Back in November 2017, I wrote the article, “Why Law Firms Should Already Be Embracing the Mobile Workforce.” That piece mainly focused on firms having work-from-home policies for attorneys and only slightly touched on similar policies for staff. Six months later, it doesn’t seem like much has changed. Generally, law firms are still slower and less amenable to allowing nonexempt support staff, such as paralegals and secretaries, to work from home. While the most common reason is that managing attorneys are not open to this flexibility for staff, others argue that even if there was no resistance from top management, compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act for a nonexempt worker appears unrealistic. However, I strongly disagree. It is 2018—not 1978 or even 2008—and employers who are failing (and yes, it’s a failure, not an opposition) to meet employee demands and allow for some type of work from home policy are going to be in for a rude awakening. Maybe not tomorrow, or in five years, but with an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, and for which the majority will be fully retired by 2029, the time to act is now as all employees are demanding change.

Proceeding as we have done for decades is not only a failure to launch but a potential crash course in your firm’s future demise. Employees of all ages—and yes, all ages as millennials are not the only generation that seeks work-life balance—need to be able to better manage both their personal and professional lives. Lisa Sterritt, a legal management professional in the Seattle area with over 30 years of experience, agrees that firms are long overdue for a shift: “It’s time for a new perspective. I have worked both in-house and at law firms, and I have always advocated for anyone to work from home as needed, or on a set schedule, to accommodate challenges such as long commutes, elderly parents, newborns or illness. While it can create some compliance challenges in terms of tracking for hours worked or FMLA leave, great employees are worth that effort. The argument that only attorneys should have job flexibility is tired and reeks of privilege. If you can’t trust your people, nonexempt or not, to record their time accurately, why are they there at all?”

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