MAGGIE Moodie knows what it feels like to be miserable at work.

Although she loves Morton Fraser, the law firm she joined from HBJ Gateley Wareing (now Addleshaw Goddard) nine years ago and recently became chairman of, there was a point at the beginning of her career when going to work filled her with dread.

“A very long time ago I was very unhappy at work,” she explained. “You hear about the Sunday blues but I was having the Friday night blues because Friday meant it was the weekend and that meant that it would soon be Monday again.

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“I think Morton Fraser is a great place to work right across the board and I want to make sure that it continues to be a great place to work.”

For this reason Ms Moodie, who succeeded Linda Urquhart as chairman of the firm earlier this year, is making agile working the main focus of her three-year term in the leadership role.

As opposed to flexible working, which is individually negotiated and, as Ms Moodie stressed, “we have to offer to our staff anyway” under employment laws, agile working is more revolutionary in scope.

Though it is implemented differently depending on the employer, in essence the concept involves allowing employees to decide exactly where, when and how they carry out their work – so long as there is no negative impact on productivity or service.

The point, said Ms Moodie, is “to have a happier workforce”, although there are benefits for the firm too.

“One of the things that we keep seeing in terms of agile working is that, counter-intuitively, productivity goes up, although that’s not the point of it, it’s a by-product,” she added.

This shift in working practices is being driven by the demands of the younger generation entering the workforce who, Ms Moodie said, “have a much more balanced view of life and what they want to do”.

For firms like Morton Fraser this means that big salaries and the promise of partnership are no longer enough to entice the bright young things into the fold, with agile working being seen as a way of addressing their needs while also improving the lot of those already in the business.

“To continue to attract the best people and talent you’ve got to recognise that money is important but that it’s not the most important thing – no-one will die saying ‘I wish I’d spent less time with my family’,” Ms Moodie said. “For us it is about getting the best out of people and making sure they can be the best they can be.

“A senior associate doesn’t need to ask me. To say can I have four hours out to see my kid’s carol service - or they might be a carer for someone or want to look after their dog - is preposterous. I know they are adult and responsible and will get that work done.

“So long as the client service doesn’t drop - and clients aren’t shy about telling you there’s an issue – it’s totally fine.

“It’s about empowering people to do the job the way they want to do it.”

In many respects the agile working project is an extension of practices put in place by Ms Moodie’s predecessor Ms Urquhart, who was an early mover in showing that women’s careers could continue to thrive during and following periods of flexible working.

“Linda Urquhart was the first female managing partner of a Scottish law firm and she led the way in terms of senior female role models for us,” Ms Moodie said.

“She was responsible in the early days for initially introducing flexible working and she at one point job shared with another woman in that managing partner role.”

As flexible working generally involves staff members working reduced or altered hours, with limited amounts of time spent out of the office, Ms Moodie said a lot of work needs to be done to “take it to the next stage” of agile working.

Specifically, if the firm’s staff are going to be given the opportunity to work in any way they please, she said Morton Fraser will need to devise “some sort of measurement tool to make sure people are doing what they need to be doing”.

Although the project is likely to take much of Ms Moodie’s term as chairman to perfect, she said the outcome for the firm will be worth the challenge to her personally.

“I’ve got to where I am because I’ve taken the chance to take up every opportunity and challenge that came my way,” she said. “New challenges keep you fresh and invigorated.”