Flexible working has gone from a trendy buzzword to the new normal during lockdown. As we publish our flexible working guidance, Elaine MacGlone, Equality & Diversity Manager at the Law Society of Scotland, reflects on her personal experience of flexible working, how things have changed and what the future might hold.

Flexibility in work patterns, how and where we work, have been revolutionised by the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. Jobs that we assumed would have to be performed physically in the office and have set hours are now being done successfully from home and at different times through the day. Agile working, where work is done at times and in places of the worker’s choosing, has necessarily gone from being the latest buzzword in working practices to the new normal.  

To support our members, law firms and in-house employers in making the transition to this new world of work, we have produced advice, covering hints and tips on managing flexible and agile working (including what the differences are between the two). We are extremely grateful to the many members of the profession who helped us draft this advice – their input was invaluable.

I have worked flexibly at the Law Society for over 16 years, since the birth of my first child. Initially, I worked part-time and, before lock-down, worked a blended pattern of scheduled working from home combined with short days in the office.  This style of working has been invaluable, allowing me to balance family life and work life, and being able to change this pattern as new styles of working emerged has helped too.

The downside of this was that I often felt like the odd one out, with a majority of my colleagues continuing to work a standard five days a week and in the office. I felt a pressure (probably self-imposed, to be honest) that it was me who was being awkward for not being available when others were and feeling guilty that I was  “leaving early” when hurrying out of the office at the end of my working day at 4pm.

This has all changed as a result of Covid-19.

Overnight, we all started working from home and, for many, the work had to fit around home life. I’m no longer the only one calling into a meeting, while trying to be heard above the voices of others and the clatter of hot drinks being enjoyed in the office. For me, the change was probably less stressful than for others – I don’t miss my hour-long commute for instance – and knew that home working could work for me to get my work done.

Now that so many have had a taste of home working and agile working, it appears that  many are also experiencing benefits form doing so and this is generating a huge demand for flexible and agile working in the future from workers.

Research, such as a study by You Gov, IMC and O2 called The Flexible Future of Work, is finding that employees are reluctant to give up their new way of working after lockdown. Nearly half of workers surveyed thought flexible working will increase, with 81% of that group expecting to work a least one day a week at home, and 33% expecting they will work at home at least three days a week after lockdown. From this, it is clear that workers don’t want to abandon the office entirely and are looking for a balance between remote working and being in the workplace.  

For employers having to manage the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions on workplaces, being able to have workers split between home working and the workplace is a necessity that is likely to continue for some time and getting it right is important for everyone involved.

Our flexible working guidance offers pointers and advice to help make it a success. It's a living document and we’d be delighted to hear your feedback on this. Please drop us a line at diversity@lawscot.org.uk.

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Flexible working advice and information

Covering flexible and agile working this provides hints, tips, and information to help with introducing new work practices.