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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

The agile workplace

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The agile workplace

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How do you make the case for the agile workplace, especially in the face of the naysayers who will maintain that it's about little more than furniture, writes Louise Hadland

Agile working is not something to be ?afraid of – we should make the case for it, particularly in professional services environments.

The only way law firms will succeed in the future is if lawyers work collaboratively to deliver the best service for the client. Without doubt, agile workspaces provide the best environment ?for successful and efficient collaborative working.

Even now, a surprising number of lawyers still sit in offices with their door closed in perceived peace and quiet so they can concentrate on the matter in hand. The problem is there is more to client service than the matter in hand; there is also no point in spending vast sums of money on office fit-outs and furniture if a line manager still wants their team to sit where ?they can see them.

It’s about shifting focus from inputs to outputs and making best use of expensive and scarce resources, for both ?the people and the premises. Finance directors will monitor the cost of office space and the number of people using it as a performance indicator because of its impact on profitability, so the benefits of agile working ?are tangible, even if they ?are more difficult to sell to ?staff who are more used to ?working in a traditional office environment. But we know ?that the millennials like to work collaboratively, and providing such opportunities will improve moral, retention rates, and reduce staff turnover – always ?a huge cost to any law firm.

Agile working creates an environment that not only benefits the client but helps satisfy the needs of junior lawyers, who need to accumulate knowledge and have support, supervision, information, and an opportunity to be a part ?of the action.

To deliver the best in ?client service, lawyers need ?to innovate and collaborate to form client-focused solutions to ensure their service is joined up. Thinking proactively about the next product or service a client will need cannot solely be achieved within established teams. Agile working means these teams can interact more effectively; relationships are built; and ties strengthened within the respective firm.

However, the challenge remains in educating those ?who believe agile working is ?all about how the furniture ?is arranged. 

Agile working is a mind-set, not simply a rearrangement of chairs and desks. The furniture is just there to facilitate different ways of working so that one day you can sit in a quiet room, the next with your project team, and then back to your department team. 

There are unlikely to be any issues getting in touch with those who are agile workers. ?PAs are a conduit to the client and over many years have trained the lawyers they work with to keep in touch and let them know where they are. ?One of our values at Shoosmiths is to be ‘within reach and responsive’. The technology ?that is available to us today means that we can become agile workers and or indeed peripatetic workers; as long as your people are responsive, then any organisation can set ?its own protocols for keeping in touch. With today’s technology, it is not difficult to become an agile worker. 

There is a common misconception that agile working is similar to home working, and there is equally ?a misconception that homeworking means skiving. Working from home is as much an option as working from your desk as working in a quite booth. Once we let go of the notion that a person can only be productive behind a desk under the nose of their supervisor, home working will just be a natural extension. 

Agile working in any workplace is about encompassing the right technology and blending an environment that suits your needs for giving the client ?the best possible service and ?giving employees a good ?work experience. 

Whichever way you cut ?it – client service, employee satisfaction, reducing overheads – agile working ?is a winner.

Louise Hadland is HR director at Shoosmiths @Shoosmiths www.shoosmiths.co.uk

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