CEO Update: Shaping the new workplace

It’s a startling statistic.

According to a recent media article up to 20% of employees in some workplaces have never been to their company’s office because they were hired during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Given Bartier Perry sees its culture as one of its greatest strengths, it also provides pause for thought.

How can you nurture that culture among an increasingly dispersed workforce?

Perhaps the starting point is to acknowledge the positives that have come out of the last two years.

“Flexibility” in the broader workplace is no longer a gender-tinged conversation with many male leaders having experienced it now championing rather than challenging the concept.

Most of our clients have been working flexibly themselves and have been supportive of flexible work practices throughout the pandemic. We see this continuing because of the choices it affords them.

Equally the long-standing myth that visibility in the office always equals productivity is falling away.

Finally, the last two years have sparked a revaluation of what the role of an office is.

Neither the “remote forever” or “forced five-day return” models to the workplace are attractive when we think about both the future of Bartier Perry and the needs of our clients.

Rather we’re seeing a hybrid model where people have the flexibility to work remotely - performing those tasks that require independent, focused work, and work from the office where they will collaborate and create. We want our people to also come into the office to be their best and learn from the best.

Learning from the best is acknowledging that as a lawyer, and indeed in most workplaces, the greatest learnings are from engagement and observation.

Engagement in being able to have an informal or unscheduled conversation with a colleague about the best way to handle a particular matter or issue. Observation, in seeing the way a senior colleague interacts with clients and indeed vice-versa.

In building a more engaging and flexible workplace we’ve also reviewed a range of our policies and changed them to reflect a changed world.

A key example is making our 20-week Parental Leave policy gender neutral, which includes the removal of the definitions of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carers and allows employees to take leave at the same time as their partner. We’ve also put in place flexibility for parental leave to be taken at any point after the birth of a child, within the first 24 months. For example, either as one continuous period, two distinct periods, or part-time on a weekly basis.

I know that in talking to clients, they too are looking at their polices and approaches to the workplace and the future role of the office.

We welcome sharing those ideas because whatever industry or sector you operate in, we know the workplace is undergoing the most significant shift in a generation.

The election of a new government in Australia will also likely see new legislative developments in a number of areas and again we are committed to keeping our clients informed as to the potential implications of these.

Finally, in talking about working and learning from the best, Partners Andrew Frankland, Darren Gardner and Dennis Loether, were recently named as leaders in their respective practice areas by their peers in the global Best Lawyers Directory. Senior Associate Stephanie Flegg was named One to Watch. Congratulations to them for this welcome recognition of the work they do with our clients.