The Perth office of global law firm HFW resumed normal operations a week ago, but “normal” looks a bit different now.
Even in Perth, which has had a relatively low COVID-19 infection rate and is one of the first cities in the world to reopen, lawyers are still not coming into the office every day—a change Matthew Blycha, who is in charge of the Perth office, expects will be permanent as lawyers shift the way they carry out their work.
When the West Australian government announced it was lifting restrictions on work, Blycha sent an email to staff telling them they could choose to adjust their working hours.
Some lawyers at the firm, previously known as Holman Fenwick Willan, have found they’ve been working more efficiently from home so are only coming in for a couple of days a week, he said.
“With what people have said, it’s nice to have the option, and there are some things that can be done far more efficiently at home,” said Blycha, a resources projects partner at the firm.
“With professional staff, I’m not going to be dictating that they have to be at their office at a particular point in time, provided that the work gets done,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter where it gets done.”
Blycha believes the shift to more home-based work will be a permanent feature, and the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated what would have probably happened anyway.
In Australia, Western Australia has led the way in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions. The state has just seven active cases, with only one new case reported Tuesday. Nationwide, there have been 6,948 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, with eight new cases recorded in the previous 24 hours.
Blycha said the firm’s Perth office is fortunate, as it has fewer than 20 on staff and large offices. Each lawyer has their own office, and support staff can spread out. No one has to navigate through narrow corridors like they do in other countries.
Nonetheless, the Perth office has had to make changes: there is more cleaning and more hand sanitizer around the office, X-marks for safe distancing have been placed on the floor for visitors in reception, and only three people are permitted in the kitchen at once.
And while the office tower HFW occupies has far fewer than usual people coming and going and the city of Perth remains quiet, allowing people to set their own hours ensures they can avoid any crush on public transport or in elevators, the firm said.