Why agile?

Nothing stands still for long, not least the world of work. The future is here, and it is altogether more agile…

Our world has changed dramatically. We no longer shift between work, home and leisure. Technology aka smartphones, laptops and the internet have blurred the boundaries. Our homes are as likely to include an office as a lounge. We send work emails from the gym or from the playground while we play with our kids.

In a world in which none of us switch off, the office 9-5 culture makes less sense.

  • Why commute for two hours a day, five days a week, when employees could spend at least some of that time getting on with the job from a fully-networked home office?
  • Why penalise efficiency and productivity? There’s no incentive to meet deadlines early when you have to ‘be seen’ to be in an office till some arbitrary shut-off time that doesn’t reflect the specific requirements of each job.
  • Why pay the overheads on full-time fully-staffed offices in expensive cities – when everyone knows employees are already working on the move and those spaces won’t ever be fully utilised?
  • Why miss out on the benefits of flexible working in terms of meeting fluctuating work levels? There surely has to be a better way than making swathes of employees redundant in slow periods only to face a race to rehire when things pick up?
  • Why not boost engagement and retention rates, and attract more talent, by giving employees what they want – more flexibility to work in the way that supports their other needs?

No doubt these are some of the reasons why more businesses are moving towards embracing flexible working practices. According to CIPD figures in 2013-14, at least four in 10 organisations now allow flexi-time (ability to choose a start and finish time to the working day) and 38% have career break or sabbatical options. Only one in 10 businesses (mostly SMEs) don’t offer any flexible working options.

And law firms are making their mark too. The past year has seen a wealth of top firms proclaiming their ‘agile working’ initiatives. Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Linklaters, Mischon de Reya, Quinn Emanuel, Wedlake Bell, Foot Anstey, DAC Beachcroft and Olswang are all on a growing list of firms making efforts to stand out for their flexible programmes, including home and remote-working.

Announcements about unlimited holidays and receiving money to work ‘from anywhere in the world’ may have grabbed the headlines. But there’s enough to suggest that there’s substance behind the spin. Firms are beginning to realise the landscape is shifting and they have to keep up.

Nowhere perhaps is this more apparent than in business services. Here firms are competing for new skills with the best outside industry can offer. If they are slow to match the agile working policies in place in other sectors, they just won’t secure the talent.

The 21st century law firm could still be anyone’s guess – but, one thing is perhaps certain, it will be nothing if not agile.

Agile, Teams

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