The future's Flexi: a look at the benefits of flexible working

The future's Flexi: a look at the benefits of flexible working

Stretching out on a familiar sofa, I draw my laptop closer to my fingers, take a sip of coffee and dive into my inbox. Today is a work-from-home day, a welcome part of the week when I am able to shun the bus, loosen the grip of my Starbucks addiction, and work from the quiet of my front room with a cat on my knee. Working from home once a week is a recent addition to my professional life and has added a new dimension to my modes of working; on WFH days, I complete tasks not conducive to office working and fly through my inbox like a woman possessed. And it’s not just me that’s doing it. Flexible working is redefining how we work and has shifted our culture away from the workplace and into the home. It seems that this trend is only set to increase, as more professionals are primed to swap a desk for the kitchen table in 2018 than ever before...

The rise of flexible working is arguably one of the biggest changes to employers’ attitudes in the past 5 years; in a survey conducted by Lawrence Simmons, 50-60% of those polled said that flexible working is a vital component of any job specification compared to only 40% of respondents in 2012. The rising popularity of flexi-working is fascinating, and raises important questions about the changing nature of employee expectations, and highlights the growing calls for a better work-life balance throughout the legal profession. However, the uplift of flexi working hasn’t just been driven by user demand: many firms have been proactive in their management of flexible working, making the most of new technologies which have created a more agile workforce, enabling lawyers to consult from anywhere in the world.

We spoke with recruitment expert and Global Managing Director of Lawrence Simmons Recruitment, Clare Butler to discuss this phenomenon further. In this article, I explore what this means for recruiters and employers, getting to the heart of why the work paradigm is shifting, and discuss why flexible working matters in business.

Integrating flexible working into employment agreements has become an essential aspect of most recruiters’ negotiations with employers. As Clare Butler revealed, many contracts are won and lost over flexible working. It’s essential for employers to be open minded when it comes to developing contracts which include some level of flexi working in order to attract and retain the right candidates. As well-being movements sweep through the legal profession, most notably in the Bar Councils landmark campaign of 2017, companies are becoming increasingly receptive to calls for a greater work-life balance, and are developing schemes and incentives to enable their workforce to work smarter.

Rethinking how professionals tackle their workload is at the forefront of the consciousness of the legal profession, as employers invest in technologies that will enable efficiency savings for their fee earners. It's true: growing calls for flexibility at work have certainly been sustained by the rise of technology, and the agility it offers. While the image of an at-home idyll isn’t too far away from the truth, the benefits for business extend beyond happy workers. Flexible working depends upon cutting edge technologies which allow lawyers to remain connected to their clients, without being chained to the desk. Effective tech systems enable fee earners to execute consultative tasks and securely access shared files. Businesses really benefit from this agility, as fee earners are capable of billing hours without the traditional constraints and, successfully counteracting the time sink of the commute or 9-5 work time.

The rise of flexible working points to a wider cultural shift in our society. As more households see both parents returning to work following the arrival of children, more professionals are making use of flexible working in order to manage a demanding work schedule and busy home life. However, it’s not just parents who are reaping the benefits of flexible working. Many professionals are capitalising on the benefits presented by home working and are taking advantage of on the company trust the practice affords. Increasingly, technology has enabled professionals to cultivate a thriving practice away from the office, as communication between clients and fee earners has moved digitally.

Fundamentally, flexible working has the potential to diversify and expand the pool of talent that businesses are able recruit from. By capturing untapped talent demographics through a flexi work package, you will empower a competitive recruitment process that, ultimately, will enable your business to go further in the long run. A staff portfolio is a vital component towards driving excellence, and when done successfully will enable savvy companies to drive their business further through the strength of diverse perspectives.

While the rise of flexi working is undoubtedly good news for individuals, this is also marks a turning part for the legal profession. With more employers willing to negotiate flexi working into contracts than ever before, the talent pool has flourished as a result. Not only do women feel more empowered to return to the workplace on their own terms, the rising popularity of flexible working means that a varied work structure is the standard rather than a special requirement, thus preventing any bias against candidates who require a more flexible work schedule.

While it is undoubtedly frustrating that it has taken decades for flexible working to become an industry standard, it is heartening that the biases and imbalances that precluded certain demographics from re-entering or returning to the profession is diminishing by the day.

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About the author:
Catherine is one of the Future of Law's digital editors. She graduated from Durham University with a degree in English Literature and worked at a barristers chambers before joining Lexis Nexis.