Remote vs. In-Office Work: How will your firm adapt?

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It’s safe to say 2020 caught the legal profession off guard and forced many firms to transition and adapt to new ways of conducting business. Prior to the pandemic, remote work in the legal industry was rarely seen at all, but work-from-home quickly became the new norm for many in the industry, with some growing to enjoy the flexibility and break from long commutes. Now that the country is starting to open up, leaders are faced with complex decisions about how and when to return to the office, and whether to allow some or all employees to continue to work remotely.

Remote work has generally proven to be a popular and productive mode of operation for many. While many leaders may want to have employees return to work together in their office space, there are logistics to consider as well as the ongoing issues faced by working parents with school closures and childcare needs. Beyond those factors, some employees simply prefer to work remotely and don’t want to resume their long commutes. Firms are also noting a trend of associates demanding work from home and even resigning if it’s not an option, as remote work becomes an even higher priority for some than salary.

Further complicating this issue is the highly competitive legal job market. With the national legal unemployment rate at just .35% (as of April 2021), attracting and retaining legal talent is especially challenging. Firms are already offering significant bonuses and perks, and some candidates are seeking remote work and flexible schedules. Employers are realizing that a required return to the office full-time might create a backlash – turning top candidates and employees away to other firms offering more flexible and remote work options.

As firm leaders weigh the complicated issues of what their workplace will look like, here are some factors to consider:

Be open and flexible

Stay open-minded and aware of the fast-moving changes in the legal profession. The pandemic has shown law firms that change is happening and the “old ways” of doing business may not be the most productive. Don’t miss out on opportunities and top legal talent because you are unwilling to try a new approach. Open dialogue, transparency, and fairness are key as you seek to implement a plan that works for your organization.

Listen to your employees and candidates

What are your most valued employees looking for? What type of environment are candidates looking for and how are they making decisions about which offer to accept? What can you do to help meet these needs? Working together with your employees will show respect and will encourage them to be open to a few changes that you might want to implement as well. Use this opportunity to build trust, which will increase engagement and loyalty, and ultimately help drive your firm’s overall success.

Design a structure that suits your firm

Not every company will and should follow the same design when it comes to work location and structure. Take some time to evaluate your firm’s offering and how the teams collaborate. This will help you develop a plan that is unique to your firm and one that helps you find solutions to boost productivity, focus, billable hours, and employee engagement.

The legal industry is evolving rapidly and one of the ways that firms can move with these changes is to be flexible and adaptable in all kinds of situations – especially when it impacts their people who drive the firm to success.