Working from home a permanent option in the interests of wellness
Date: May 14, 2020
HBA Legal has become the first Australian firm to offer working from home arrangements to every employee, in a post COVID-19 world.
The defendant-only insurance firm was one of the first to move to working from home arrangements for all its people after coronavirus was declared a pandemic. In recent weeks there has been a chorus of workplace equality experts commentating on whether employers will ‘see the light’ and realise that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of productivity and subsequently shift their expectations in how their people work into the future.
HBA Legal Managing Director Brett Ablong said offering flexibility and helping employees effectively manage their work/life balance was not new for the firm, but that this latest decision takes HBA’s flexible work and wellness policies one step further.
“We’ve always had a culture of flexibility and we have quite a number of people who have flexible work arrangements formally in place. But in reality it’s only really been working parents who have embraced it. We have not tended to have young lawyers, for example, without children, asking for this type of flexibility. But, now, we are proactively encouraging some work from home, as a permanent regular thing, because we think there are genuine benefits to an individual’s wellbeing.
“So, today we put it out there during an employee Townhall over Zoom, and we let everyone know that anyone can work part of their time from home if that suits them. We know it’s not for everyone. Some people like coming into the office each day for a whole myriad of reasons. But others can get real personal benefit in working part of the time at the office and part of the time at home.”
He added: “In markets like Sydney in particular, this kind of flexibility can shave off significant commutes for people at the start and tail end of their day, and that’s time they can claim back for themselves and their own personal wellbeing. That’s a great thing.”
Mr Ablong said the firm had sent out a survey to employees asking them to nominate the days they would like to work from home, on an ongoing basis, so the business could start planning for their IT and equipment needs.
“We are making a significant investment in our people’s wellbeing. It essentially means everyone will need two sets of equipment, one for the office and one for home to ensure they are operating ergonomically. That’s really important to us: we don’t want people working from home staring down at tiny laptop screens causing themselves a neck ache.”
Mr Ablong said at this stage there was no change to the current working arrangements, with the entire HBA team continuing to work from home full time in line with government advice: “Until further notice, everyone is at home full time. We don’t expect that to change until we move to step 3 of the plan outlined by the PM recently.”
When asked about the cost of this initiative, Mr Ablong replied: “There’s no question there’s a significant cost associated with this decision because of the IT investment required to make it all work. But our people are our most valuable asset, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s money well spent.”
Media contact: Sarah Tempest 0402 946 603