Working from home or living at work? Many lawyers will tell you that, over the course of the past few months, working from home has been hard to consider as a benefit.
But it’s clear that a more agile approach is here to stay. Reflecting on their various commitments during the pandemic the newly bolstered MK Real Estate Team at Freeths has sought to put true agility right at the top of the agenda.
Tell us about the new team
LB: We’re very excited to have seen our team go from strength to strength in recent months with key senior lateral hires Lucy Walford (occupier services and property finance) and Darren Debock (development) as well as some new excellent junior resource. Our team is now double the size it was this time last year and we’re still growing.
The team has also been successful in winning significant new client relationships such as Allica Bank and Abbey New Homes and we are feeling confident about our place in the local market and our ability to win and service new work.
What are the defining principles the team is built around?
LB: It’s clear we’re on a journey and that we’re looking to change the look and feel of the team here in MK. The current Freeths’ national business plan places ‘people’ as the first of its five strategic pillars. The stated aim is to empower staff to be the best, happiest and healthiest that they can be. We want to ensure that this culture is at the forefront within the team.
So, we’re striving towards achieving a true team ethic and a trust-based approach that allows everyone their own necessary degree of flexibility so that they can manage their workload and their own commitments. That requires honesty, flexibility and releasing staff from micro-management and the endless prior approvals that so many firms still insist upon.
And we do consider that to be an absolute commitment. The senior team here genuinely believe that it is our duty to ensure that we offer that flexibility to every member of our team. It’s bringing us closer together and allowing us to be more collegiate.
How does this translate for you all?
DD: It means having flexibility to allow me to genuinely balance my work and life commitments, to avoid parent guilt by making sure I can be around to take my children to school, sit and read with them, or make it home in time for bedtime. It doesn’t mean the work pressure isn’t there; it just allows me to ensure the scales don’t tip too much in either direction.
It means prioritising our health and wellbeing, really investing time in the things that are important to us and allowing individuals to feel free to speak openly about taking time to do that.
This also means we can find time to commit to various CSR programmes which benefit our local community. For example, I am involved in Action for Tutoring, an online programme offering support in Maths and English to underprivileged school children. Members of the team also act as school governors or trustees of local charities. We recently fielded a team of ten at the Swanbourne Endeavour – a local charity mud run – raising much needed funds for Autism Early Support, our MK office charity of the year. Also, we have recently taken part in a local litter pick.
We want to continue to build on our flexible and supportive culture as we continue to grow and hope that approach will help us attract the very best talent and clients.
Darren, how do you ensure that adequate support is given?
By ensuring no one person is overburdened or struggling, demonstrating a commitment to a common goal, and striving to move forward as a team. We want to stay busy but be positive about that.
We’ve had some really very significant wins in the past year, which bring delight but also pressure and we’re keen to ensure our team feel supported both upwards and downwards to help us through that and continue to build on that momentum.
So, does all this mean the office is dead?
DD: Absolutely not, but we’re looking at it differently. For many of us, home might be the logical and sensible place to get undisturbed work time but that isn’t the case for all. We’re appreciative of the fact that not everyone has adequate workspace at home and that there is a degree of support felt in the office that is hard to replicate at home.
Whilst we’ll continue to utilise tech to ensure we’re well connected to each other and our clients, we’ll also be ensuring that we’re utilising our time in the office meaningfully to collaborate but at the same time providing traditional working space to carry out certain focused activities.
Finally, how would you summarise this commitment in a few sentences?
LB: Working from home is certainly nothing new and we’ve all witnessed lots of firms out there who suggest that they have a flexible approach. Whilst that might be true, the motive behind that isn’t always well meaning.
The Freeths’ commitment to our people means that a truly agile future is already starting to take shape. We hope to be able to push that out further so that the same methodology is applied not only in our business but across the profession more generally.
Contact Lucy Bradban or Darren Debock at Freeths in Milton Keynes on 01908 668555 or visit www.freeths.co.uk