Flexibility is key to attracting and retaining talent

As we cautiously navigate a return to work after a year in which most of us have adapted to new ways of working, law firm leaders have a unique opportunity to listen to colleagues whose needs and priorities have certainly changed during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Return to work strategies need to focus on what employees need. Proactive firms have already begun to seek feedback from their workforce on how they want to work moving forward. 

Existing employees need to be asked which aspects of the employee experience they value and would like to keep, what can stop, and what needs to be introduced to enhance the employee experience. Acting on employee feedback will enable firms to design hybrid working models to overcome the challenges of employee retention, attracting new talent and business continuity. 

Different people work in different ways, and flexibility is key to achieving high levels of employee satisfaction. The focus on employee wellbeing has never been greater and is inseparably linked to employee attraction and retention. 

Office working v Home working 

An in-person office experience is still appealing to some employees who will have missed the spontaneity of interacting with colleagues, and camaraderie of group teamwork. Those returning to the office are likely to have higher expectations for their workspace, with access to both private space and more flexible, inviting space for collaboration with colleagues when required. 

Meanwhile, others may now have a preference for working from home and will need encouragement to return to the office. Firms who decide to offer flexibility for remote working must continue to invest in hardware, software, and internet support, as well as maintain regular communication, and undertake health and safety checks on the home working environment. 

Ways to improve the employee experience 

One of the biggest changes during the pandemic has been the amount of time employees have been able to spend with their children and pets whilst the country has been in lockdown. Although schools have now reopened, a lack of affordable childcare is still a big issue for many working parents. Employers who wish to encourage employees back into the office should consider the feasibility of offering creche facilities, or subsidising childcare costs. Becoming a dog friendly office on certain days will help remove another obstacle to employees returning to work. 

Some employees remain anxious about returning to shared office space and using public transport. Firms should clearly communicate their Covid19 safety plan, and could offer flexibility around working hours, to stagger start and finish times, and promote shared ride to work, or cycle schemes. 

There may be a reluctance by some employees to incur travelling costs after a year off commuting and parking charges, so firms might consider a travel allowance to encourage employees to return to the office. It is an additional expenditure when most firms have looked to cut costs, but it is an initiative which may help firms to retain employees and avoid expensive recruitment fees to replace employees who might otherwise leave. It’s important to recognise that employers are going to have trouble retaining staff if they fail to adopt flexible working practices in response to employee needs. 

As law firms build their return-to-work strategy they should continuously listen to their employees to create better experiences that will help firms to differentiate and be an employer of choice.

Kimberley Williams

©Williams Wroe


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