International Women's Day 2021 - Sacco Mann Talks To... Lauren Whittaker at Knights PLC

11/03/2021
International Women's Day 2021 - Sacco Mann Talks To... Lauren Whittaker at Knights PLC

Amy Haycocks talks to Lauren Whittaker, In-House Lawyer at Knights PLC about the cultural shift in how we view “hard work” and how Knights has still been able to work collaboratively without being in the same location.

Statistics show that women have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic whether that be by being more likely to have been made redundant / on furlough or taking the lead with home-schooling whilst juggling work, whilst other statistics show that increased working from home and flexibility will allow for positive steps forward for Women in work.

Now as we start making steps to move out of lockdown and towards ‘normality’, what do you think the lasting effects from the pandemic will be for Women in Law?

I think the change in attitude to working from home and working more flexible hours will lead to a long lasting cultural shift in how we view “hard work” and we will begin to value the contribution people make based on the quality of the work that they produce, without a focus on the idea of “face-time”. I think this will benefit women in law specifically, as it will better enable them to balance their career alongside other commitments, such as childcare and other unpaid work, without a fear of being judged for time spent away from the office.

I hope that another long lasting effect will be a change to the office culture that can be intimidating to some people and often women. There can be a requirement to be an outgoing person and to be a “big” personality within a team in order to be given work and prove your ability, which can be difficult for someone who is not naturally an extroverted person. A balance of home working and office working will take the emphasis away from personalities and adjust the focus to their work.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, what have been the biggest challenges for you personally and what are the positives you would like to keep and take forward?

One of the biggest challenges has been getting used to working in an open plan flat with my partner, who is on the phone constantly, and not eating 24/7!

On a more serious note, I have found the loneliness of working from home a big challenge, so have tried to keep organising and attending virtual social events and have regular video call catch-ups with colleagues.

One positive that I hope will remain is how well we have adapted to working remotely, so that we can connect with and work alongside people across the country much more effectively than we used to. I am based in Manchester and my supervisor is based in Stoke-on-Trent and I think the use of Teams, for example, means that we will still be able to work collaboratively without being in the same location.

What piece of advice do you wish you could go back and give to yourself at the beginning of 2020?

Invest in Zoom shares and buy a good desk and office chair!

As many firms are revaluating working environments, flexible working policies and benefits packages to ensure they’re relevant post-pandemic. What things do you feel make the biggest impact for Women in the workplace?

As important as having policies in place which allow people to both work from home and work more flexible hours is, as mentioned, I think the biggest impact is people’s attitude towards those policies. I think changing the legal industry’s perception of people working from home and working flexible hours and how this correlates with someone’s commitment, ability, drive etc, will have the biggest impact on Women progressing in the workplace.

What is the thing you are most looking forward to doing once we’re finally in the ‘new normal’?

Just seeing friends and family! I have really missed seeing people and virtual catch ups are just not the same! Living in Manchester, the local lockdown restrictions which meant you couldn’t see anyone outside of your household, were put in place in August and haven’t really changed since. Whilst I saw family at Christmas and have been on a few walks with friends, I cannot wait for the day that I can just sit down with friends and family to catch up properly and give them all a hug! Oh, and a bottomless brunch of course!

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