In London, Bristol and Leeds, Mary and Harry represented F-LEX at the LPM Conferences. We would firstly like to say a huge thank you to the team at LPM for inviting us on to the panel. Over the course of the three panel discussions we covered a variety of topics related to the future workforce. Below are our reflections on what we feel are the biggest takeaway points.
So apt for us here at F-LEX, but it is abundantly clear that flexibility is a massive priority moving forward. Lawyers are increasingly wanting a more diversified career and are looking for opportunities to explore and develop new skills.
As the new generation enter the workforce they are increasingly looking for flexibility in the way they work. The rigid structures of law don’t appeal to many and the consensus seemed to eb that law needed to change to reflect this.
2. Working from home
Tied in with flexibility is working from home (WFH). This is something that is becoming more and more prevalent in the workplace. On the panel we tried to challenge the preconceptions some people had about the notion.
WFH does not just mean pizza and pyjamas in bed. There does seem to be a large concern amongst some employers that WFH is essentially a day off. Other industries seems to have been happy to accept and promote the concept, however law seems more reticent to accept it.
Law firms are slowly starting to accept the concept but remain cautious.
3. Future workforce is not just the young
Whilst much of the focus of the future workforce panel was on the younger generations, there was a caveat thrown in. There are going to be more generations working together soon than ever before.
Rather depressingly it seems that the average age of retirement is rising. For men the average retirement age is now 65.1 years and for women 63.3 years and rising. Keeping both the old and new happy is going to become a more difficult task.
Furthermore, the fastest growing employment pool is actually women in their 50s returning to work. This again is where flexibility comes to the fore. Employers need to be able to find ways of keeping this sector of their workforce engaged without overwhelming them.
I think overall one of the recurring themes that came up time and time again was that of trust. Trust between employer and employee. The legal profession is no longer a workplace where you leave your lives at the door. For law firms to introduce concepts such as WFH they feel that they need to trust their employees to be productive. Similarly the future workforce need to trust their employers to make the decisions that best suit them, or, quite simply, they will move on to find an employer who does.
Another recurring topic that caused a lot of debate and discussion was that of mental health. Employers are increasingly becoming aware of the duty of care that they owe to their employees. I think the take away point from the panel was the need for there to be that level of trust so that employees feel that they can highlight any issues they are having. Mental health is an incredibly challenging topic that we won’t seek to tackle on this occasion.
Throughout the course of the conferences it became clear that employers are increasingly aware of the need to keep their employees happy and are searching for ways to do this. However, this is going to take time and the flexibility will only happen if they feel it works for their business.