During the last 18 months, businesses across the UK have approached the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic in many different ways.
Irwin Mitchell provides legal and financial services to clients across the UK and has around 3,000 employees. As we entered lockdown and throughout the pandemic, our colleagues have been our priority, and this has been at the heart of our approach and the decisions that we have made.
Our main priorities when we entered lockdown last year was to ensure the needs of our clients were being met and the health, safety, and wellbeing of all our colleagues were supported.
This was a huge logistical challenge but, in the lead up to lockdown, we had mobilised our Group Services teams to bring in measures to support the majority of our colleagues to work from home.
Once we had delivered all the required IT kit and implemented a comprehensive range of tools and resources for leaders and colleagues to support them in working differently, we set about planning our next steps to take us forward.
Turning an overnight solution into a long-term plan
Becoming a more agile, digital business has always been a part of our future strategy and it was hugely influential in how we tackled the next phase.
Rather than look towards the first possible date we could get colleagues back into our offices, we agreed to take a longer-term view, which meant accelerating our digital plans and bringing our investments forward.
Listening to our people was key to making sure we got things right. We’ve evolved what we do and how we do it throughout the pandemic including introducing Board and Colleague Q&A Teams events. These give our people access to our leaders, and with a focus on “ask me anything”, we ensure everyone has an equal voice.
We wanted to explore our approach to future ways of working and as a client-centric business. We not only consulted our people, but we also took the time to ask our clients how we can be even better. The majority suggested they’d prefer a hybrid approach and from this, we developed our Flexible by Choice framework.
Flexible by Choice quite simply allows our colleagues to work when they want, how they want, and where they want; ensuring that we continue to deliver for our clients. It is of course subject to their role and client needs being met, but in simple terms it means we trust everyone to do the right work, at the right time, in the right way.
Finding a balanced approach to flexibility
We’ve seen throughout the pandemic how much colleagues have embraced working from home and have appreciated being able to work flexibly around their lives.
At the same time, the framework recognises that many colleagues enjoy and flourish in the office environment. From 19 July, they now also have the option of accessing our offices where we’re currently operating at 50% capacity due to health and safety requirements.
Enabling people to be the best that they can be is in our DNA at Irwin Mitchell – this framework supports this commitment to our people.
Flexible by Choice is about doing the right thing for our colleagues and clients. It is also part of Irwin Mitchell’s Responsible Business drive to encourage travel only when necessary and continuing the shift to more digital ways of working, reducing the reliance on paper.
We know wellbeing and inclusion is also an important element of our evolving approach as things change and flex externally. We’re building this into our policies, and we also have extensive resources available to help our colleagues build their resilience and overcome any challenges they face.
Our leaders have played a critical role in guiding their teams through the last 16 months and as our business evolves, we will continue to invest in our leadership programmes focusing on growth and agile mindsets.
Putting families first
As part of the shift towards Flexible by Choice and our drive to help colleagues improve their work-life balance, we also recently announced some changes to policies aimed at supporting colleagues with families. This included improving our policies in a number of areas such as increased paternity leave, equalised pay for maternity, adoption and shared parental leave, increased time off for fertility and increased support for surrogacy and parental bereavement leave.
In listening to colleagues and updating our approach, we are giving them the tools they need to perform their roles. We also trust them to make the choices that will deliver the best results for their families, our clients and the communities in which we all live and work.
So far Flexible by Choice has been very well received by our colleagues and clients. Not only does it reflect our human brand, help facilitate our drive to be a responsible business and allow us to enhance our policies, but it has also enabled us to continue attracting top talent, which in turn supports our ambitious growth plans.