6 tips to transition lawyers to activity based working.

June 22, 2017    Ann Clarke     ,

Activity based working is the name given to a style of working that liberates employees from fixed ‘at desk’ locations in favour of choosing a setting appropriate to the task in hand.

Overhauling an office to introduce activity based working is no small undertaking and in fast paced, high-pressure legal environments this can be a particularly difficult transition. Here are six tips to managing change and ensuring that fee earners and support staff are on the same page and embracing all that is new.

1. Explain the context and provide proof

Embrace the practical and evidence-based minds of your lawyers and present proof of what agile working and activity based settings can deliver for the practice and the team as individuals.

If the workplace changes are to improve communication between teams and drive efficiency so clients get a better service, then set that scene before you outline what you want from employees. If it’s about saving money so that training or employee benefits can be improved, them make that known too. The more context you can provide the greater the level of understanding and willingness to embrace change.

2. Showcase how the spaces can be used

The move to activity based work settings says goodbye to allocated and ‘owned’ spaces in favour of shared environments with a variety of spaces designed for predetermined activities such as collaborating, socialising, focusing or learning.

Don’t assume this will be obvious and take the time to help your team by explaining how each of the spaces can be used over the course of a day. So explain that the kitchen table type settings are perfect for team meetings and case file preparation, that pods are suited for private calls and lone working and that breakout spaces can be used by anyone any time.

3. Outline new desired behaviours

Provide a new set of ‘rules’ as to how everyone should use the space. This should set down some guiding principles about protocols and accepted behaviours and might be best compiled as a new workplace guide, charter or something similar. So, if the move to activity based working also includes a clean desk policy or use of a room booking system, make sure you spell out what is expected of the team.

4. Reassure

The move to non-allocated spaces can be scary particularly as space has, for a long time, been very much tied to status and achievement within the legal sector. Reassure those fee earners that are reticent about the change by explaining which facilities and people are anchored within the space – typically this will be department administrators and storage facilities.

If your fee earners are moving to non-allocated desks, explain what this means and how they’ll continue to access other services such as their direct dial, administration services and storage.

5. Ensure technology has been considered

The move to agile working relies on full consideration to and provision of technology, if your practice is to derive full value. Ensure your team has access to everything they need from laptops to phones, room booking systems to audio visual systems and importantly, make sure they know how to use them.

6. Recruit some champions

Find a few champions of agile working and encourage them to be evangelists in the workplace. Their enthusiasm and willingness to adapt will not only help others to follow suit but will ensure there is always someone on hand who knows what is expected and how to use the space and facilities.

It’s widely recognised that activity based working provides much of what today’s modern and mobile employees need – namely variety and stimulation; wellbeing, interaction and empowerment. For law firms striving for people and process efficiency, activity based working is a proven concept that, with the right approach to rollout, can deliver efficiency and productivity gains in spades.


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