Employers should help people find their own best balance between home and office working; Government must recognise the urgency of the crisis in legal aid

Employing flexibly

Whether and to what extent to allow working from home is a question that has increasingly faced legal sector employers in recent years, and one that has met with mixed responses.

During this year’s COVID-19 restrictions there was no choice. But now that our faltering return towards normal business should accelerate with the vaccination programme, what can employees expect?

Perhaps the question employers should be asking is, how can we get the best from our people? As our lead feature on the Journal’s 2020 employment survey shows, this does not permit a blanket answer.

Some are more than happy to continue working from home, and believe they are more productive that way; others the reverse. Perhaps the majority believe it benefits them to be able to do part and part, often by increasing the proportion of time spent at home if that previously featured. What is also significant is that more people recognised a detriment than saw a benefit to their health or wellbeing from being entirely home based, from which we can reasonably conclude, I suggest, that most can be trusted to propose their own best outcome to optimise their performance.

Yet not all employers have taken this on board: the survey reveals that there are some who expect all staff to be back in the office, as before, once this is possible. With only a small minority saying they cannot work from home, why should this be?

Some respondents gave their employers credit for trying to be fair through the crisis; others expressed resentment at their treatment. If there is an overall message from the survey, it is that to get the best from your people, treat them as individual and trust them to pull their weight.

Final countdown?

This issue happens to be the 200th under my name as editor. (I worked on a few before that.) Shortly before I started, there was a cover feature predicting eventual catastrophe in the criminal courts if the defence sector continued to be underfunded and failed to attract enough new blood.

The only surprise (if it is such) to criminal lawyers today is that the Government still fails to appreciate the extent and urgency of the problem that has now developed. The despair at last month’s limited response to the plea for additional support was real, and heartfelt. However the situation looks in another 200 months, I will not be here commenting on it. Will the defence bar be?

IT would be nice to conclude with some upbeat thoughts about this year; perhaps the best that can be said is that the end is in sight. I hope you will all feel the benefit of a good Christmas break.

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