Written by John Nicklin, MD of Sorce

As the Flexible Working Bill achieves Royal Assent, millions of British workers will have greater flexibility over where and when they work. This includes having the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job, with employers required to consider any requests and provide a reason before rejection. Currently, workers have to provide 26 weeks of continuous service to make applications to change their work location, working hours or working pattern. So how will this impact your law firm, and are you ready?

Many firms now permit more hybrid working arrangements, although there are some that still haven’t embraced flexible working. If you’re one of them, it’s time to reconsider. Of course, you’ll need a strong case if you plan to deny flexible working – it can’t just be that that the managing partners view in-office working as more palatable than employees working from home and/or at different times.

When the Flexible Working Bill becomes law – likely in 2024 – law firms will need to ensure their infrastructure is set-up for change. This means having the right technology in place to streamline the four C’s – Communications, collaboration, compliance and culture.

A modern intranet is the ideal system that can support all of these, enabling quick and easy document workflow, information sourcing, and news dissemination, regardless of where colleagues are working from. It can even facilitate workplace training, signpost colleagues to support services, and assist with the more social side of work to maintain a strong company culture.

When time is money, colleagues need to be able to access what they need, and quickly. If they are working from home at 7pm in the evening and can’t find a vital document, or they are away from the office and can’t find the contact details for a colleague, they aren’t able to work efficiently. This is why the right technology is key.

Working away from the office also comes with other challenges, such as making confidential information available to certain colleague but not others, and ensuring stored information and documents are as secure as possible. Choosing an intranet platform that puts security first is therefore an important consideration. This means ensuring it’s cloud-based with multi-factor authentication (MFA), as well as the ability to encrypt sensitive information and lock-down certain areas of the intranet to authorised colleagues only. When law firms handle such sensitive client information, compromising on security is not an option.

Now is the time to put your flexi-working building blocks in place – technology, procedures and processes – and recognise that more employees will be requesting flexible working from 2024 onwards. And not just new starters, but longer-serving employees who are spurred-on by the new bill to request more flexible working arrangements.

So is your law firm ready? You have a few months’ to figure it out, after which time, you’ll be playing catch-up to your competitors and putting your business at risk. After all, if your firm hasn’t the right IT platform in place to enable working from anywhere and at any time; employees will leave, clients will move away due to poor service, and you’ll be playing Russian roulette with your firm’s IT security!

About the author

John Nicklin is the Managing Director of Newbury-based intranet specialist, Sorce. The company provides intranet services and technology to U.K. organisations including numerous legal firms.