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An international law firm has been running an informal flexible working project as part of an effort to get more people to take it up and to dispel the idea that flexible working means part-time working.
Eversheds, which employs 3,000 staff, ran the pilot with 150 staff at its London office in January and February.
It says 400 of its staff work part time, but they wanted to focus more on informal, short-term changes rather than on contractual changes and part-time working.
This included homeworking, changing employees’ start and finish times and working from different offices, such as client’s offices. The company, which has 10 offices across the UK, has very good IT support which enables mobile working.
The pilot showed productivity had improved by five per cent as a result of the pilot. “Our business as a law firm involves charging by the hour so we can demonstrate how much time people have been able to spend on client work, for instance, due to doing less commuting or being at home working without any interruptions,” said Margot King, head of HR projects at Eversheds. “They were able to spend more time doing the right stuff.”
Not only that but they more than doubled the number of people who took up informal flexible working. Moreover, 48 per cent of staff who participated said they felt more valued and trusted by the firm.
Eversheds, which offers the right to request formal flexible working to all staff, says the initiative is part of its retaining talent programme. “There are generational changes going on and flexible working is important to a lot of people,” said King. “We want to make sure that we are an employer of choice to as many people as possible. Law sometimes has an image of presenteeism and long hours. We are not like that. We are more open-minded and progressive.”
She added that Eversheds has a good record on gender diversity at all levels and that several senior leaders worked flexibly. “This pilot was led from the top which is part of the reason it was successful,” she said, adding that it would be useful for big events such as the Olympics next year.
The firm is now working with senior managers to show the business case for raising more awareness about flexible working and is thinking of rolling out the programme across its offices.