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Making Change work for us

This blog by Partner Dan Chapman was first published on the Brighton Chamber website as part of Hartley Fowler’s sponsorship of the Big Debate events.

Hybrid working, remote working, flexible working… we have all had to adapt our ways of working during the pandemic to keep our teams protected during lockdowns. Fast forward to 18 months later, we’re having to find longer-term solutions that not only work for employees and the firm in general, but also our clients.

Similar to many other professional services firms, we now offer our clients the option of having face to face or virtual meetings. Feedback from our clients on our team’s service provision whilst working remotely has been overwhelmingly positive. Some even mentioned that they’ve enjoyed getting to know a more personal side to the team, including meeting family members and pets.

Our experience at Hartley Fowler

Having worked largely remotely for the initial period and then in a hybrid model on a rota basis more recently, we conducted an in-depth staff survey to find out about their attitudes to returning to the office and the perceived advantages and disadvantages. What we found was that:

Hybrid working works for some parts of the business, and some individuals, but not all.

As an example, our audit and accounts team have a number of trainees who are entering the world of employment. Typically of a younger demographic, they hugely benefit from being able to speak to their manager and colleagues as and when needed and listen in on conversations between colleagues – but it’s not just the technical knowledge that gets picked up that way. The more human elements such as being able to work in a team, building relationships and networking are getting missed in a purely remote working model. Exposure to these aspects of a working environment is essential for not only building confidence but also for the development of important soft skills needed in the workplace.

On the flipside, an experienced Tax Consultant who has worked with the firm for a number of years can quite easily work from their home with access to the right technology. Regular in person team meetings help support knowledge exchange with others and foster the sense of belonging to the team.

Another area of consideration is whether an individual has a suitable space in their home to carry out their work effectively and without interruptions.

What we have done at Hartley Fowler

We recognise the importance of having a healthy work-life balance and the role that flexible working arrangements can play in achieving this, so we recently created a Hybrid Working Policy based on our team’s feedback on what matters to them. As a business, we know that flexibility plays an important role in attracting and retaining the best talent, and in turn help us stay competitive.

Even prior to the pandemic, we had a range of flexible working arrangements which were put in place on an individual basis. So ultimately, our approach remains the same: flexible, hybrid or remote working arrangements are best agreed on an individual basis, taking into account the wider team and business needs.

We are currently recruiting, have a look at our vacancies here