Fiona Hill talks to Rachel List, Partner at Archers Law, about agile working and a shift in mentality since the Covid-19 Pandemic. Rachel has been recognised in the Legal 500 2021 as a 'Next Generation Partner'.
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?
The pandemic has undoubtedly been tough on everyone, but the positives I foresee we will take away will hopefully go some way in making up for the last 12 months. Top of my list is agile working - in a real sense and not something businesses profess to advocate but don’t fully follow through on. Archers is committed to agile working and plans are afoot to ensure that happens, with our staff being properly equipped and supported to enable them to do so effectively. Home working has been incredibly tough against the backdrop of a global pandemic, but we have all proven it can be done and that it can actually result in higher productivity levels. BUT, this has got to be carefully balanced against the need for a work life balance, the need for human interaction, and our overall mental wellbeing. Whilst I will embrace home working going forward, I will also have a newfound appreciation for my time in the office!
Legal 500 - Commercial Property -
Rachel List is very hands on and ensures, is able to deliver on client expectations and takes ownership of the issues.
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?
The lack of face to face interaction with colleagues, family and friends has by far been the hardest element of the last 12 months. The initial weeks of being thrown into home working having previously worked full time from the office was incredibly hard, personally and also from the perspective of managing and supporting my team. I also had the pressure of juggling work and looking after my 3 year old son, but supportive colleagues and clients have hugely helped.
Home working has also resulted in a huge positive – spending lots more time with my husband and son, particularly on mornings and evenings when I would have ordinarily been travelling to and from the office. That’s a positive I am determined to take forward and will be able to do so as a result of agile working.
What piece of advice do you wish you could go back and give to yourself at the beginning of 2020?
To appreciate the time spent with friends and family, no matter the occasion and the venue. We all lead such busy lives and I think we often fail to do that and yearn for a quiet weekend (which I will never do again!).
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?
Without wishing to sound like a broken record, agile working and a shift in mentality that we need to be at our desks 9am to 5pm in order to do our job. We have proven that we don’t, and that expectations of clients have shifted too – my clients are not surprised when they receive an email from me on an evening as they know my working pattern is no longer a fixed 9am to 5pm pattern.
What is the thing you are most looking forward to doing once we’re finally in the ‘new normal’?
Lots of quality time with friends and family. And a well deserved break away from my house and work (hopefully somewhere warm and sunny)!