Author Brightstone Law LLP

The Covid pandemic provided businesses with a unique set of challenges. Some closed down temporarily, some even permanently, but the majority needed to find ways in which they could continue to operate effectively, with their staff working remotely.

The challenge in working remotely is far greater than accessing the right technology. The success of any business lies in its unique culture and maintaining a successful company culture is far more difficult when people are not physically in the same place. The danger is that remote working can encourage a more homogenous, process-driven approach, which may get the job done but adds no real value to anyone.

At Brightstone Law, we’ve been very conscious about the importance of our culture and its role in the success of the firm. We pride ourselves on pushing boundaries for our clients, creating precedents and new standards for good practice, and this has made us very successful.

That said, the firm’s responsibility is not only to ensure that legal matters are supervised to safeguard a certain level of standard and productivity, but to make sure employees are mentally and physically well as we recognise employees can easily feel disconnected, and culture can be damaged, and not just as a result of the pandemic.

So, we launched a programme that helps us to identify and articulate the Brightstone Law culture.

The programme is called Culture Club. It’s managed by Penny Michael and Nikki Pearson and has its own independent budget and objectives. Culture Club had a mission to create an environment of greater pastoral care, promote equality and diversity, and to identify, protect and promote the unique culture that has made Brightstone Law so successful.

These are the promises we gave to our colleagues:
• We will accommodate your needs and offer flexibility to help you do your job more efficiently.

• We will offer a safe and welcoming work environment.

• We will provide you with full equipment to enable you to work without issue.

• We will listen to you if you have a problem and work with you to find a solution.

• We will support you on your work/life journey.

Our work within Culture Club started with a questionnaire to find out people’s views on the firm, the people, and how employees felt about working from home and from the office. We developed the activities around the results of the questionnaire, and we have since repeated the survey twice to ensure that we are continuing to align our culture with the needs of our people.

The most recent questionnaire has highlighted a number of improvements that have already been delivered by Culture Club. The results evidence that the firm now does more to show it cares for the mental health of our employees; we have organised events, and we changed the atmosphere in the office and for those working from home. At Brightstone, we always try encouraging those working from home to get involved and engage with those in the office and we include them in all of the gestures we put forward to our office-based employees. For example, when we celebrate ‘national days’ in the office, we send similar hampers to those at home.

We do a lot to engage our people. We send regular staff emails including ‘Motivational Monday’ and ‘Wellness Wednesday’ and we make a special effort to celebrate occasions such as Easter, Christmas, birthdays and national days. We marked Daffodil Day in aid of cancer awareness and ’Dress in Blue Day’ in support of colorectal cancer, and we promote random act of kindness days. Two of our most popular improvements to date are the addition of a day off on each member of staffs’ birthday, and an outdoor seating area. We also make an extra special effort to celebrate the accomplishments of our people, such as exam results and significant career progression.

As part of Culture Club, we support mental health by offering mindfulness workshops and have a wellbeing coach available to everyone on an anonymous basis. There’s an education angle to Culture Club too. We have made a new legal database accessible, updated the books we make available and opened a personal reading library. In offering training to everyone we help them achieve what they want in their careers.

Culture Club has been a great way of re-engaging everyone following an extended period of remote working and we are seeing the benefits. As the running of Culture Club is independent of the firm, with little to no partner involvement in the decision-making process, it provides a great development opportunity for individuals to take a leadership role in driving the firm forward and making a tangible difference.

By better defining and articulating our own culture, the efficiency of our work has improved as has the overall happiness of our staff, and as we strengthen and further imbed these customs over time, it will enable us and our people to continue to thrive.

by Penny Michael and Nikki Pearson