Diversity toolkit

Business leaders give unique perspectives on creating a diverse workforce

Diversity Toolkit Interview

John Heaps, Partner

John Heaps

Partner, Eversheds LLP

Eversheds LLP is a British multinational law firm headquartered in London. It is one of the 50 largest law firms in the world measured by revenues. It employs around 1,220 lawyers and around 1,745 other staff in 44 offices in major cities across Africa, Asia, Europe and the UK.

Interview - A more ‘FlexAble’ approach

Whilst flexible working has a long tradition in the UK, the reality for most is that its usage has been very restricted – usually to female employees returning from maternity leave. Even though changes in the law have opened out flexible working to many more people, people generally are still reluctant to ask for flexible arrangements, often fearful that it might raise questions about their dedication or long-term career aspirations.

However, things are changing. A new generation is coming into the workforce who have different expectations about where and when they work. Moreover, an ageing population is meaning more people of working age are requiring flexibility to give support to their parents or family members.

Until recently John was Chairman of Eversheds and Chair of its diversity committee. The firm is committed to creating an inclusive working environment, finding new ways to support its people so that in turn they can fully support the key business objectives.

One such initiative was ‘FlexAble’, piloted in its Cambridge office. ‘FlexAble’ is an informal flexible working scheme, which puts the decision of how to work into the hands of the people and their line managers, rather than asking individuals to permanently alter their contracts, which would make the scheme too rigid.

The 100 or so people in the office were left to discuss the different types of flexible working that would suit their personal circumstances and to agree it between themselves as and when appropriate. As long as there was no adverse impact on their work, on clients or on colleagues then the scheme would ‘flex’ to fit.

In the eight weeks of the pilot, a vast majority of staff in the office chose to work flexibly. That flexibility took many different forms, not just part-time but also changing hours or working from home or other locations. Not only were staff happy, reporting a massive increase in well-being, but they also felt they had been more effective. Crucially, the period saw a measurable increase in productivity in the office, with work productivity increasing by 5% over the same period in the previous year, and a significant revenue increase.