Eleven years after the right to request flexible working (Right to Request) was introduced, initially limited to assist carers with young families or disabled children, we saw the extension of that right to request in 2014 to most employees.
Although some believe that flexible working benefits the economy and should be embraced by business leaders, many still see flexible working as a benefit to workers and not necessarily as a benefit to businesses. Many companies who have adopted flexible working are still trying to tackle just how they manage their agile workforce.
We founded our entire business model on the premise of flexible working that provides greater flexibility for both our clients and our lawyers. For our team, it is not about doing less days or hours, it is about being more effective and allocating your day or week so that you are most efficient. This gives clients cost and resourcing flexibility, which is a real advantage at the senior end of the legal market.
Recruiting, monitoring and managing flexibility is not always easy and I would say that it is a work in progress, because the basics are always moving. Most people want flexibility but from experience, I know that not everyone is suitable for flexible working. When recruiting lawyers, not only do we look for a certain skillset, but also that they are able to work flexibly and remotely for clients. This is often a mindset rather than skillset.
In my view there are four main criteria for flexible working:
1) Output v Input
We focus heavily on output and flexibility often gives our team the time and the right working environment to do this. Our lawyers are senior professionals who do not need to be mirco-managed and are highly motivated by being in control of their own working patterns.
However we also align their remuneration in line with their output rather than hours worked. Is it essential that we recruit lawyers who understand they will be rewarded for outputs rather than presenteeism and businesses who wish to recruit flexible resource should look for staff who are outcome driven.
Flexibility comes with responsibility and it is up to the individual to manage their flexible working arrangement and prove that it is working.
One of the ways to do this is by being transparent, whether you are a consultant lawyer working within a client or whether you are the director of the company. I am based in LA and therefore remote for a large part of the time and due to time zones wake up at 4am to be online with the team (flexible working taken to the max you might say).
My team know I will be online at this time and if it looks set to change, I will give prior notice. I work hard at being totally transparent about my movements and response times to manage expectations. I look to instil this ethos in both the lawyer team and management team.
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