Armstrong Watson’s Legal Sector Breakfast Briefings, like many things, have moved online during the pandemic. The latest speaker in the series was Jed Hassid from Purple Performance Limited, who led interactive sessions at seven of our locations on Working from Home (WFH): The implications for the legal sector and its talent. As part of Jed’s sessions, audience polls were taken on various questions, of which the responses are summarised below.
What is clear from the results is that no one wants to return to the office full time (5 days per week). Only one delegate out of all the locations voted for this option.
However, what is also clear is everyone acknowledges the importance of an office, as no delegates voted to work from home full time either.
The most popular choices were to work from home two or three days per week which was the response of 70% of the delegates across all locations which demonstrates that some hybrid working will be sought in the future.
Trust of employees does not appear to be a primary issue within many of the firms that attended the sessions. Only 7% of delegates were concerned about their employees not focusing whilst working at home, with another 11% concerned about productivity.
The two issues firms are concerned about are the lack of team cohesion (39%) and the loss of the firm culture (30%). Offices provide a space where training can be delivered, problems solved together and teamwork encouraged. Offices also allow you to instil the firm culture through common goals and togetherness, which can inspire performance as well as loyalty to your firm.
The final three options were, worries about employees overworking (9% of delegates); remaining compliant and secure (3% of delegates); and the impact on careers (1% of delegates).
What impact has WFH had on your firm? (Delegates were asked to choose positive/negative/neutral)
56% of the delegates chose positive, 9% chose negative and 35% said the impact had been neutral.
Essentially, these results demonstrate that 91% of delegates felt that working from home has not negatively impacted their business, which is remarkable.
The discussion that followed centered around the work/life balance that many employees (and partners) have enjoyed, particularly around the time saved in not commuting and just spending more time at home. The technological improvements that have been enforced upon the profession in terms of video conferencing and IT, the use of new processes, as well as finding different ways to resolve old problems are all positive outcomes of the pandemic which should aid efficiencies in the future.
The discussions around the negative impacts centered on the fact that although working from home had been a positive experience for senior people, this was not necessarily the case for more junior staff. It was felt that junior staff potentially felt isolated, had poorer working environments at home, and their careers were not developing, not necessarily because of lack of formal training, but not benefitting from ‘learning on the job’ by working in an office and team environment.
In summary, law firms have coped incredibly well with the enforced move to WFH due to the pandemic, and very few feel they have suffered as a consequence. However, as restrictions on life start to ease, it is clear that in most cases, there will be some return to office working in order to allow culture, collaboration and careers to thrive. Equally as important though will be the need to balance this with remote working options in order to keep the benefits and efficiencies gained in the last year by both the individuals and the firms. Hybrid working and flexibility are now very much a part of modern law firm life.