Recently when talking to candidates, there is one question that keeps popping up… Is there flexibility?
I have always been a big champion for flexible working, I moved to New Zealand seven years ago in search of the ever elusive work/life balance, and now having a three-year-old daughter and no family to help out in New Zealand, it is crucial to how I work. Personally, I love working from home, yes it was a challenge in the lockdown juggling childcare and work, but on a normal day it means no distractions and I find myself more productive. Now I have set up my own business, to make this work for me, I have set up a home office, as I find having a dedicated space I can go to for work creates a much-needed distinction between work and home life. I can have dedicated times and days to travel to the city or around Auckland for meetings and post-Covid so many people are comfortable with meeting virtually, that it is now easier than ever to work from anywhere. It is not for everyone, agreed, but in 2021 it should be discussed as to how best to tailor it to an individual to suit their lifestyle and goals.
Perpetual Guardian’s 4-day work week has been highly publicised in New Zealand and globally, and there are many studies that show increased productivity. It makes sense, if people feel they have more balance to their lives and are able to achieve their personal goals, then they are bound to be happier, thus more productive and less burnt out. Unilever last year announced they were undergoing a trial of the 4-day week and Jacinda Ardern even flagged it as a possible way to not only boost domestic tourism, but also improve work/life balance and productivity across New Zealand. Whilst working for four days and getting paid for five, sounds amazing, it may not work for every business, but it is important to look at ways of providing flexibility to the workforce.
There have been some definite positives that have come out of the pandemic and number one I feel is work flexibility. Having recruited in the Legal space for five years, traditionally private practice particularly was very inflexible… if you weren’t visible to the Partner then you weren’t working, which if you think about it in a career where it is so easy to see how much work you have completed by your billable hours is plain crazy. Fast forward a year, and after the mass experiment that was Covid, I am finding most law firms are now allowing a greater degree of flexibility and work from home. A major benefit I can see is this should reduce staff turnover and assist with candidate attraction. Traditionally, at a certain stage in their careers a number of Lawyers make the move in-house to receive these benefits that they previously couldn’t get in private practice. As Covid has levelled the playing field slightly, we may even see some great In-House lawyers making the transition back into private practice, to gain the benefits of more variety of clients and specialist work.
Flexibility means different things for different people. It is important to have these conversations upfront with a potential employer or new staff member to make sure you are both on the same page and your views around this align and to avoid issues further down the track. For someone this may mean the flexibility to be in the office school hours and make up the time in the evening, for another it may mean a two hour lunch break and then working later or starting earlier to be able to go to the gym at lunchtime, whereas for some it may mean working from home two full days a week. It is no longer seen as a bonus, but an expected requirement when candidates are interviewing for a new role. It is probably the question I now get asked most when recruiting, before even the salary, is there flexible working? This could mean the difference between securing that excellent candidate that has multiple job offers and could even trump salary as a deciding factor.
What about the companies that aren’t providing it? Unfortunately, if companies are not providing remote capabilities and flexible work options, they will start to see turnover, as their employees seek out the firms and companies that are. If you are upfront and honest with what you are wanting from the start this should minimise issues. Some roles will require people to have a presence in the office; front of house, client facing, office management, so then perhaps discussing other ways to provide them with some flexibility. Some juniors or graduates may need more training and support initially, so perhaps working out a timeframe that once they have achieved some set goals and targets, they can start to gain some flexibility. It all really comes down to trust and honesty on both sides.
If you would like to gain some more market information around this or talk about how to make flexible working work for you, get in touch for a confidential conversation.