In a world where law firm resources are increasingly stretched to the limit, Baker & McKenzie has led the way with an alternative work strategy it hopes will keep staff happier, more productive and less inclined to go elsewhere.
The firm has adopted what it refers to as “agile working” across its global network, which means flexible work hours for its employees.
The change affects the firm’s 77 offices, with 4,607 lawyers including 1,580 partners as well as other staff, and includes alternative working hours, remote working, and regular working time outside of the office.
The new regime is the brainchild of Peter May, chief talent officer at the firm, and global executive committee member Claudia Prado.
Prado told Asia Business Law Journal that agile or flexible working at Baker & McKenzie had informally been around for a while in many of the firm’s offices.
“After conducting an engagement satisfaction survey, flexible working came out as something our people felt strongly about,” she said. “As a result we have formalized our policies and developed one holistic approach to be rolled out globally to all employees.”
Prado said the new programme had four dimensions: remote working; reduced working hours; alternative hours; and time out of office.
“In terms of how this impacts on current work practice – implementing an agile working policy will increase and improve productivity and efficiency from the workforce, reduce absenteeism, improve the health and wellbeing of our people, reduce turnover, and improve morale – the benefits are long lasting,” she said.
In September 2015, the firm ran an internal engagement survey, called BakerYou. Results showed that lawyers and other staff regarded flexible working arrangements as a key priority.
“We wanted to act fast, innovate and demonstrate to our people that their opinions and needs matter to the firm and we will continuously strive to make sure working at Baker & McKenzie is a fulfilling and enjoyable experience,” said Prado.
“We want to take a holistic approach to our flexible working policy; our regional offices will work with HR and talent teams to find solutions that work best for individuals while also attending to the needs of our clients and our business,” said Prado.
She said the new plan had been well received by employees. “This is a policy for everyone, no matter who you are or where you live – it is all inclusive and fully in line with our Diversity & Inclusion strategy. This is one more innovative initiative that the firm has launched on a global basis with an unprecedented reach.”