As the world reopens and we regain some semblance of normalcy, leadership teams face difficult decisions about how, when and if employees should return to the office. This pandemic has proven just how capable we are of operating remotely, but at what cost? Earlier this month, iVision held a Legal Industry CIO/CISO Forum with the leadership from several different law firms to discuss what their hybrid work approach will look like.
Every firm has different needs, capabilities and clientele, making it impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all plan for a hybrid work environment. These decisions are being made by assessing the comfort levels of employees, as well as the preferences of the clients they serve. In addition to surveys and one-on-one feedback, firms have allowed employees back into the office on a trial basis before making any long-term decisions. While all firms see the value of a hybrid work environment, each one will be entirely unique.
In many firms, department heads are making decisions that work best for their respective teams. They know their teams best and understand how to cater policies to their specific needs and functions. Some are even taking an algorithmic approach, tracking how many people come into the office and how long they spend there to gauge their team’s desire to return and at what capacity. Lease renewal dates have also become a concern, creating a sense of urgency to make a decision quickly about the demands of the office space.
Preserving employee satisfaction and company culture within the hybrid work approach remains a top priority for leadership. With so many priceless moments that take place in the office, whether it’s a new hire’s first team lunch or sharing baby pictures in the break room, it’s hard to completely abandon the thought of working together again. However, there are also perks of working from home, giving employees more time with their loved ones and less time in traffic-jammed commutes. These decisions impact the firm’s current employees and must be considered through the lens of talent acquisition, making sure candidates have access to their desired balance of flexibility and growth opportunities.
Law firms are home to a wide variety of roles with a wide variety of responsibilities. While some positions require consistent training and collaboration, others can be performed autonomously. To accommodate both these kinds of roles and everything in between, firms are working with managers to consider the specific needs of each position. Remote work has also helped some positions develop new capabilities, alleviating the need for frequent collaboration and waiting periods. This newfound independence allows for teams to restructure and delegate responsibilities differently.
Technology-wise, many firms have invested heavily in video and audio capabilities to allow for a hybrid approach. Individual workspaces in the office are being equipped with better cameras and microphones to collaborate with colleagues and clients at home. Conference room technology is adapting to make it feel more like a conversation among individuals rather than a conversation between one person and a room full of people. Firms are also installing technology to collaborate between different conference rooms within the office to eliminate excess background noise and distractions for clients on the other end of the call.
There is no perfect recipe for a hybrid work environment. However, the secret ingredient all firms have found is a willingness to view their business through a fresh perspective.