The working landscape has changed. Where I used to travel several hours a day to get to work, most days, I now only have to make the arduous journey to my desk a mere few steps away. This is the same for many other knowledge workers – we are gifted extra hours in the day.
Yet, working from home is not the end of the story. Remote working allows employees greater ownership of their day, this is well established way of improving motivation and sense of fulfilment. But many do it wrong — you only need look at the stories at the beginning of the pandemic, with companies installing trackers, video feeds and monitoring toilet breaks of employees. Unsurprisingly, these tactics were not looked at favorably by the media, the general public or the people who worked for these organisations…perhaps a little too close to Orwell’s 1984.
The true value of flexible working, however, is the autonomy you as an employee are given, a flexibility National Legal Service readily embrace. People are more than just the work they do, and whilst Dolly may have sung about ‘9 to 5’, it may not be the best time for people to carry out their work. Science has told us for years that people are genetically wired differently, and people work better at different hours of the day, and yet, the majority of companies seem to ignore this.
Children, family commitments, and personal pursuits are just some of the reasons that employees may need to attend the office late or take lunch at 3pm. This is perhaps easier to understand at a law firm, where employees are so often at court, having client meetings, or even at police stations in the middle of the night, but it is a reflection on how the traditional model of work, may not actually work for many.
For me, flexible working at NLS has allowed me to carry out my personal ambitions. Whilst working full time, I am able to study the Solicitor Qualifying Exam (SQE), I set up a Legal Education Charity (Leducate) on which I act as an active director and enjoy social activities like captaining my local hockey team and learning salsa (which I certainly need many more hours on). A standard 9-5 model would not allow me to do these things. I hazard a guess that a less flexible company would not make even one of these things possible without a significant sacrifice of the other, and yet I am able to happily take part in all and still enjoy time with friends, binge the next Netflix sensation and take on extra work commitments like leading training or the book club.
Flexible working is so often associated with a negative image — ‘you must be in the office, or you will miss out on valuable face to face time’. You will be hard pressed to find a more ardent supporter of in person events: I’m in the office twice a week. For others they apply some stigma that it is only acceptable for those with kids to embrace a flexible working approach. The working landscape has changed, and the companies that are able to embrace this change and work with their employees to support a good balance will be the ones where myself and many others will enjoy working and thrive.