Flexible working can improve employee wellbeing. For lawyers, flexible work arrangements require digitization as integrated workspaces allow teams to collaborate and work online in real time.
Research shows that flexible work schedules create higher levels of job satisfaction and less absenteeism, along with reduced rates of turnover. The simple yet radical act of giving employees the power to choose their hours and/or work from home when the need arises can positively contribute to their wellbeing.
You might not immediately make the correlation between flexible working and legal tech software as it is not one of the main benefits we generally tout. It’s a by-product-benefit of a streamlined and centralized workspace.
Digital legal platforms such as LawVu allow legal teams to have all of their matters, documents, contacts, tasks, and other metadata stored in one secure cloud-based location. Permissions can be shared with other team members, allowing lawyers to work in real time from different locations. While this isn’t particularly revolutionary, for lawyers who are used to carting around stacks of confidential files, it allows them to work in an entirely new way.
Katie Bhreatnach, the GM of Customer and Regulatory Partnerships at Airways, is a believer in the benefits of flexible work. “My experience in having a genuine commitment to flexibility is that you get engaged dedicated team members who are committed, well rounded, and productive.” Throughout her career, Bhreatnach has seen colleagues sacrifice roles on great cases or take part-time paid work (that required full-time equivalent hours) in order to guarantee a level of flexibility that enabled them to have a life outside of work.
So how does flexible working enable wellbeing? The study, Work Schedule Flexibility: A Contributor to Happiness notes a negative correlation between life satisfaction and the time spent at work, commuting and away from family and social life. Bhreatnach notes that flexibility allows for transparency, people can have a fulfilling job whilst being there for their family or personal commitments. “We are all whole people and work is only one part of our lives,” she says “Having interests and balance that keeps your wairua (spirit) strong contributes to the person you bring to your working day.”
Three lawyers in Bhreatnach’s team have the option to work remotely, flexibly, and part-time. The full-time lawyers also work flexibly and remotely. It’s important to Bhreatnach that “people are not undervalued because of working part-time or flexibly”. That their position, remuneration, and the quality of the work they are given are not impacted by being part-time or remote.
Working remotely isn’t without its challenges, however, especially during Covid-19 lockdowns. “We approach it with empathy and understanding. Just like we do when any of the people in our team are having challenges in their work or personal lives,” says Bhreatnach.
Legal technology has allowed them to work centrally on the cloud, with easy access to files and the ability to digitally pick up and swap work between one another.
The key takeaway from flexible work in Bhreatnach’s eyes is that it allows people to bring their whole selves to work. “Regarding them as a whole person creates a great culture, a nice place to work, and motivated, committed and supportive team members.”