Why flexibility makes good business sense

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(Opinion) -- It seems every day there is new research that points to the benefits of offering employees more flexible working arrangements, so why is it that so many businesses are hesitant to adapt?
Steven Miller, Director Applications and Service at Microsoft Australia, recently wrote an article arguing that Australian businesses would do well to shift from ‘work life balance’ to ‘work life better’. According to Miller, work should be redefined as ‘a thing you do’, rather than a place you go’.
And professionals tend to agree; increasingly citing flexibility as a key factor in deciding what roles they apply for and accept. A recent study of 1,500 professionals by Robert Walters found that 40% of candidates would reject a job offer if it lacked flexible working opportunities, whilst 88% were more likely to consider a role that allowed for flexible working.  
Businesses that offer flexibility can not only benefit from greater pools of talent to choose from, but they can also experience increased output and better staff morale. A recent study by Stanford University and Ctrip (2014), found that people who work remotely are generally more productive, happier and less likely to resign, compared to employees who always work from their employers offices.  
Today’s technology makes it easy to work remotely efficiently and effectively. With the ability to share work and collaborate using cloud technology, project management apps, email, and video calling, there are fewer reasons as to why employees need to work set hours from the same desk each day.
So if employees are asking for greater flexibility and technology allows this, why aren’t more businesses embracing this style of working? One of the biggest barriers is trust. Businesses feel that if they can’t see their employees, they can’t be sure that they’re working. Many businesses are yet to come around to the idea of making their employees accountable based on outcomes, as opposed to time served. Another common barrier is leadership. If the leadership team have never worked in flexible jobs before or witnessed the benefits first hand, it can be difficult to convince them to change the status quo.
Numerous studies over the past decade have shown that lawyers have amongst the highest rates of mental health problems of all professionals – with many attributing this issue to inflexible working conditions and the long hours expected in law. In fact, of the 34 managing partners Eaton Capital Partners surveyed in March of 2015, 20.7% blamed this problem on long working hours.
At lexvoco, we’ve witnessed firsthand the benefits of providing our employees with flexible working arrangements. Many of our clients receive work from a number of different lexvoco lawyers who are essentially ‘job sharing’ or ‘client sharing’. We also allow our lawyers to set the number of hours they want to work to suit their lifestyles and needs, whether this is 15 hours or 40. We find that when our lawyers set their own hours, they’re happier working the hours and more productive as a result.
Offering flexible working conditions isn’t practical for all businesses, or all of the time, but it is viable for many. Those who have the ability to adapt and choose to offer staff flexible working conditions can benefit from increased productivity, happier employees and greater retention rates - which we all know is a big issue in law.
By Miriam Rihani, Senior Legal Counsel at lexvoco.

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