News flash: the future of work must be flexible for law firms that hope to retain attorneys and achieve ongoing success on the “new normal” - and strict hybrid or in-person policies will not be accepted by many lawyers or law office staff in the months and years to come.
Here’s everything you need to know about the distinction between hybrid and flexible work – and why we believe that flexible will reign supreme.
Understanding the Current Landscape
During the COVID pandemic, law offices were forced to shift from in-person to virtual work, moving away from traditional in-office work styles and solidifying pandemic-friendly remote and hybrid policies. And these changes had unexpected yet profound benefits, with remote work leading to:
- Better employee health, as cutting down on commute time and lowering the risk of respiratory infection led to increased well-being and a better work-life balance.
- Higher revenue. In one survey, 60% of respondents noted that increased productivity led to increased revenue in both 2020 and 2021.
- A larger talent pool, as associates who live farther away can work at a firm without committing to a long commute.
- Lower expenses as firms cut down on significant real estate footprints and employees slash costs associated with wardrobes, meals, and commuting.
Now, most employees refuse to go back to a rigid in-office structure. In fact, attorneys have made it clear that these policies will impact which firms they choose to work in, and employees across the board have emphasized that flexibility and work-life balance have become their number one non-negotiable at work (and they will resign if they don’t get their way).
The Push Against Attendance Mandates
Importantly, though, this pushback isn’t only against strict in-person policies – it's against strict mandates in general, whether they be for in-office, hybrid, or remote work. On one end of the spectrum, many associates now rebel against being called into the office when their job can be done remotely. As one Davis Polk & Wardwell associate explains, “With rents in Manhattan at a 33% increase, it’s absurd to expect us to be in the city for a job that could be done remotely without giving us a 33% salary bump.” On the other end of the spectrum, many gripe that having no in-office requirements can be detrimental to things like culture and even productivity if there isn’t a suitable in-home office available on any given day.
In short, there is no one solution that will meet everyone’s needs – and associates and employees don’t expect one solution. What they want, instead, is the flexibility to choose for themselves. And this will be what they demand moving forward.
Flexible Work Will be a Requirement Moving Forward
In fact, in one Law.com survey of law firms, respondents indicated that they would not work at law firms that mandated more than three days in the office. What’s more, many said that three required days would make them reconsider staying at their current firm.
This freedom, of course, leads to some complications. The attorney who prefers to work in the office, for example, will feel isolated and lonely if all his colleagues elect to work from home. Similarly, many don’t want to feel displaced from the office altogether, and they’ll want to have a “designated space,” when they do go in.
Getting this right will require accurate historical and real-time employee data, along with the right tools to streamline the work experience of virtual, in-person, and hybrid employees. This includes things like:
- Comprehensive analytics that allow for data-driven, strategic real estate and mandate decisions.
- Meeting room scheduling tools that allow hybrid and in-person employees to book the right rooms – with the right technology – to hold their meetings.
- Desk booking software that allows hybrid employees to find the right space to suit their needs when they make it into the office.
- Video conferencing capabilities that empower your clients, staff, and attorneys to meet with minimal friction, lags, or technological frustration.
The right space and resource scheduling system can provide many of these functionalities, allowing employees to have the flexibility that they need without any confusion or chaos.
Ready to learn more about how your flexible law firm can look, and how to get it started correctly? Check out our whitepaper, Law Firm Workplace Management Trends and Best Practices.