Employers case studies
Preston Goldburn are a solicitor practice who operate from contemporary offices at the Falmouth Business Park in Falmouth, offering an extensive range of legal services and expertise tailored to meet the needs of both business clients, private clients and those eligible for Legal Aid.
The firm is dedicated to providing clients with experts who have proven knowledge and experience in their field. Therefore the need for high quality staff is crucial to the firm's success, and part of that attraction to high quality motivated staff has been to offer flexible working and teleworking. In 2002 when broadband was introduced to Cornwall they saw an opportunity to take advantage of the quality of life offered in Cornwall and decided to introduce remote and flexible working. Through the ACTNOW flex scheme, Preston Goldburn were able to pioneer the use of flexible working and teleworking practices and have continued to do so successfully ever since.
To make it work, the firm invested time and effort to build a communications network with the aid of a local IT supplier and obtained some government funding at the time to ease cost. Their case management, time recording and digital dictation systems were upgraded (and continue to be so) which gave some control on supervision to make it easier for management to take that step.
Lawyers are able to securely work from home, from Court, or from wherever they are close to a wireless broadband hotspot, increasing productivity. This means that they can reduce travel time and can focus more clearly on the work that they are doing and so reduce stress.
Tim Goldburn, the clinical negligence partner at Preston Goldburn Solicitors in Falmouth, has recently had a superfast broadband connection installed at his home.
He says: "The superfast connection is fantastic. I am getting an incredible maximum of 40 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload, which makes remote working so much easier and more efficient. The whole family can be now online at the same time without the really frustrating reduction in the connection speeds which used to cause me so many problems when trying to work from home.
"I can connect to the office Virtual Private Network straight into our Document Case Management system, use the digital dictation and carry out medical and legal research online all at the same time. My wife can manage the payroll using electronic banking, while my son and daughter can either study online or more likely use Facebook or iPlayer without causing me any loss of connection speed. Before we had superfast, there was no way we could all be busy online without the connection slowing right down.
"I have just completed an eight part series of 3 hour live medical and surgical video conferencing training sessions which were presented by some of the county's leading surgeons without having to leave home. Encouraged by this I am hoping to introduce Superfast into the office to take advantage of the amazing speeds and use video-conferencing to hold meetings with our legal and medical experts in Bristol, Birmingham and London so avoiding the need for my injured clients to have to travel "upcounty". Superfast broadband is also going to open up new and cheaper ways of increasing our firms skills and expertise by taking full advantage of webinars and remote training."
Senior partner, Henry Preston who heads up the firm's commercial team is equipped for mobile working at home connected by superfast broadband which he has quoted as being "impressively responsive" but also with a WiFi enabled laptop for him to have the facility to be securely connected to the office whilst on a beach in Corsica or travelling around Europe on holiday. This facility gives clients the reassurance that if something happens they can still get in contact with their lawyer and the deal is not put at risk because of holidays.
Julie Binny, partner, and one of the first Chartered Legal Executives to be recognised as a clinical negligence specialist, has worked flexibly and remotely for the past 16 years. Julie says: "the firm's foresight into the advantages of home working through the use of Broadband and now Superfast Broadband has meant that I have been able to work in a specialist and challenging area of the law and I didn't have to abandon my career to look after my daughter."
The firm's commitment to better work-life balance has given the opportunity not only to their lawyers but also to some support staff to work remotely to be able to work around their child minding and domestic arrangements. This ensures that the firm's investment in their highly trained assistants is not lost.
Sally-Ann Davies, Practice Manager at Preston Goldburn, has worked remotely at times for a considerable amount of years. Sally says: "the ability to work uninterrupted, especially on project work is priceless. The secure connection to the office is no different from been sat at my desk in the office. This flexible working arrangement is invaluable to me in my commitment to my work and importantly my young family."
Partner Tim Goldburn said: "In offering home working, we are not only providing staff with some much requested flexibility but it also ensures that the firm focuses on measuring output. We have learnt to trust our staff and free ourselves from the mindset that unless we can see people at their desks then they can't really be working. Home working is a powerful retention tool, and when both employee and employer take responsibility for making it work, it does have a major impact on both productivity and employee retention.
"It is not plain sailing. There is a cost involved in linking everyone to broadband or superfast broadband. However, if one lawyer does not travel to the office on two days in a week, the fees earned at home instead of travelling cover the whole firm's broadband costs for a month.
"A lone worker can become isolated if they are working entirely out of the office and it requires discipline to achieve work-life balance and manage work and home life to ensure the two aspects of your life don't merge into one. Our team come into the office for two or three days a week just to keep in contact with the clients, their colleagues and to manage their practices.
"Remote working and teleworking are not suitable for everyone as some people need close supervision and you cannot allow them to work remotely. Also, employees' homes become their work places and you are liable for their health and safety whilst they are at work.
"That being said, we are extremely pleased with our investment and are convinced that flexible working and teleworking will continue to play a vital role in the future of our business."