Our recent Lines on Online blog series looked at the practicalities around the new world of work. Now, in this guest blog from independent business consultant Peter Gill, we take a look at the possibilities going forward.
For anybody in business, which will be almost everybody reading this on LinkedIn, this year has been a rollercoaster like no other. Disney couldn’t have created a ride quite like it and Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a film like it.
In the UK the return to work after the first lockdown proved to be short-lived, as we were soon encouraged to work from home again, to protect the NHS and save lives. Those unable to work from home started to head back into offices, feedback being the offices are a shadow of their former selves, devoid of energy and vibrancy, now merely a place to sit at a desk and do the job.
The rest (majority) of the workforce has returned to home working, day-to-day sitting through Zooms/Teams calls, delivering the output required of them whilst again balancing work/life, maintaining mental health and trying to retain the connection to their employer, the core values and culture of the organisation.
Acritas (part of Thomson Reuters) has just released a report ‘Future Working Practices’ which highlights that 77% of stand-out lawyers would like to retain aspects of the changes in working practices they have adopted during lockdown. Read the detail and it’s very interesting stuff. The survey findings are clear; lawyers want flexibility in where and when they work.
Over the past few weeks a number of prominent organisations, consultants and business advisors have shared their views, based on research in the market and the data available, on the future of work. Again, this has been fascinating as we’ve seen some real insights not just the hype.
The Law Society Gazette, amongst many others, produced a report in September entitled ‘No rush back to city offices’, which included comments from Tony Williams, Principal of legal consultancy Jomati, as he noted the nervousness some employees had about going back and the opportunity firms saw to rejig the way they work going forward.
Claremont GI, the workplace consultancy business, works closely with clients across sectors including law firms and has noted that increasingly there is a call to have a hybrid approach, where people will work remotely part-time and the office will become the place for collaboration, training, group learning with adequate supervision and where employees can reconnect. Making office space attractive so that people will want to do the commute is ever more important.
Briefing Magazine ran a webinar in September, ‘the legal workspace, reworked’ where contributors highlighted that the office would be increasingly seen as a destination to do something, to collaborate, learn or socialise, not simply to be there, although presenteeism has pervaded and must be overcome.
The contributors to this webinar also commented that technology has a place in planning for the future, though of course it is only a part of the jigsaw puzzle with culture, leadership, learning and engagement other important elements.
Reviewing the reports/output and accompanying notes from the above, plus a whole lot more similar events along with reviewing scribbled notes for many conversations with people at all levels with law firms and those around the legal sector, the landscape has changed and will not go back to what it was.
That’s your big conclusion I hear you cry? Yes, it is. Changes in working practices has and continues to change attitudes and a lot of good will come out of something which has caused a lot of damage.
Technology will play a vital part, we can discuss in detail the many different technology applications that will support the continued and sustained change for the better in the way that those in offices all day, every day, will be able to realise their goal of having more flexibility; the 77% of stand-out lawyers per Acritas and similar percentages from other such surveys/webinars/reports, of people wanting to see the positive changes in working practices they have adopted during lockdown.
The new way of working won’t necessarily appear that radical. A hybrid of working from the office and working remotely. With technology to support secure home working, allowing for collaboration and easy completion of tasks. With offices reimagined to meet the different needs, using data collation to plan for the effective use with staff and clients.
I ‘confess’ to not having been into an office since March 2020. There’s been no need, though there has been a need – for social interaction (socially distant of course), water-cooler conversations and staying connected to the business. As such I am looking forward to visiting an office, to meet with people to discuss their business challenges and look for solutions and to work with colleagues on projects where face-to-face makes sense. When it isn’t required, remote working works just fine.
What’s anybody’s thoughts on offices of the future and why people will go into them?
Business Information Group