recruitment industry, and the general lack of flexibility available. And so, whilst we didn’t start out with absolute flexibility, by late 2017 all members of the Realm team were making the most of a flexi-time system.
We’ve seen plenty of benefit since introducing flexi-time. Staff productivity has improved, in terms of turnover generated per fee earner, as have metrics relating to workplace wellbeing and overall happiness. The team are more engaged and happier in what they’re doing, which isn’t altogether surprising seeing as though they’ve got the power to properly balance their work and home commitments. And having seen these results, I’ve increasingly come to suggest to our clients that they consider looking at introducing some form of flexibility, and many have done so with an equal degree of success. Undoubtedly, flexibility is something that will help any law firm with attraction and retention of staff.
I suppose I’m just surprised that more firms aren’t introducing more flexibility; a recent report by Timewise suggests that 87% people want flexible working, whilst only 11% of job adverts actually advertise flexible working. This is something the panel touched upon, citing challenges around culture, technology and mind-set as barriers to many businesses offering their employees greater flexibility. These challenges are admittedly legitimate but, in my view, they’re not insurmountable and in many cases are arguably worth grappling with in order to enjoy some of the benefits associated with flexibility from a business’ perspective.
The event was titled ‘Flexible Working: The Future Approach to Employment’. To me, this is an incredibly apt title because, frankly, I think flexible working is genuinely the way forward and that we will see it become the norm over the next five to ten years. In the meantime, I’m interested in talking to firms that are considering introducing flexibility and would like to discuss the prospective benefits from an attraction and retention standpoint.