Business case studies

case study: flex and fatherhood

Father-of-three David Gallagher, 36, is an intellectual property lawyer, and a partner at Brodies LLP. Pre-pandemic he worked from home one day a week but was otherwise in the firm's offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, or visiting clients.

Lockdown meant home working, and tag-teaming with his wife, Lisa, around their young sons at their home in West End, Glasgow.

David said: “The first lockdown was utterly draining. With no support from outside our household, Lisa and I would generally work in three-hour blocks, from 7am to about 11pm, so one of us could always be with the children as two-year-old twins clearly can't be left unsupervised. It was awful, quite frankly.

“But as things have started to open up, there are definitely good things about me being home more. Our eldest son has football at 5pm two nights a week and I can take him. It’s the same with swimming lessons. And Lisa and I sit down with the boys for dinner at least three nights in the week.

“While it’s not exactly a relaxing experience - we have the twins and a six-year-old - it’s important for us to have time together as a family, and it means Lisa and I get more of an evening back as we’re not cooking an adult dinner after the boys are in bed.

“Home working has enabled me to do more of these things and the importance of family time is something I will prioritise as we move out of the pandemic with smarter and more hybrid way of working.

“Work and life aren’t diametrically opposed, at opposite ends of a scale. They’re intertwined. The pandemic has shown that many people can work in different places, and shift their hours around other things in their life and still deliver for clients and their employer.

“I’m lucky that Brodies has been progressive in its philosophy around flexible and hybrid working. But in my broader experience of the legal profession, there’s often been a strong culture of presenteeism and an untested assumption that productivity is intrinsically linked to being in the office. But, in my opinion, it’s about being available.

“I’m much more available for clients, particularly those in different time zones, now I don’t spend an hour a day driving to and from the office.

“I might take short breaks to help with homework, or put the dinner on. But I use the time previously lost for travel for more purposeful tasks, and I can pick up urgent emails outside traditional office hours much more easily thanks to technology that makes it easier to communicate.

“In future, it's my intention to go where the work is. If I need to see a client, or get together with the team for something specific, I will. But otherwise, I’ll work when and where I’m most productive for the task at hand.

“For me, it's not about ‘work life balance’ but about ‘work life harmony’. There will always be times when one takes precedence over the other. But when I'm old and looking back on my life, I'll be glad I've given my all to everything in life, including being there to hear my children’s stories, ferry them to clubs, or cook dinner – even if it was chaos.”

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