Let’s get working from home

There’s always a lot of talk in legal circles about work-life balance, but for many lawyers it is quite elusive. I’ve heard many lawyers say their firms try to be more flexible or say they will be more flexible but the reality of the junior associate, say, does not generally reflect that. “Face-time” or being seen at the office still seems to trump all. But there can be a relatively easy way for law firms, or any other company, to bring some balance to the equation.

home officeNext Wednesday is Canada’s unofficial Work From Home Day. And to mark the day, online recruiting site Workopolis conducted a survey on attitudes about working from home. It found overwhelming support from Canadian workers for the work from home campaign. The survey shows that given all the benefits associated with teleworking, 88 per cent of Canadian workers agree there should be government support for a nationally recognized day, with 52 per cent strongly agreeing.

For many the biggest benefit of working from home is cost savings. Greater flexibility, such as choosing which hours to work, working on their own terms, and reducing stress, was the second-most popular benefit for workers. This was followed closely by the ease of caring for others. Nearly nine in ten of those who work from home at least once per week agree they are more productive. There are many fewer distractions when working from home.

Most lawyers and law firms are already set up so work can be done from anywhere. You’d be hard pressed to find a lawyer who can’t get their e-mail or log in to do work from the beach in Jamaica, never mind their home office. So giving people the flexibility to work from home one day a week, or even one day a month, using that already-in-place technology shouldn’t cause much of a stir.

The need to be seen shouldn’t be an issue. With the tracking of billable hours and the need to get work done for clients, it’s not like lawyers are going to shirk their responsibilities if they’re not shackled to their desks one day a week. The work will always get done. What it would mean, quite likely, is happier lawyers.

First and foremost, letting lawyers work from home one day a week shows a level of trust, particularly with younger lawyers, that can be very important in retaining talent (which means saving money for the law firms on the recruiting side). It will also reduce stress — not sitting in traffic or on public transit for an hour each way can make all the difference in a day but also flexibility to get other things done that can’t always be squeezed in when you’re at work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Not to mention the being-more-productive part.

When asked what the likelihood of switching jobs if given the option of working from home, the Workopolis study shows nearly three of every four Canadians said they would seriously consider it. And if presented with two job opportunities with all other things being equal, 88 per cent said they would choose the one offering the option to work from home.

So lawyers, you’ve got a week to convince your bosses and co-workers that it’s time for a work from home day. Check out the Workopolis Facebook page for compelling stats and other useful information to make your business case for working from home.

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