Workplace flexibility is becoming one of the most important variables in staff retention, lateral moves and a firm’s ability to secure the top talent in the market in recent times. Although many factors are important when a lawyer assesses a firm’s long-term value proposition, many candidates consider their ability to have flexible arrangements such as remote working, part-time or flexible working hours essential. No longer are the days when you must have worked at a firm for 10-20+ years in order to feel “entitled” to these options, now it can be on the table from day one in some progressive structures.
In particular, it is evident at the Senior level that many cannot secure the balance of getting home in daylight hours and trying to fulfil their career aspirations, including their ability to work on premium transactions or obtain / retain Partnership. The law industry is evolving, it is recognising this as a major influencer of elite operators staying loyal and motivated and as a result we have seen the firm’s with more progressive attitudes stand out to candidates.
Many firms have allocated time and resources to aid parents with young children for example, such as parental leave (for males and females) after just 2 years of service. They have also created support programs for their return to aid in the transition including services to assist with errands. Firms have offered staff members additional annual leave, volunteer leave, time off in lieu and study leave to encourage future progression and development of their skillset. Not only has this provided much needed support but has improved overall morale and retention.
The internet has undoubtedly provided much needed accessibility and the workplaces that encourage this use with the support of up to date devices and remote set ups with sophisticated systems specifically designed for this use have seen the most benefit. This has allowed much more flexible work arrangements including on the go and during commute periods to maximise efficiency.
Ultimately in 2017, workplace flexibility has become a substantial point of negotiation which must be constantly reviewed by yourself and a trusted consultant that will provide feedback on the always evolving market.
Factors for negotiation that are currently prevalent in the market:
Flexible working hours (accommodate school drop off / pick up or time zones)
Part –time working hours
Remote working / home office set-ups
Parental leave and support programs on return
Time off in lieu
Additional annual leave
Meeting free schedule
To inform and support employees and employers in the law sector to consider work flexibility, The Queensland Law Society and Women Lawyers’ Association of Queensland has formed the “Flexibility working group”. They have created resources to demonstrate the implementation of flexible work arrangements in different firms, practice areas and levels including successful real life stories. This can provide an employer the tools to consider these options and negotiate with their staff.
The Australian HR Institute (AHRI) Awards and in particular the “Sir Ken Robinson Award for Workforce Flexibility” highlights the fact that organisations are evolving and adopting strategies in order to retain staff. In 2016, Coleman Greig Lawyers was one of the two finalists demonstrating that some firms in the law sector are implementing contemporary practices. This award has previously been won by a law firm in 2014, Justitia Lawyers and Consultants.
The benefits of flexible arrangements from an employee’s side can provide highly sought after work-life balance and wellbeing and from an employer’s side a motivated, loyal and effective worker that can maximise their full potential.