SOAP BOX

SOAP BOX

Clear management expectations and employee incentives will be key to hybrid working

Matthew Kay

Matthew Kay

A recent study from SAP Concur, an expenses, travel and management solutions company, found around three-in-five employees “don’t believe their company’s policies and technologies effectively enable flexible work”. So, despite all of the enthusiasm around the flexible working revolution, it seems there are still plenty of barriers and hurdles to overcome.

In particular, if employees aren’t satisfied with how you’re implementing flexible working, you’re less likely to optimise working patterns in the long-term and are putting your firm at risk of losing people to the Great Resignation.

To make flexible working a success, law firms need to put people at the centre of everything they do. Practically, flexible working can have many different definitions and could be a combination of the following – flexible start and finish times, remote working, compressed hours, part-time and term-time working. Whatever you decide as a firm, you need to establish clear boundaries about what you can offer, how you will be providing support for it, and what’s expected from employees in return.

Clear policies are important in setting out guidelines for employees of how they are expected to work. Of course, firms don’t want to lead with an iron fist when enforcing flexible policies – too negative and parent-like an attitude could lead to low morale and distrust, with employees feeling they don’t have autonomy over their work life. However, there are ways firms can maximise their return from flexible working. If firms want people back in the office some days of the week, they should be focusing on how to encourage people back into the office in a positive way, so employees understand the benefits of in-person working.

“To make flexible working a success, law firms need to put people at the centre of everything they do. Practically, flexible working can have many different definitions and could be a combination of the following – flexible start and finish times, remote working, compressed hours, part-time and term-time working. Whatever you decide as a firm, you need to establish clear boundaries”

If you’ve introduced a hybrid working policy but people aren’t returning to the office, incentivise them. That could mean allowing employees to start and finish at the times they want within agreed hours (if this is practical from an operational point of view). This could lead to more employees coming in, as they can potentially avoid the cost of travelling at peak times. Other initiatives include offering in-house childcare, free health and wellbeing workshops, as well as putting on events that create that sense of belonging. For example: free lunches, talks, extra-curricular activities.

Throughout the pandemic, you may have adopted new technology to ensure all your staff could work remotely but, after a period of time, there will be barriers and glitches that aren’t enabling effective work. Now is the time to review and potentially increase your digital investment. Our legal technology consultancy has never been busier, as clients are looking to the post-pandemic stage of managing their systems. Clients are asking employees which systems they’re using, whether they are having any issues, and which tech tools or solutions could make their lives easier. Engaging employees in these decisions will show you are committed to helping them work flexibly.

Providing the correct infrastructure for technology and flexible working policies will benefit legal professionals as well as the firm as a whole. More satisfied employees will be more likely to work in the way you want them to, particularly for firms looking to reap the rewards of a hybrid setup.