The Lasting Impact of COVID: The New Law Firm Working Environment

The global COVID-19 pandemic brought the workforce to a standstill in early 2020 when government closings ordered employers to send employees home and cease operations. Seemingly overnight, employers were faced with growing challenges that resulted in some companies having to close their doors forever while others were forced to adapt to new job restrictions as quickly as possible. Suddenly, in an industry that has been stifling work-life balance for as long as possible, law firms have had to make unusual decisions that have allowed employees and lawyers to work remotely. Fast forward 18 months and law firms have gradually been able to return to the office – some faster than others, and some are doing away with the hybrid workforce entirely. But a hybrid schedule, combining remote and in-office work, has had an impact (both positively and negatively, depending on which side you are on) on how employees feel they have to work full-time in the office . Employees are now longing for the flexibility they were given after the pandemic outbreak, and they jump to their feet when law firms scrap their pandemic-imposed guidelines for working from home. While some law firm executive boards have fortunately restored their face-time requirements and no longer allow hybrid working, law firm leaders will be negligent if they don’t look closely at what this will mean for the workforce in 2022 and beyond.

After nearly two years of working remotely, law firms are faced with the challenge of rethinking the traditional work model. The massive shift to remote working helped show the value of attorneys and employees having the freedom to work from home, even if that’s only part of the time. Following the Forbes article “Going Hybrid: The Future of Work Is Here”, according to a Microsoft report in 2021, 73% of employees surveyed expressed a desire for flexible remote working options after the pandemic, and 66% of companies said that they considered redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. While some companies are moving to a more flexible way of working remotely, others are looking to return to a more old-fashioned workforce by bringing their employees back to the office. The law firms that fail to adapt to the new demands of the post-COVID workforce can run the risk of losing their staff who have become accustomed to working remotely and splitting time between office and home through a hybrid schedule . Many employees no longer want to work for an employer that requires them to be in the office full-time. Some employees even consider looking elsewhere if their company doesn’t expand its policy on remote working. Offering a hybrid lawyer and employee schedule is critical if your law firm wants to continue to attract and retain diverse talent.

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