Today’s blog article has been provided by May Worvill, Graduate Resourcing Manager at Bristows LLP. Bristows LLP is one of our Charter signatories.May writes: At Bristows, we believe inclusion initiatives should, by definition, encompass everyone who works at the firm rather than just target groups with specific protected characteristics.  This attitude has pervaded the firm’s discussions on the implementation of a new agile working policy and has had a profound impact for me personally.

I’m the Graduate Resourcing Manager at the firm, but I’m also a military wife and in November last year I found out that my husband was being posted to Germany for two years from the start of 2017.  I made the decision to move with him and thought that this would mean resigning from my role at Bristows; not something I was keen to do. With regret, I approached my manager (the Head of HR) and also the partner I report in to, to let them know my situation.  I openly asked if there was any way that I could continue working at the firm, fully expecting a response of “we’re sorry, but no”.  But, this is not what I heard back from either of them.  Instead to my delight, “Well why can’t you just work remotely?” was the response.

After scoping out my role and looking at how I could manage the various elements of it remotely we decided to trial the new arrangements for a 6 month period.  I was to work remotely from home in Germany for the majority of the time, returning to the office for roughly 6 days per month to tie in with key meetings and events.  Other than that my job role would remain unchanged.

As this was unchartered territory for both me and Bristows, we kept an open dialogue during the first few months to discuss what was working well and what wasn’t.  Despite some glitches with technology, it all ran incredibly smoothly from the off.

One of the key concerns about succeeding in an HR role remotely, was that I needed to be as accessible and available to my stakeholders as I would normally be were I in the office. Technology has really helped with this.  As well as my desk phone being automatically forwarded to my mobile, we’ve embraced the use of Skype for Business. The messenger facility is perfect for staying in touch with little every day queries and information sharing.  We use video calls to conduct weekly catch ups and ad hoc meetings to maintain vital face-face contact, and the screen sharing facility when discussing working documents.  I’ve even been dialled in to watch a firm-wide lunch and learn session by charity Trans*Formation which I didn’t want to miss.

When I return to London each month, I don’t feel like I’ve been out of the loop.  However, it is great to spend time more with my colleagues and I make the effort to get around the office to have a chat to as many people as possible whilst I’m there in person.

At the end of the 6 month trial, feedback from my key stakeholders showed that it was a resounding success and we will be continuing with it until the end of the posting. Even now, 8 months in, when I tell colleagues that I’m working remotely they’re surprised and hadn’t realised I was gone – I take this as a compliment that the remote working is so smooth!

Whilst I appreciate that is rather an extreme version of agile working, I hope that I’m a good case study to demonstrate that with a positive and open attitude as well as support from technology and colleagues, it can be a real success and great retention tool.

I’m not the only employee at the firm with links to the military, there are other service spouses and also reservists amongst us.  It is reassuring to know that Bristows is supportive of our particular circumstances (as well as those of others at the firm) and will do all it can ensure that we continue our careers there.  As an employee, this makes you feel extremely valued.

Bristows has since signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant.  This is a pledge that we will treat those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, with fairness and respect, ensuring that they face no disadvantage compared to other citizens.  You can read more about the Covenant here.

Thank you May for writing this article.  We would be interested to hear from employees and employers alike on whether flexible/remote/agile working is offered at their organisations. 

If you would like to write a blog article for IP Inclusive, on anything diversity related, please email Emily Teesdale of Abel & Imray. Guest bloggers are always very welcome.

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