On International Women’s Day 2021, Coodes Solicitors HR Manager Becky Hosken says the Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst to revolutionise the way the firm operates.
Each year, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to showcase and celebrate women’s achievements around the globe, inspiring others. This is perhaps even more important in 2021, as we approach the anniversary of the beginning of the first UK lockdown.
Over recent months I have been saddened to hear that women, along with BAME groups, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. School closures and a breakdown in childcare provision has affected many men too, but has had the greatest impact on female employees.
At the same time, I have been immensely proud to work for a firm that has grasped the opportunity to build on its track record for embracing flexibility and different ways of working. Despite the fact that remote working was not new to Coodes, the pandemic has massively accelerated the rate of change within our business.
Our values of fairness, team work and enterprise have served us well in these difficult months.
Flexibility for everyone
During the first lockdown, we carried out a staff survey to gauge how people wanted to work. It was fairly evenly split. Around a third stated a preference for office working, a third wanted to work from home and the remaining third said they were looking for a mix of the two.
Our challenge going forward is to aim for flexibility for everyone. That means, where possible, enabling people to work where best suits them.
Research from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) shows that around a third of UK lawyers have caring responsibilities. It is crucial that we adopt a flexible approach to remove any barriers to progression for those who fall into this category.
Of course, flexibility benefits everyone, but we know that it can be especially important to women. We also know that, traditionally, female employees have been held back in their careers because they are more likely to take on caring responsibilities outside of work. Greater flexibility has an important role to play in helping women thrive in their careers.
We also know that people’s wants and needs will change over time. If someone’s situation changes, either at home or at work, we need to be able and willing to adapt to meet their new needs.
Thinking differently and using technology in a smart way really opens up opportunities for people. Being able to meet with colleagues and clients via video conferencing, for example, massively reduces travel time. This can be transformational for anyone who needs to work flexibly.
Of course, remote working needs to fit with the needs of the business but with the advances in technology over the last 12 months, we have learned how well we can all operate from different locations.
Because we have eight offices across Cornwall and Devon, we are already used to working remotely from one another. Over the last year, we have taken this to a new level and have really embraced the technologies that enable us to work in different locations.
Promoting wellbeing and avoiding burnout
During a very challenging year our staff have been phenomenal in their response, ensuring our clients remain supported and projects delivered while everyone’s worlds were turned upside down.
A priority for me right from the start has been to promote wellbeing and protect people against burnout.
While flexibility can be empowering, there is a risk of people doing too much. When the boundaries between work and home life are removed, it can be difficult to switch off.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but we will continue to share wellbeing advice and information with our employees as well as supporting them in a variety of ways to ensure they continue to thrive in their careers. Our managers are also playing a vital role in supporting their team members through whatever challenges they face.
Empowering people to progress
Coodes is proud of the fundamental role that women play across the entire organisation. The majority of our managers are now female, which reflects the firm’s gender split. We have a great track record of nurturing employees and enabling them to progress through the firm. Many of our lawyers were previously support staff and a number of our managers began their legal careers with us and completed their training at Coodes.
We have welcomed new team members into the firm during the pandemic. They have joined Coodes remotely and are thriving in their new roles.
We need to ensure that the current challenges we face do not create barriers for people to progress in their careers. My aim is for us to build on the advances we have made in the last year, so we can ensure excellence is recognised, whatever someone’s personal circumstances.
Looking to the future
Covid-19 has revolutionised the world of work and we are looking forwards not back. While the pandemic continues, we are looking to the future. We want to retain what worked well and move onto new possibilities.
We will be moving forward with ambitious plans around how, where and when work is undertaken in the future. This will be rooted in what our staff know works best for them and will empower even more women, and other groups who could be disproportionately affected by traditional models of working. We know this will further support everyone at Coodes to do their best work.
Find out more about careers with Coodes Solicitors.