Looking at work/life balance and happiness in your workplace? Reflections on “The Jam” at Linklaters

27 October 2015

I was interested to read last week that Magic Circle law firm Linklaters had launched a 72-hour internal crowdsourcing initiative, called “The Jam”, giving staff access to an online forum in order to share ideas and come up with solutions on the topic of work-life balance.  “The Jam” followed the firm’s annual employee survey.  The survey had identified work/life balance as an area for improvement despite all previous attempts by the firm to address the issue. Having worked as a solicitor myself for 13 years I recognise this as a big issue within many law firms, though it is by no means restricted to this sector!

The firm said they “expect the debate to tackle a range of issues including work allocation, improving recognition and flexible working models”  (Bloomberg BNA, 13 October)  – issues at the heart of employee engagement, well-being and happiness.

A Good Middle

Like most things that are sweet and fruity, “the Jam” put a smile on my face – it is always nice to see businesses paying attention to their biggest asset, their people.   Asking employees about work/life balance and inviting them to propose solutions, are good ingredients for building a happier, healthier workplace.

MC 2015 balance table

The Pros and Cons of Surveys

A survey often provides the most obvious way to ask employees questions related to their engagement at work and well-being/happiness. There are lots of surveys out there that can be easily adopted or tweaked and are relatively easy and cost effective to administer.  The option to complete anonymously can also encourage greater openness.

Surveys do however have their limitations and I’d encourage any organisation to think carefully about what it is they wish to achieve before going automatically down the survey route.    See Nicola’s blog, We need more than numbers when it comes to thinking about ‘happy at work’.  In my view, surveys are best used as just one of a number of tools and shouldn’t be automatically relied upon, a simple conversation may bring added benefits.

If you do opt for a survey, make sure you get the questions right and you act upon the results.  I’ve heard lots of stories about organisations asking people to complete surveys and then doing nothing with the results.  This is a pointless waste of everyone’s time and should be avoided at all cost.  Share the results in a timely and accessible way and be clear about any actions that are to be taken.


Sharing Ideas

Where possible, it is always best to support people to arrive at their own solutions, as Linklaters sought to do with “the Jam”.  As Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology, once said – ‘Everyone is in love with their own ideas.’  People are far more likely to form an emotional attachment to achieving something if they contributed to the idea.  Such solutions are far more likely to ‘stick’ than any put forward by an external ‘expert’.

In Linklaters’ case we are talking about an international law firm, but the same theory applies for any business or organisation.  Organisation and relationship systems coaching (ORSC) starts with the assumption that all relationship systems possess intelligence and creativity. Positive solutions arise and lasting change takes place when this intelligence and creativity is harnessed.  Fingers crossed, “The Jam” will encourage other businesses, both inside and outside the legal sector, to think creatively about ways for people to share ideas and generate their own solutions to all sorts of problems.

“The Jam” makes for a sweet and sticky middle but what comes before and after “the Jam” is just as important if an organisation wants to deliver quality outcomes. 

In my next blog I will share some ideas on how businesses can get off to a good start on their journey to improve employee engagement, well-being and happiness and how to make sustainable changes.

Eve Holt, Associate

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