Articles From the Team
Flexibility - for better or for worse?
I sit here writing this blog reflecting on the last 18 months. I feel incredibly positive; as we move into the last quarter of the year the business has achieved results I wouldn't have dared to imagine. We didn’t survive, we thrived. But BCL Legal has changed; our people, our working patterns, and our culture - the vast majority of our clients have changed too - is it all for the better?
After spending a protracted period at home working remotely the biggest challenge facing employers was always going to be how to transition into a post pandemic world. Especially, as several surveys suggest that employees, on the whole, don't want to return to the office 5 days per week. It was the biggest experiment conducted en masse in the last decade - could employees work entirely remotely without impacting business results and productivity? The answer is complex but law firms posted great financial results that demonstrated it could (and was!) being done without negatively impacting the bottom line.
Negatives have certainly emerged though. Legal cheek reported that “Trainee solicitors are fed up with remote working and the lack of support they receive from seniors”. Gone from the working day was learning by osmosis or receiving on the spot feedback. The fix isn't just to bring back trainees/junior lawyers to the office full time - they need the physical support of more senior team members. As the adage goes “it takes a village to raise a child”, I think the same can be said about training a lawyer!
The other challenge is how to protect work place culture. It is so important for many to have the opportunity to build relationships with peers at work and for this you need physical presence. The people make a place and without team camaraderie and opportunities for social interactions does our working life just become a little bit more grey? Many moons ago I wrote a blog about the importance of culture and the overall feeling of ‘belonging’. Culture is made up of the “values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes and behaviours shared by a group of people” - how do you know any of that if you don't know or see the people you work with?
However, even keeping in mind the above, the answer isn't just to return to the status quo. In order to achieve Diversity & Inclusion goals, business leaders must find a way to permanently incorporate flexibility to the working day. Otherwise, how will we be able to provide an environment that embraces working parents, carers and those with a disability into our culture? Employees need to make their lives work first and foremost and I passionately believe it is possible to achieve that if we think outside the standard Monday-Friday, 37 hours per week in the office box.
So as with most things in life the answer is balance! And if you can get that balance right then the pandemic will leave us with a lasting legacy that has achieved truly positive change.