Jon Wright has a thick wooden door between his office and the stairs to his home above. With three children under the age of four and a busy practice in employment law and workplace investigations,Wright needs it to draw the line between work and home. Wright, 34, hasn’t always worked in such a flexible environment. He graduated from the University of Wollongong and learned the ropes in a small practice in Engadine, in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, before diving into the big end of town at Sparke Helmore Lawyers for five years, followed by two years at Minter Ellison as a senior associate. However, in December 2014 he decided he was missing out on too much at home and joined Workdynamic Australia. It is an unusual firm set up by his sister, Jane Wright, and Lauren Barel, who were poster girls for flexible work practices when they were job-sharing senior associates at Herbert Smith Freehills. In early 2014, the women left Freehills to launch Workdynamic, a firm with no office, no support staff and flexible hours. Jon joined three months later and, as well as the demands of building a new firm, the trio was juggling seven young children between them. “Working from home with three children under four can have its challenges,” Wright says. “I have had to set some strict boundaries about when I am at work and it’s now second nature to the kids.” Two years on, the firm has 12 lawyers in Sydney and Melbourne. Clients include several universities, corporate and government clients and the firm gets regular work from Sparke Helmore and Australian Business Lawyers. Wright tells JANE SOUTHWARD about his work and continuing pursuit of work/life balance.
“About half my working days begin with a 30-second commute down the stairs to my home office in Sydney’s south. I always aspired to work in a large firm and my plan was to continue on that upward trajectory and ultimately become partner. Children and living expenses had a key role to play in my decision to change firms but it was also about continuing my professional progression.
I was in that mindset of really wanting to get ahead. My hours were long, although I was expressly told that it was not required of me to do those long hours – I would often leave home at 7am and get back at 10pm – but I wanted to make sure everyone knew I was capable and hardworking, so I put pressure on myself.
I had a one-hour commute and it was starting to wear. There were nagging thoughts that there must be a better way to do this. This opportunity presented itself and it happened to be presented by my sister – and it was over the dining room table at my parent’s home.
It was a really hard decision and it took me months to make the leap and join them. Between us, we had seven young children.